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Beatty, Jack 1945–

Beatty, Jack 1945–

PERSONAL:

Born May 15, 1945, in Cambridge, MA; son of John J. and Frances C. Beatty; married Lois Masor, 1976; children: Aaron. Politics: Democrat. Religion: Roman Catholic.

ADDRESSES:

Home—Hanover, NH. Office—Atlantic Monthly, 745 Boylston St., Boston, MA 02116.

CAREER:

Writer and magazine editor; has worked for Newsweek and New Republic; Atlantic Monthly, Boston, MA, senior editor, 1983—.

AWARDS, HONORS:

Poynter Fellow in Journalism, Yale University, 1980; Guggenheim fellowship, 1990; American Book Award, 1992, for The Rascal King; honorary degree from University of Massachusetts, 1994.

WRITINGS:

The Rascal King: The Life and Times of James Michael Curley (1874-1958); An Epic of Urban Politics and Irish America, Addison-Wesley (New York, NY), 1992.

The World According to Peter Drucker, Free Press (New York, NY), 1998.

Colossus: How the Corporation Changed America, Broadway Books (New York, NY), 2000.

(Editor) Pols: Great Writers on American Politicians from Bryan to Reagan, Public Affairs (New York, NY), 2004.

Age of Betrayal: The Triumph of Money in America, 1865-1900, Knopf (New York, NY), 2007.

SIDELIGHTS:

In addition to his work as writer and senior editor at Atlantic Monthly, Jack Beatty has written biographies of two figures well known in the fields of politics and economics: James Michael Curley, four-time mayor of Boston, and Peter Drucker, long-time management theorist.

A previous work on Curley, Edwin O'Connor's thinly fictionalized The Last Hurrah, presents the Boston politician as a "charmingly roguish big-city mayor," in the opinion of a Kirkus Reviews writer. But in Beatty's 1992 book, The Rascal King: The Life and Times of James Michael Curley (1874-1958); An Epic of Urban Politics and Irish America, Curley gets a more balanced treatment, not all of it flattering. Irishman Curley ran for office thirty-two times and was elected state representative in 1902, congressman in 1911, mayor of Boston in 1914, 1922, and 1930, governor of Massachusetts in 1935, congressman in 1943 and 1945, and, for the fourth time, mayor of Boston in 1947. He also served two terms in jail, once for taking a civil service exam for an immigrant and, many years later, for mail fraud. In both cases he was elected to office while under indictment or in jail. He liked being mayor best, as a Publishers Weekly reviewer put it, "for it was from that that [he] … accumulated the greatest riches."

Curley's politics were fueled by favors granted and political tricks pulled on opponents, ethnic and religious polarization, and kickbacks. He was infamous for having built a mansion with gold-plated light fixtures and a three-story spiral staircase during his first term as mayor on a salary of ten thousand dollars. Despite these hallmarks of "bossism politics," Beatty treats Curley as a politician of contemporary relevance, one who foreshadowed some of today's entrepreneurial candidates. He also admires Curley's advocacy of the "economic justice" programs that were later embodied in Franklin Delano Roosevelt's New Deal and Lyndon Johnson's Great Society. On the other side of the ledger, Beatty notes Curley's graft, arrogance, and the ruinous taxes he levied on Boston's downtown real estate. A Kirkus Reviews writer called The Rascal King "a delightful and shrewd biography."

While Peter Drucker claims that the popular notion that he "invented" modern business management is nonsense, Drucker's ideas have influenced many modern American corporations. So has his language: Drucker coined familiar terms such as "management by objectives," "privatization," "the knowledge worker," and "discontinuity." Beatty's The World According to Peter Drucker is a study of those ideas, rather than a "life and times" biography. Beatty begins with Drucker's landmark 1945 study General Motors: The Concept of the Corporation and proceeds chronologically through the most important of his subject's twenty-nine books. Library Journal contributor Patrick J. Brunet commented that The World According to Peter Drucker was the first book on Drucker in a decade, and called it "a good survey."

Beatty continues his study of the history of corporate America in the anthology Colossus: How the Corporation Changed America. The book examines the ways in which corporate culture has always been a basic part of American history. "Beatty's contention," explained a Business Week reviewer, "is that the corporation has evolved into the dominant institution in the U.S. Indeed, he argues that most scholars have vastly understated its role in shaping the economy and society." "For instance," the Business Week critic continued, "on July 30, 1619, the Virginia Company authorized a colonial legislature for Virginia. The company's procedures, with members democratically voting their equity shares, choosing officers, and approving policy, became the template for government in Virginia." Ever since, Beatty argues, corporations have driven American values, society, and politics. This "finely honed collection of readings," contributor Norman B. Hutcherson remarked in his Library Journal review, "… bring to life the people, technological innovations, places, and events that shaped the [modern] corporation." "Drawing mostly on recent secondary sources," concluded a Publishers Weekly reviewer, "the book encompasses a range of viewpoints, from intellectuals to laborers, yielding a[n] … often richly textured overview" of the corporation's impact on American history.

In Age of Betrayal: The Triumph of Money in America, 1865-1900, Beatty examines how the Reconstruction era following the American Civil War resulted in the loss of the high ideals that characterized the fight for freedom for American slaves. The Civil War was supposed to have brought an end to slavery, but instead deals between politicians and moneyed businessmen perverted the aims of the Lincoln administration. "The end result was that in order to protect whites against blacks, American democracy was turned upside down," stated Alan Wolfe in Washington Monthly. "Rights were granted to those who needed them the least while denied to those who needed them most. The side that lost the war won the peace. Judges declared national law superior to state law when it served business, but then declared state law superior to national law when that served business. A war fought to enable blacks in the South to vote resulted in whites in the North being effectively disenfranchised." Age of Betrayal, concluded a Kirkus Reviews writer, is "a compelling tale of the haves of the past and the ‘inverted Constitution’ they created."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

American Prospect, August 13, 2001, Michael Kazin, review of Colossus: How the Corporation Changed America, p. 42.

Booklist, January 1-15, 1998, review of The World According to Peter Drucker; February 15, 2001, David Rouse, review of Colossus, p. 1093.

Books July 14, 2007, Eric Arnesen, "Revising the Revisionists: Re-examining Political and Economic Corruption during the Gilded Age," p. 10.

Book World, June 3, 2007, Carlos Lozada, "The Rise of the Plutocrats," p. 6.

Business Week, April 30, 2001, "A Nation Shaped in the Image of Big Business," p. 20; December 10, 2001, review of Colossus, p. 22.

Commonweal, May 4, 2007, Robert Westbrook, "Overcoming Democracy," p. 22.

Kirkus Reviews, August 15, 1992, review of The Rascal King: The Life and Times of James Michael Curley (1874-1958); An Epic of Urban Politics and Irish America, p. 1027; February 15, 2007, review of Age of Betrayal: The Triumph of Money in America, 1865-1900.

Library Journal, January, 1998, Patrick J. Brunet, review of The World According to Peter Drucker, p. 112; February 15, 2001, Norman B. Hutcherson, review of Colossus, p. 179.

Mid-American Journal of Business, fall, 2001, Roger L. Adkins, review of Colossus.

New Yorker, November 9, 1992, review of The Rascal King, p. 144.

Publishers Weekly, August 3, 1992, review of The Rascal King, p. 52; November 24, 1997, review of The World According to Peter Drucker, p. 60; April 2, 2001, review of Colossus, p. 55.

Reference & Research Book News, August, 2001, review of Colossus, p. 94; November, 2004, review of Pols: Great Writers on American Politicians from Bryan to Reagan, p. 63; August, 2007, review of Age of Betrayal.

Tribune Books (Chicago, IL), June 23, 2002, review of Colossus, p. 6.

Wall Street Journal, April 11, 2001, review of Colossus, p. 16.

Washington Monthly, May, 2007, Alan Wolfe, "The Ignoble Years: Jack Beatty Examines the Many Uncomfortable Parallels between the Gilded Age and Our Own," p. 55.

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