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Tomorrow's Capitalist

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Tomorrow's Capitalist

My Search for the Soul of Business

Public Affairs,

15 min read
8 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

In the 21st century, human and social capital have become a company’s primary sources of value.

Editorial Rating



  • Applicable
  • Eye Opening
  • Eloquent


In this thoughtful book, Fortune Media CEO Alan Murray considers business leaders’ changing priorities. At the start of the 21st century, most executives adhered to economist Milton Friedman’s theory that broader social aims distort the market’s efficiency. They held that a leader’s only duty is to maximize shareholder profits. However, the 2008 financial crisis sparked a reevaluation. Now, more than half of American corporations’ value lies in “intangibles,” such as brands and intellectual property. Leaders tend to focus less on the bottom line than on having talented people, and many prioritize meaning and purpose along with – or even above – profits.


In the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, business leaders began to shift their focus from shareholders to stakeholders. 

As of the late 1990s, the Business Roundtable (BRT), a powerful association of CEOs, narrowly adhered to economist Milton Friedman’s vision of capitalism in which a business’s purpose is to generate profits for its owners, and the CEO’s goal is to maximize returns. This was not always the BRT’s consensus view, and it did not last. Earlier, in the early 1980s, the BRT’s vision of “corporate purpose” noted the give-and-take relationship between business and society. It further expressed some sense of corporate responsibility to society, including a call to provide employment, offer well-made “goods and services at fair prices,” and support the economy at large. 

By 2018, this resonated once more. Business’s orientation toward stockholders again shifted away from Friedman – a shift triggered by the 2008 financial crisis. In the face of high unemployment, a housing slump, stagnant wages and other shocks affecting working Americans in the wake of the crisis, Friedman’s market ...

About the Author

Alan Murray is the CEO of Fortune Media. He writes for Fortune CEO Daily and co-hosts the Leadership Next podcast. He is the author of Showdown at Gucci Gulch: Lawmakers, Lobbyists and the Unlikely Triumph of Tax Reform.

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