Big History, Global Corporations, Virtual Capitalism

by Richard L. Nolan

Overview — The hundred-year history of the Boeing Company takes us through the phases of the modern corporation, from its entrepreneurial founding to the transition to professional management and managerial capitalism during the first half of the twentieth century, and the subsequent transition to virtual capitalism during the last half of the twentieth century into the twenty-first century. Virtual capitalism, enabled by modern IT technologies of real time networks, allows today’s global organizations to overcome many constraints, particularly the physical limitations faced in the past.

Author Abstract

Homo sapiens has mastered its environment so thoroughly that, for the first time in history, a small minority of the population is capable of creating enough food and fuels to support not only itself, but also a growing majority of the 6 billion people now living on earth. This unparalleled abundance is allowing our species to develop, distribute, and profit from innovation in nearly every corner of civilization. Now key elements of the modern world such as the speed and connectedness of digital communication, the dynamic movement of capital, and the changing nature of political boundaries are propelling capitalism into a new form that can be characterized as "virtual capitalism." And global corporations in their size and global influence are leading the embodiment of virtual capitalism into the modern world.

Paper Information

  • Full Working Paper Text
  • Working Paper Publication Date: March 2016
  • HBS Working Paper Number: 16-116
  • Faculty Unit(s):