[SIGCIS-Members] Defining American Greatness: IBM from Watson to Trump (CACM)

Thomas Haigh thomas.haigh at gmail.com
Thu Dec 28 13:32:24 PST 2017



Hope everyone is having a pleasant holiday. I just wanted to let you all
know that my short article "Defining American Greatness: IBM from Watson to
Trump" just appeared in the Jan 2018 issue of Communications of the ACM. ACM
agreed to make this one open access, in hopes of reaching a broader
ltext. Thanks to Jim Cortada for comments, and to Bill Aspray who has
recently stepped down from many years of editorial work helping to shepherd
historical material into Communications. 


The argument is that IBM founder Thomas Watson Sr. and Donald Trump have a
surprising amount in common, including an obsession with "greatness," but
that the ways in which they differ tell us a lot about how America, and
global capitalism, have changed over the past century. This seemed like a
chance to make IBM's long history seem more relevant, and, when the
parallels become more explicit in the conclusion, to approach Trumpism from
a relatively novel direction. Also, it finishes with Leonard Cohen, which
may be another first for CACM. Hopefully the computer scientists are not
going to complain.


There is a SIGCIS connection: the piece is deeply informed by a pair of
panels on IBM I organized via the SIGCIS list for the Business History
Conference a few years ago (Frankfurt meeting). The argument that IBM had
been a "model corporation" in different eras comes from the talk I developed
for that panel. This argument is combined here with details from my ongoing
work with Petri Paju on the history of IBM in Europe (our article "IBM's
Tiny Peripheral: Finland and the Tensions of Transnationality" should be out
early next year in Business History Review).


Best wishes,



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