CEO Society

The Corporate Takeover of Everyday Life

Peter Bloom and Carl Rhodes


Why have CEOs become the cultural icons of the 21st century?

Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) have become the cultural icons of the 21st century. Figures like Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg are held up as role models who epitomise the modern pursuit of innovation, wealth and success. We now live, Bloom and Rhodes argue, in a ‘CEO society’ – a society where corporate leadership has become the model for transforming not just business, but all spheres of life, where everyone from politicians to jobseekers to even those seeking love are expected to imitate the qualities of the lionized corporate executive.

But why, in the wake of the failings exposed by the 2008 financial crisis, does the corporate ideal continue to exert such a grip on popular attitudes? In this insightful new book, Bloom and Rhodes examine the rise of the CEO society, and how it has started to transform governments, culture and the economy. This influence, they argue, holds troubling implications for the future of democracy - as evidenced by the disturbing political rise of Donald Trump in the US - and for our society as a whole.

Author Bio

Peter Bloom heads the People and Organisations Department at the Open University, UK. His research critically examines the everyday practices of capitalism and democracy and their implications for work and life. Peter’s recent books include Authoritarian Capitalism in the Age of Globalization (2016) and The Ethics of Neoliberalism: The Business of Making Capitalism Moral (2017), while his writing has featured in The Washington Post, The Guardian, The Independent, The New Statesmen, The Week, The Conversation and Open Democracy among others.

Carl Rhodes is Professor of Organisation Studies at UTS Business School in Sydney, Australia. He has published numerous books and papers concerning the ethical and political dimensions of business and working life. He recently published The Companion to Ethics, Politics and Organizations (2015, with Alison Pullen), and regularly writes for the mainstream and independent press, where his articles can be found in The Guardian, New Matilda, The Conversation, Independent Australia, and Open Democracy.

Table of Contents

  • Introduction: The Threat and Promise of CEO Salvation
  • 1. Welcome to the CEO Society
  • 2. The Idolisation of the CEO
  • 3. Competing in the Executive Economy
  • 4. The CEO Politician
  • 5. The CEO as a Model for Living
  • 6. The Generous CEO?
  • 7. The Bad Faith of CEO Salvation
  • Afterword: The High Cost of the CEO Society


‘A fascinating look at how the near deification of corporate executives has corroded culture across the globe, with dire implications for democracy. This is a wake-up call to rethink our values before it is too late to save hard-won and irreplaceable public institutions.’
Nancy MacLean, author of Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America

‘When the answer to any problem is sending a CEO to the rescue, we are in deep trouble. This smart and insightful book takes a look at the increasing veneration of CEOs, and the damage it is doing to our society.’
André Spicer, author of Business Bullshit

‘In a CEO society, only winners are allowed. In this timely and passionate book, Bloom and Rhodes identify what is at stake as corporate leadership replaces all other models for success. It delivers solace and motivation for anyone who believes that equity and justice should matter in governance.’
Melissa Gregg, Research Director at Intel, and author of Work's Intimacy

‘Bloom and Rhodes skilfully follow the ideology of the CEO into every corner of our society, revealing its sources, its impacts, and the resistance it is generating. Highly recommended for anyone concerned with contemporary capitalism.’
Nick Srnicek, co-author of Inventing the Future: Postcapitalism and a World Without Work

'Many of today's CEOs purport to serve the public good. They are wealth takers re-branded as wealth creators. This book illuminates the dangers of CEO worship in an age of entrenched austerity.'
Linsey McGoey, author of The Unknowers: How Strategic Ignorance Rules the World

‘In spite of the thorough and still growing critique of the leadership cult, CEOs proliferate in both private and public sectors. Let us hope that Bloom and Rhodes' book will serve as an antidote.’
Barbara Czarniawska, author of Cyberfactories: How News Agencies Produce News

‘Why do we pray at the altar of the celebrity CEOs? What are consequences of such disturbing worship? Bloom and Rhodes answer these questions, showing us the ugly side of our contemporary obsession and the price we collectively pay in the CEO society.’
Alessia Contu, University of Massachusetts

‘This unique book sheds light on one of the most tragic paradoxes of contemporary life: Why do we celebrate neoliberalism, through today’s “cult of the CEO”? Bloom and Rhodes explain our deep-seated attachments to ideologies that are not only flawed but also dangerous.’
Kate Kenny, Queens University Belfast

‘Essential reading for anyone wanting to understand the contemporary fetishisation of corporate leadership. Rhodes and Bloom trace the rise of the cult of the CEO, mounting a strong defence of democracy in the face of this celebratory authoritarianism.’
Chris Land, Anglia Ruskin University


Publication Date: 15 April 2018
288 pages

Product ISBNs: Paperback: 9781786990723
Hardback: 9781786990730
eBook ePub: 9781786990754
eBook PDF: 9781786990747
eBook Kindle: 9781786990761

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