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Big business

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Title: Big business  
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Subject: Sugar plantations in Hawaii, Corporate America, Occupy Wall Street, Business history, Digital rights management
Collection: Business Terms, Libertarian Terms, Political Terminology
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Big business

Big business are large-scale corporate-controlled financial or business activities. As a term, it is typically used to describe activities that run from "huge transactions" to the more general "doing big things." The concept first arose in a symbolic sense after 1880 in connection with the combination movement that began in American business at that time. United States corporations that fall into the category of "big business" include Daimler AG, Deutsche Telekom, Siemens and Deutsche Bank.[1] Among the largest companies in the United Kingdom are HSBC, Barclays, WPP plc and BP.[2] The latter half of the 19th century saw more technological advances and corporate growth in additional sectors, such as petroleum, machinery, chemicals, and electrical equipment. (See Second Industrial Revolution.)


  • Early 20th century 1
  • Post-World War II 2
    • Computers 2.1
    • Electronics 2.2
    • Energy 2.3
  • Criticism of big business 3
    • Influence over government 3.1
    • Human rights and working conditions 3.2
  • See also 4
  • References 5

Early 20th century

The automotive industry began modestly in the 19th century, but grew rapidly following the development of large-scale gasoline production in the early 20th century.

Post-World War II

The relatively stable period of rebuilding after World War II led to new technologies (some of which were spin-offs from the war years) and new businesses.


The new technology of computers spread worldwide in the post war years. Businesses built around computer technology include: IBM, Microsoft, Apple Inc. and Intel.


Miniaturization and integrated circuits, together with an expansion of radio and television technologies, provided fertile ground for business development. Electronics businesses include JVC, Sony (Masaru Ibuka and Akio Morita), and Texas Instruments (Cecil H. Green, J. Erik Jonsson, Eugene McDermott, and Patrick E. Haggerty).


Nuclear power was added to fossil fuel as the main sources of energy.

Criticism of big business

The social consequences of the concentration of economic power in the hands of those persons controlling "big business" has been a constant concern both of economists and of politicians since the end of the 19th century. Various attempts have been made to investigate the effects of "bigness" upon labor, consumers and investors, as well as upon prices and competition. "Big business" has been accused of a wide variety of misdeeds that range from the exploitation of the working class to the corruption of politicians and the fomenting of war.

Influence over government

Corporate concentration can lead to influence over government in areas such as tax policy, trade policy, environmental policy, foreign policy, and labor policy through lobbying. In 2005 the majority of Americans believed that big business has "too much power in Washington".[3]

Human rights and working conditions

German industry collaborated with their Nazi government during the Third Reich, thus exploiting the working class in the interest of productivity and efficiency. [4]

Hitler's order offered German capitalists, badly hit by the great recession, the prospects of huge profits. German workers did, admittedly, enjoy full employment, but, as William Schirer has said, this was at the cost of being reduced to serfdom and poverty wages. It was not long before these conditions became the lot of the whole of occupied Europe.

See also


This article is originally based on material from Dictionary of American History by James Truslow Adams, New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1940

  1. ^ "The Largest German Companies." Accessed 2012-12-29.
  2. ^ "The U.K.'s 40 Largest Companies." Accessed 2012-12-29.
  3. ^ Timothy P. Carney (2006-07-21), Big Business and Big Government 
  4. ^ Frederic F Clairmont (January 1998), "Volkswagen's history of forced labour", Le Monde 
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