This podcast series explores the changing relationship between business and society from 1999 to today. Each episode unpacks a key event—from the Seattle WTO protests to the global financial crisis and beyond—to find insights for the future. Produced by the Aspen Institute’s Business & Society Program and hosted by Michelle Harven.
The Humanities & Business Education In an Economic Crisis
As colleges weigh whether to welcome students back to campus this fall, they do so under the burden of financial pressures on higher education that have been building for over a decade. Among these pressures is a question increasingly prominent in media: Given the rising cost of tuition, what is the return on investment of a college education? Since the last financial crisis, this question has often been used to set up a false choice between liberal arts education and career-oriented education in STEM or business. In this episode, we’ll hear why this is based on a flawed understanding of “employability” in evaluating higher education, and learn why moving beyond the binary of liberal arts vs business helps students and even, democracy itself.
Economic crises: A crucible for change?
As we face new economic upheaval in 2020, what lessons can we learn from the last global financial crisis? This episode looks at a seeming paradox: the 2008 financial crisis was a wrenching turning point for countless individuals and communities, but in the business world, it reinforced decades-old trends—from layoffs to political mobilization. This year's global economic crisis gives business an opportunity to reset perceptions that have festered since the last crisis.
Are we still living in Enron’s world?
There is much about the Enron scandal that feels of its moment—but not everything does. A culture of celebrity surrounding business leaders is arguably deeper entrenched today than in 2001, when Enron filed for bankruptcy. And, as recent scandals like Theranos demonstrate, Enron wasn’t the last fall from grace to capture the public’s imagination. This episode looks back on Enron, Tyco and Worldcom to consider what has and has not changed since those scandals. Its focus is on their aftermath: efforts in Congress and in academia to change business conduct for the better. What have we learned about how to stop companies from going bad?
Is History Repeating Itself on Climate, Government, and Business?
Does this sound familiar? A new US President comes into office and withdraws from an international climate agreement, signaling a change in federal environmental policy. It should; this describes the US withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement in 2017 but also applies to the US withdrawal from the Kyoto Protocol in 2001. In this episode of the Business 20/20 podcast, we look back at this earlier event to find lessons on how business and civil society can keep environmental progress moving forward today.
Two Geopolitical Shocks of 2001
September 11th, 2001, was a day of horror that changed our sense of self and our place in the world. It also changed the US economy, shaping everything from government policy to how businesses operate. This episode explores the decades-long aftershock of that day, alongside those of another day in 2001: December 11th, when China joined the WTO. Examining these stories together challenges simple narratives that globalization will make societies richer and in time, more democratic. What comes next—and how should businesses prepare?
Lessons for the Techlash from the Tech Crash
In most tellings, the 2000 tech crash is a straightforward story: the music stopped and unprofitable dot-com companies failed, paving the way for the more innovative companies of the Web 2.0 era. This episode explores a very different view of the tech crash: as a key turning point where the idealism of early web entrepreneurs gave way to new business practices that would in time, drive today’s backlash against technology companies—the “techlash.” This fresh look at tech’s evolution suggests new answers for idealism in tech, and for promoting greater equality and innovation in the US economy.