Old Babbitts Die Hard by Wilfred M. McClayn”Believe me, it’s the fellow with four to ten thousandna year, say, and an automobile and a nice little familynin a bungalow on the edge of town, that makes thenwheels of progress go round. “n—George F. BabbittnFord: The Men and the Machine bynRobert Lacey, Boston: Little,nBrown; $24.95.nThe most prominent buildings of ancivilization speak eloquently ofnwhat it esteems. The great medievalncathedrals of France rose in splendornover their Gothic towns, and the upwardnpull of their inner space offerednotherworldly consolation to the soulsnaround them. Some 200 years ago, anforeign traveler arriving in one of thencoastal cities of English-speakingnAmerica would have been awed by thenprofusion of church steeples toweringnover the skyline. Today, the seabornenvisitor to Manhattan Island will findnhimself arrested by a very differentnvision, of concrete or steel-and-glassnbehemoths that dwarf all human scale,nswallowing up such once-imposing ecclesiasticalnedifices as Trinity in WallnStreet or St. Patrick’s in midtown.nIn nearly every American city, thenphysiognomy is much the same. Thenbusiness skyscraper dominates thenurban vision. Of course, such buildingsntell us even more of the specialnplace that business holds in ourncivilization. More specifically, thenevolution of skyscrapers—from thennuanced structures of Louis Sullivannto the unabashed virility of the EmpirenState Building to the glass towers andnmirror-skinned hotels that now dominatenthe American downtown —nembodies the changes in the nature ofnAmerican business. The more recentnstyles of business architecture perfectlynexpress the bureaucratic and impersonalnimperatives of contemporarynbusiness. Form follows function innmore ways than one.nA people so singlemindedly devotednto commerce as Americans ought tonWilfred M. McClay is an assistantnprofessor of history at the Universitynof Dallas.nhave yearned for a literature that reflectednupon the nature of that devotion.nIf the business of America isnbusiness, then the American novelistnought to be willing to depict the stagenupon which so much of the drama ofnour people and our time is set. Such anliterature, however, has not beennforthcoming. The single most celebratednAmerican novel about a businessman,nSinclair Lewis’ Babbitt,nwhile it fails to meet the need, doesntouch upon the ambivalence Americannintellectuals have always felt aboutnthe American ideal of worldly success.n”The exclusive worship of the bitch-nnngoddess SUCCESS,” William Jamesnlamented, “is our national disease”;nand the burgeoning skyline of contemporarynManhattan would seem to bearnhim out.nThe rise of the political right in then1980’s should present an opportunitynto correct our misunderstanding of thenbusiness world. Although journalistsnhave probably overinterpreted the phenomenon,nthere can be no doubt thatnlucrative business careers have a renewednallure, particularly amongnyounger Americans.nGeorge Gilder’s Wealth and Povertynand Peters’ and Watermans’ In Searchnof Excellence reflect our revived admirationnfor the entrepreneur, the ruggednindividual who cuts through the redntape and turns ideas into reality. Thenimage of heroic entrepreneur fuses thenromantic artist with the captain ofnindustry; a great entrepreneur can be atnJULY 1987/25n