The Fire of Invention

Civil Society and the Future of the Corporation


Many Americans today consider the corporation to be the number one public enemy. Downsizing, corporate greed, an exclusive focus on the needs of shareholders at the expense of workers-the list of complaints from the left and right is long and growing.

In this penetrating and insightful book, Michael Novak, regarded by some as America's foremost social thinker, and author of such internationally acclaimed bestsellers as The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism and Business as a Calling, argues that these critics ask the corporation to be something it is not, and they overlook the functions that it performs best-the cultivation of civil society, the fortification of democracy, and the elevation of the poor.

Borrowing a phrase from Abraham Lincoln, Novak shows how the corporation weds the fire of invention to the fuel of interest to generate a creative, dynamic, and civic-minded citizenry.

Originally Published: 1997


“In The Fire of Invention, Michael Novak reminds us that the business corporation is not a necessary evil to be tolerated, but an integral part of our democratic order critical to both civic and public life. He forthrightly rejects trendy attempts to recycle socialist ideas from the ‘stakeholder society’ to strictures against downsizing, while pointing us to the true sources of creativity in the postindustrial world.”

Francis Fukuyama
George Mason University

“This book is a call to business executives to stand up in defense of the independence of the most powerful economic machine known to man—the publicly owned corporation.”

Roberto C. Goizueta, CEO
The Coca Cola Company

“With thoughtfulness and verve, Michael Novak demonstrates once again why he is the most respected authority on American business and culture. In The Fire of Invention, he identifies… the precious link between individual liberty, the entrepreneurial spirit, and capitalism. Novak’s trenchant observations… draw upon his vast knowledge of American history and corporate America, and will be an education for business and political leaders alike.”

William E. Simon, President
John M. Olin Foundation, Inc.

“Michael Novak aptly describes what both large Western corporations and tiny third world microenterprises know instinctively: the right of voluntary association liberates the human spirit to create wealth, escape poverty, and meet human needs.”

Jim Damron
Opportunity International

“This book is a message not only to the concerned citizen, but is particularly important to business leaders ‘to be philosophically vigilant—that is principled and unrelenting against the trespasses of government power on private property.’ This book also makes clear the benefits of increased productivity and scientific and technological progress obtained under a system of ‘protected patents and copyrights.’ This system has resulted in ‘an explosion in invention and discovery far beyond anything achieved under non-patent regimes.’ This book, therefore, is a must for every student of freedom, every public policy maker concerned with economic progress, and every business person concerned with the interests of consumers and shareholders alike.”

John M. Templeton, M.D., President
John Templeton Foundation