As everyone surely knows, this was the title of the last episode of season 3 of Mad Men. I’ve previously covered the anti-capitalist aspects of this show, but have come to realise that it’s too subtle and nuanced to dismiss on that basis.
Sterling Cooper’s British parent is being sold along with SC to McCann-Erickson. Needless to say (for those who’ve been watching), Sterling, Cooper, Draper and gang don’t want to go to that “sausage factory.” But what can they do? They’ve got their books of business, but they’ve all signed long-term contracts.
Watch the show to see how they deal with the contract problem. My point here is that the show deals with the problems of binding professionals into a firm. Without the SC principals, what property can the parent firm sell to McCann? It can use contracts to try to bind the principals, but we see that contracts can only go so far. The human “glue” here only binds the SC principals to each other, not SC to the parent. The forces of global competition are starting to play havoc with the stability of firms.
Does this sound like a law firm? With the exception, of course, that law firms can’t use the same contracts with noncompetes that other firms can. See my Death of Big Law.
It gets even more fun in Mad Men when the show brings in the Drapers’ marriage as an obvious comparison. They basically can’t divorce under NY law. This helps keep them together, which the show portrays as good for the assets of the Draper-Draper firm (i.e., the kids). But there’s always Reno. In other words, The Law Market (see Chapter 8 on marriage) comes into play. In general, Mad Men has been quite nuanced on the changes in family cohesiveness happening during the show’s time span of the early 60s.
By the end of the show, individual freedom has prevailed over firms. The evil CEO of the British parent has been vanquished. But will everybody be happy in their new world of instability? I guess we’ll see in Season 4.
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