David Vogel Interview: Conversations with History; Institute of International Studies, UC Berkeley

Business, Government, and Ethics in an Era of Globalization; Conversation with David Vogel, Solomon P. Lee Distinguished Professor in Business Ethics, Haas School of Business, University of California, Berkeley; July 11, 2007, by Harry Kreisler

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Background

David, welcome to our program.

Thank you, nice to be here.

Where were you born and raised?

I was born and raised in New York City, in Queens. I went to Queens College and I had a professor when I was a junior at Queens College named Robert Engler who offered some courses on business and politics. They kindled what's been a lifelong interest and fascination.

Looking back, how do you think your parents shaped your thinking about the world?

They gave me an intellectual focus. I don't think they specifically shaped my views about business and politics but they gave me a love for learning and an interest in ideas, and an impetus, I think, to become a professor.

You said just a moment ago you went to Queens College. What did you major in there?

I majored in political science.

Was Professor Engler a political scientist or in business?

He was a political scientist and had written a well-known book on the politics of oil, and I got fascinated with business - government relations. Because he was a political scientist I decided to go to graduate school in political science, and because he was interested in business and government I decided to focus on business and government. So, he had a big influence.

Where along this trail did you pick up this interest, which is also important in your career, of ethical issues? Was that something you got at home? Was it something you got in religious school?

It was something that came through being in the [Haas] business school. I began teaching in the area. We needed faculty to teach in the area and I was one of the few people interested in it, and then as a result of teaching it I got [more] interested in it and began to educate myself more about it. So, it grew out of teaching in business school.

So, this was after you had a position here at Berkeley.

Yes, very much so. Right.

In graduate school what was your focus besides business - government relations, or had the bug gotten you by that time?

Yes, it had. My specialty was in American politics and my dissertation was in public hostility to business during the sixties. So, it really was my focus then, as well.

Were you very much affected by the times, the sixties? We were on the threshold of all these movements, part of whose agenda would be to change the way business does business.

I was ready to follow those things. I was engaged in some of them, I was interested in some of them, and generally supportive of them. I had spent a summer working with Ralph Nader on consumer issues, and the dissertation was an attempt to try to assess their likely impact. So, they did very much shape my view, and then my political views about business - government relations as well.

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