A Book Review Over the Book 'Taking on the Trust' by Steve Weinberg

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The book for this specific review will be “Taking on the Trust,” written by Steve Weinberg. The year of publication is 2009, and the publisher is W. W. Norton & Company. It has 337 pages. The author presents a biographical approach of the clash between Tarbell and Rockefeller, which he says were deeply rooted in the family background. Tarbell was quite influenced by the entrepreneurial father as well as the strong mother, while Rockefeller had the inspiration of the mother’s religious convictions and the business practices of his father. 

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These two tend to take great twists and turns for their lives by showing their level of productivity, but they end up in rivalry. The audience for the book is people living in the United States’ modern world. The audience may seem restricted, but many of the topics are applicable in today’s world. The review will describe the evidence that the author uses to prove his points, whether they have the necessary expertise to write the book, how successful the author was in carrying out all the overall purpose of the book and my reaction and evaluation.

Steve Weinberg has high-level expertise to write this book from his background. He is known to be an American Physicist as well as a Nobel Laureate in Physics. He is an experienced author with other books that reveal the talent and major reading of various areas. The extensive research of the author has also helped in the writing, as it shows the extent to which he is knowledgeable about the operations of oil companies and why others thrive more.

Weinberg starts by describing Tarbell’s work where she was one of the great investigative journalists assigned to McClure’s magazine. When she told her father that the magazine had assigned her the role of exposing Rockefeller’s Standard Oil Company, he tried to beg her to rethink this duty. The father told Tarbell, “Don’t do it, Ida, they’ll ruin the magazine”. The oil company was one of the biggest corporate trust that the world had ever seen. However, she still went ahead to investigate the company. 

The reason for him not permitting Tarbell to investigate the company was because he knew of the practices and how they would come to affect them as a family. Tarbell lived in the shadows of Rockefeller for 40 years. The father was aware of how the company ruthlessly drove independent oil operators into bankruptcy or forced them to sell to him.

Tarbell did her indefatigable research on the business practices of Rockefeller, which led to a series of the two-year period leading to a book titled ‘The History of Standard Oil.’ The book got across the country and was reviewed by quite a number of people. Rockefeller’s associates denounced the book.

Tarbell left out the personality of Rockefeller when writing the history of the standard oil but couldn’t resist writing about it in the end. There was also a chapter in the book that she devoted to the benefits of standard oil. Her skills in journalism helped her to convert the vast public records of lawsuits and investigations by the government into smooth narrative prose. She then nailed down her case by publishing many other documents on which her story was told.

The book by Tarbell was a story about the history of the company and not a man. However, Rockefeller declined to address the charges by Tarbell. It was his nature to scarcely ever testify about the things others said concerning the company. He only said that “My trust is a good trust and people who have joined me have profited and also fitted”[footnoteRef:6]. Despite all these claims, he did not fight back. The evidence is convincing, and Weinberg supports his points adequately by explaining the root cause of the problem. 

The book has achieved its goal of describing the epic battle of Ida Tarbell and John Rockefeller. There is a constant show of the rivalry between the two. Tarbell is in pursuit of the truth, while Rockefeller believes that he has been doing his operations up to the expected standards. Tarbell covers the inside story of the tactics by the company and the lawsuits that they have had over time. Rockefeller had managed to bring the company to a high-level trust that even others that joined him benefited from the oil prices.

The book suggests the possibilities of learning traits from the parents. It was because of the constant business practices of Rockefeller’s father that he was able to capture ways of doing business and hence be in the field of oil. Similarly, it was the mother’s religious practice that enabled Rockefeller to follow in the same route and go to church like her. It is a similar case for Tarbell. It was sad that her father, who previously ran an oil company, was no longer in the business because of Rockefeller’s company’s competitive advantage. The mother also ensured support.

The book has left out the aftermath of the company after the reports by Tarbell. The reader has no idea whether it began to make fewer sales or it continues to make more. There are more questions to be answered such as ‘did the company die” and ‘what did Rockefeller plan to do?” There was a need to change the strategies and make statements for the company.

The book compares to others on the subject in that it is different in addressing social life while other books address the hard facts of the subject. It gives the background of each character, while other books on this subject do not. It lets the readers see the characters’ personalities and what made them become that way.

The point that is not convincing is the logic of Tarbell and Rockefeller’s ages. They were almost 18 years apart. The author tries to interweave these two lives, but there is a mistake in how they blend. This way, there are clunky formulations in the book. Weinberg tries to show the battle but forgets about this gap. For Tarbell, her place in the world was uncertain, since she didn’t have as many experiences as Rockefeller. On the contrary, Rockefeller clearly knows about his place since he has managed to run a company successfully. Tarbell was just out of college, while Rockefeller was in his 40’s.

I find the book more convincing especially because these oil companies are doing the same to most people. There are many companies being driven out of the market because of other giant companies taking over. Investigative journalists have to do more about revealing their practices and judge whether they are right or wrong.

Steve Weinberg successfully carries all the purposes of the book by showing a step to step detail of how the events happened. He discusses the relationship in the families and how each parent had had an influence on the siblings. Weinberg calls it a hybrid book, which is part biography and part a dramatic narrative. The purpose of the book is defining the issue of rivalry in the family and the impact on the children.

The two characters in the story are from different backgrounds, and the author reveals how they come together. Rockefeller is from a family that is a curious blend of raffish and religion. Most of the time, Rockefeller’s father was away from home, mainly on business trips and indulged in sexual affairs. Nevertheless, Rockefeller did not acknowledge the unethical and illegal behavior of the father; readers could be sure he learned a trick or two from him. On the other side, Rockefeller was overly identified with the piety of the mother. 

She was a devout Christian making Rockefeller believe that his dealings were up to standards. Tarbell, on the other hand, got her traits from the father’s experiences in the oil business. The father was aware of the efforts by Rockefeller to intimidate his competition. Tarbell generally had the support from her family that helped her pursue her research for truth. This way, Weinberg clearly shows how these two characters come together and what they are able to do from what they have learnt over the years. 

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