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In memoriam
Professor Bruce Scott

I (Alain Martin) am deeply saddened to learn about the passing of Professor Bruce Scott on March 21, 2020, a distinguished member of PDI Advisory Board since 2015, and Harvard Business School's Paul Whiton Cherington Professor of Business Administration, Emeritus.

Professor Bruce Scott, Member of the Board of AdvisorsWhile teaching graduate courses in management science, I came across Professor Scott's seminal work in France, noticing the pragmatism to bridge the growing gap between political economy and both traditional economics and econometrics. When I subsequently attended his HBS class in 1997, little did I know that would seed a friendship lasting nearly a quarter century.

I was immediately fascinated by Professor Scott's rigorous comparative insights between the post-WWII "golden years" of prosperity and hope, where both the U.S. and Western Europe experienced rising equality, versus the eighties and subsequent time when income distribution and universal equity worsened in America; yet remained stable in most of continental Europe. While warning us that his research, was a work-in-progress into the dynamics between stakeholders (including powerful lobbies), regressive taxation and divestment in public goods (education, health, infrastucture), Professor Scott supported his perspective by demonstrating how the return of the free-market laissez-faire "ideology" ferociously reversed the social-safety safeguards that gradually reduced inequities since FDR's New Deal. Professor Bruce Scott was esteemed for his unwavering integrity. He was not only humble and approachable; but an altruistic-nurturing educator, tough but fair and caring.

To celebrate Harvard Business School's 100th anniversary, I invited Professor Scott, long before the 2008 financial crisis, to share his findings on governance and deliver a full day on "Overhauling Capitalism and Strengthening the Essence of Democracy", a title I borrowed from my 1998 Report to the UNESCO's Director General. The conference participants came from several countries. They included Harvard alumnis, policy makers, diplomats and corporate leaders. Professor Scott appreciated the synergistic dialogue which continued during a 2010's follow-up session, as acknowledged in his latest book " Capitalism: Its Origins and Evolution as System of Governance".

A historic masterpiece narrating the zigzaging progress made since Tocqueville's time, culminating with the foundations for contextual etiologic options to what ills our democracies today, this book deserves the widest readership and should rank on equal footings with those of outstanding trailblazers like Esther Duflo and Thomas Piketty. It should be read by all students, especially those studying law, education, health, business and government, as well as heads of government, policy-makers, educators, journalists, entrepreneurs and banking and finance executives. Alas, Professor Scott's could not engage in grueling book-signing tours and other marketing activities, due health issues and continuous dedication to his students and research. Hopefully, the publisher and the retailers will contribute to Professor Scott's ideals and the common good by reasonably pricing the book, now unfortunately trending toward a three-digit price.

Beyond his profound knowledge on governance and democracy, Professor Scott's curiosity, intellectual rigor, enduring integrity and brutal honesty made his search for the truth overiding the need for compromise. To those who disliked his skepticism, may I reiterate his doubt was neither Pontius Pilate's hypocritical cynicism nor a fence-sitting Pyrrhonism, and much less the pathological skepticism of Shakespeare's Othello. On complex issues, Bruce was a healthy cartesian skepticist, taking the time to think about constructive pathways toward gems of truth; his purpose was steered by a moral compass that gave a sound meaning to his efforts.1 As Professor George Cabot Lodge observed, "Bruce was unique as a Harvard Business School Professor. When he found that reality got in the way of favored theory, he supported reality in no uncertain terms, causing traditional economists to brand him a heretic, a title he relished. He was a wonderful man and a great friend and mentor to me. He will be sorely missed."

The life and dignity of every person were at the core of Professor Scott's unwavering commitment to social equity and other universal values. He was a giant like Dr. Bryan Stevenson and Professor Paul Farmer who think that "[T]he idea that some lives matter less is the root of all that is wrong with the world". To all, I owe more than words can express.

Please share this hyperlink on Professor Bruce Scott's life, including the following factual and insightful excerpt by Scott's daughter Laurie (MBA 1989) from HBS Press release

"Drawing on his reserves of character, courage, decency, and intellectual honesty, my father made a major contribution to our society. His writings and teaching changed thinking. He believed that for firms, there should be stakeholder capitalism, not shareholder capitalism. He believed universities should teach about the common good, and that schools of government should teach 'government of the people, by the people and for the people.' Schools of law should teach legal responsibilities to societies as well as clients; schools of business should teach students to earn a decent profit in a decent way."

With Professor Scott's death, we have lost a beloved friend, an altruitic mentor, whose authenticity and values have been precious to us.


In honor of the caregivers who forever risk their lives and the countless and innocent COVID-19 victims, survivors must thrive to avert the stovepiped thinking and legacy of the infrastructures of the past. With Farmer's, Scott's and Stevenson's foresighted lessons of solidarity, let us work together to continually progress toward more just, caring and collaborative societies supported by four synergistic vital pillars; namely public health, the ecology, public education and the economy, in harmony with the visible hand of democratic institutions and civil societies.

Please contact me if you wish to participate in a memorial dialogue about Bruce Scott's solidarity lessons for future generations to be tentatively held this summer.


1. For more on this typology of doubts, consult the excellent TedEx presentation (in French) by Professor Yann Martin: " Douter en vérité, la conversion d'un philosophe : Yann-Hervé Martin"

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