The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power
The inspiration for the film that won the 2004 Sundance Film Festival Audience Award for Best Documentary, The Corporation contends that the corporation is created by law to function much like a psychopathic personality, whose destructive behavior, if unchecked, leads to scandal and ruin.
Over the last 150 years the corporation has risen from relative obscurity to become the world’s dominant economic institution. Eminent Canadian law professor and legal theorist Joel Bakan contends that today's corporation is a pathological institution, a dangerous possessor of the great power it wields over people and societies.
In this revolutionary assessment of the history, character, and globalization of the modern business corporation, Bakan backs his premise with the following observations:
-The corporation’s legally defined mandate is to pursue relentlessly and without exception its own economic self-interest, regardless of the harmful consequences it might cause to others.
-The corporation’s unbridled self-interest victimizes individuals, society, and, when it goes awry, even shareholders and can cause corporations to self-destruct, as recent Wall Street scandals reveal.
-Governments have freed the corporation, despite its flawed character, from legal constraints through deregulation and granted it ever greater authority over society through privatization.
But Bakan believes change is possible and he outlines a far-reaching program of achievable reforms through legal regulation and democratic control.
Featuring in-depth interviews with such wide-ranging figures as Nobel Prize winner Milton Friedman, business guru Peter Drucker, and cultural critic Noam Chomsky, The Corporation is an extraordinary work that will educate and enlighten students, CEOs, whistle-blowers, power brokers, pawns, pundits, and politicians alike.
young women workers are supervised by guards who beat and humiliate them on the slightest pretext and who fire them if a forced pregnancy test comes back positive. Each worker repeats the same action—sewing on a belt loop, stitching a sleeve—maybe two thousand times a day. They work under painfully bright lights, for twelve-to fourteen-hour shifts, in overheated factories, with too few bathroom breaks and restricted access to water (to reduce the need for more bathroom breaks), which is often
ubiquitous because, as one commentator points out, “The proprietors must maintain an atmosphere conducive to business, which necessitates prohibiting those members of the public and activities they perceive as detracting from this objective”53—such as, for example, picketers, protesters, leafleters, and homeless people. Because malls, tunnels, and skywalks are private property, citizens’ exercise of rights to free speech and assembly can be more easily curtailed in these places than on comparable
one, but controlled by all.”29 Other major corporations soon followed AT&T’s lead. General Motors, for example, ran advertisements that, in the words of the agency responsible for them, aimed “to personalize the institution by calling it a family.” “The word ‘corporation’ is cold, impersonal and subject to misunderstanding and distrust,” noted Alfred Swayne, the GM executive in charge of institutional advertising at the time, but “ ‘Family’ is personal, human, friendly. This is our picture of
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