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The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power [Paperback]

Joel Bakan
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
RRP: 7.99
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Book Description

23 Jun 2005
What would the world be like if its ruling elite was insane? The most powerful class of institution on earth, the corporation, is by any reasonable measure hopelessly and unavoidably demented. The corporation lies, steals and kills without remorse and without hesitation when it serves the interests of its shareholders to do so. It obeys the law only when the costs of crime exceed the profits. Corporate social responsibility is impossible except insofar as it is insincere. At once a diagnosis and a course of treatment, "The Corporation" is essential reading for those who want to understand the nature of the modern business system. It is a sober and careful attempt to describe the world as it is, rather than as corporate public relations departments would have us believe it to be. It reveals a world more exotic and more terrifying than any of us could have imagined. And although a billion dollar industry is trying to convince you otherwise, the corporations that surround us are not our friends. Charming and plausible though they are, they can only ever see us as resources to be used. This is the real world, not science fiction, and it really is us or them.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Robinson Publishing; New Ed edition (23 Jun 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1845291743
  • ISBN-13: 978-1845291747
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 138,817 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Amazon Review

Joel Bakan is Professor of Law at the University of British Columbia and an internationally renowned legal authority. The Corporation is a slim handbook telling you everything you need to know about corporate power in six short, easily accessible chapters, accompanying one of the most powerful and engaging documentaries of the year. He starts by describing how the corporation rose from humble beginnings to become the world’s most dominant institution—an institution that determines what we eat, watch, wear, where we work and what we do. To understand how the corporation acquired such monumental power one need only look at how, over time, this institution managed to shake off its legal constraints, and with it, any compelling need to behave as a moral entity. The law has granted the corporation the status of a ‘person’ and as such, Bakan argues, it should be recognized for what it truly is: a psychopath. In fact the central message of the book is to soberly reveal the fact that the corporation has a legally defined mandate to relentlessly pursue—without exception—its own self-interest regardless of the often harmful consequences it might cause to others. Lying, stealing, killing are not rare aberrations but the duty of the corporation when it serves the interests of its shareholders to do so.

Bakan also makes a key distinction between the (often decent) people who work for corporations and the unique structure of imperatives that direct the actions of every person within it. He explains the nature and discusses the implications of its pathological character and follows this up with a discussion of its increasing power over society. The book draws much of its authority from original interviews with players from the corporate world, pundits who analyse it and critics who highlight its dangers and propose solutions. The final chapter considers what should and can be done to mitigate its potential to cause harm. Bakan argues that however much power the corporation has acquired—and despite the apparent powerlessness of governments to control the beast—it still remains our own creation that depends upon the law for its continued existence. The law has made it what it is and the law can and must be used to control it. It would be a mistake therefore, he argues, to assume that the power of popular protest alone can help us and an even bigger mistake to believe that corporations can become socially aware moral entities that put the good of the environment, the community, the people before the generation of profit. Above all, we must realize that the corporation and its underlying ideology are animated by a narrow and destructive conception of human nature that contradicts our hard won values of democracy, social justice, equality and compassion. Bakan’s book is clearly written, easily accessible and irresistible in its general analysis. A must read, not merely for those interested in the business world, but—since the pathological values of the corporation are determining the kind of world we have today—for everyone. --Larry Brown --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.


"...this sharp expose of corporate life should certainly provoke some debate." -- Bookseller (The)

'Bakan's analysis is strong on pinpointing problems with current business.' -- Harvard Business Review

'Fahrenheit 9/11 for people who think.' -- Independent

'No matter how cuddly and cute big business pretends to be ... Wake up and smell The Corporation.' -- Stephen Applebaum, Sunday Herald

'The Corporation will force you to reflect on what really matters, both in one's life and in one's company.' -- The Globe and Mail

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting and informative 13 Oct 2004
By M. Ward
Right from the start this book provides an insightful analysis of the Corporate world around us. Not limiting itself to an in depth look at the world inside the boardroom, it provides an interesting and easily accessible account of why many of the things that are happening around us, happen.
It is essential reading for anyone who has an interest in business.
It is recommended reading for anyone who is curious about modern life and the society in which we live.
I read this on holiday so don't be fooled into thinking it is a business text book - it is too well written and interesting for that!
Just buy it, read it and enjoy it.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mind-altering and perceptive 21 Jan 2005
By A Customer
I don't think I had ever really thought about what a corporation actually was until I read this book. It is not one of those wild, let's go back to the stone age kind of books, turning its back on the modern world and capitalism per se, but it does regard the corproation as 'pathological', driven by self-interest and regardless of any other concerns (environmental, moral, social) apart from the need to maximise profit to shareholders. As such, it sees the corporation as a human creation, enabled by human laws, and therfore capable of being reconstructed along better, more human/humane lines. The tone throughout is sane, urbane and moderate (as you would probably expect from a professor of law at the Univesity of British Columbia), but the message it delivers is damning and sharp. Like other readers, I could not put it down and read it pretty well non-stop.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Striking thesis convincingly presented 23 July 2004
By Dennis Littrell TOP 500 REVIEWER
The modern corporation, according to law professor Joel Bakan, is "singularly self-interested and unable to feel genuine concern for others in any context." (p. 56) From this Bakan concludes that the corporation is a "pathological" entity.
This is a striking conclusion. The so-called pathological personality in humans is well documented and includes serial killers and others who have no regard for the life and welfare of anyone but themselves. But is it really fair to label the corporation, managed and owned by normal caring and loving people, in this way?
Bakan thinks so. He begins with a little history showing how the corporation developed and how it came to occupy the dominate position that it enjoys today. He recalls a time before "limited liability" when shareholders were legally responsible for the actions of the corporation, a time when corporations could not own stock in other companies, a time when corporations could not acquire or merge with other corporations, a time when shareholders could more closely control corporate management.
Next he shows what corporations have become, and finally what can be done about it.
Bakan's argument includes the point that the corporation's sole reason for being is to enhance the profits and power of the corporation. He shows by citing court cases that it is the duty of management to make money and that any compromise with that duty is dereliction of duty.
Another point is that "corporations are designed to externalize their costs." The corporation is "deliberately programmed, indeed legally compelled, to externalize costs without regard for the harm it may cause to people, communities, and the natural environment. Every cost it can unload onto someone else is a benefit to itself, a direct route to profit." (pp.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Pathological 18 Jan 2006
By Keith Appleyard VINE VOICE
The subtitle "The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power" says it all.
What would the world be like if its rulers were insane? The message being offered here is that as far as their Legal structure is concerned, the modern Corporation only has responsibility to its Shareholders, but yet the Shareholders wield no effective power over them – so the Corporation is out of control.
We can see how the modern CEO can be a different form of robber baron.
This is not an anti-globalisation polemic (I read those as well), but a calm & lucid description of what is wrong, and what we can do about it.
The most important truth of all : Corporations have no lives, no powers and no capacities beyond what we, through our Governments, give them. So let's get them back under control.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very thorough and informative 6 Jan 2006
Capitalism is the now unchallenged organising power of human life, able to reach into any area of the world, and as this book shows, any area of life too - well, the attempt is being made. At the vanguard of this accelerating domination is the corporation. An institution which has been set one simple and sole purpose, to make money. Unscrupulous and shifty, ambiguous and image conscious, ruthless and exploitative, the corporation is documented as such in this extremely well-researched, readable and informative book. Joel Bakan does not only state the detractors of the corporation, but gives voice to its defenders. I doubt if many executives would then grant the description 'fair and balanced' to the book; but I doubt if they would read it. Pity.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars No wonder the last Woodstock went up in flames! 23 Aug 2005
Joel Bakan has written a book which should surprise no one who has worked for a multinational, or been at the receieving end of the "externalisation" of costs. As the west faces competition from the emerging economies of China and India, where tax regimes and public infrastructure, and vast areas of poverty, pale in comparison to that which we expect, it is clear that even social costs are being externalised in the pursuit of profit and greed.
This book therefore could not be more timely, because left to their own devices, corporations have no feeling, no remorse, no guilt, no loyalty, and little responsibility. They are barely held to account for their actions, (once they become too big), and wield more power than many national governments. Profit is the word, and anyone or anything in the way is a mere inconvenience, and Bakan likens all of this to the clinical description of a psychopath.
What do you expect of your employers and your suppliers of goods and services? Should they have a social and environmental conscience rather than one purely aims at generating the maximum profits for shareholders? Should they have a loyalty to a population once they have invested and grown them? What is the future of your job, your working conditions, your environment and your health, and how does the corporation fit in?
With a historic perspective of why corporations were banned, and plenty of examples of corporate misdeeds that have gone largely unpunished, some of which are simply shocking, (Three pages of cases against GE!), you can really get a feel of why Bakan has his concerns.
Whilst this might seem like left wing Marxism, it is infact written by a professor of law. This book is a doddle to read and understand, so read it! Then consider what you should do to prevent the demise of government and democracy in the name of corporate profit.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent condition for a second hand book which I intend ...
Always wanted the book to go with the DVD. Excellent condition for a second hand book which I intend to keep on my bookshelf.
Published 1 month ago by Borders Lynn
3.0 out of 5 stars Ok, but standard fare for this sort of book
I found this interesting but nothing remarkable, there is a bit of history on the evolution of corporations, followed by standard treatises on Enron, Worldcom, and erosion of... Read more
Published 3 months ago by Nick Singleton
4.0 out of 5 stars Narcissists, Sociopaths and Psychopaths Rule OK!
Interesting book. Highlights the problems in society when those in power, whether, it' s politics, banks, multinationals or religions, tend to be highly dysfunctional, toxic and... Read more
Published 9 months ago by J. M. Covington
5.0 out of 5 stars wonderful, hard to read
the book is woderful. It can help me strengthen the understanding of my course.Good for exam to achieve high score
Published 10 months ago by Chuan.Lian
5.0 out of 5 stars Scathing. An important book.
This is less of a review of the book than of the accompanying documentary (I started reading the book but gave up once the DVD arrived, rendering it a bit superfluous). Read more
Published on 4 Mar 2011 by David Atkinson
5.0 out of 5 stars Very interesting
This book give a good insight of corporations and their actions/power. It is a must for anyone interested in sustainable development.
Published on 29 Oct 2010 by C. M. A. Rannou
5.0 out of 5 stars Corporation as Psychopath
This book and the film documentary, sound a valid warning, an accessible introduction to the problematic nature of large corporations who seemingly have symptoms of psychopathy,... Read more
Published on 15 Jun 2010 by Peter Buckley
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent
Very good book and in my opinion much better than the documentary.

Also, easily read with simple language.
Published on 28 Feb 2010 by Yiannakis
1.0 out of 5 stars Myopic, misguided, unhelpful and ultimately misleading
I'm afraid this book is seriously flawed. The author conveys the idea that all the evil in this world is caused directly or is the ultimate responsibility of (large) corporations. Read more
Published on 1 Sep 2009 by Norberto Amaral
3.0 out of 5 stars Shallow and slightly repetitive
I wonder if this content works better in documentary format(not sure which came first?)- because as a book it doesn't really get into the nitty gritty. Read more
Published on 21 Jan 2009 by Misty
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