The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power Paperback – 1 Oct 2004
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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 worlds most dominant institutionan 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 pursuewithout exceptionits 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 acquiredand despite the apparent powerlessness of governments to control the beastit 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. Bakans book is clearly written, easily accessible and irresistible in its general analysis. A must read, not merely for those interested in the business world, butsince the pathological values of the corporation are determining the kind of world we have todayfor everyone. --Larry Brown
This fine book was virtually begging to be written . . . it should be a stimulus to constructive action. (Noam Chomsky)See all Product description
Top customer reviews
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.
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.
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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