The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power Paperback – 23 Jun 2005
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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 text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
The Corporation is Farenheit 9/11 for people who think. (The Independent)
This fine book was virtually begging to be written. With lucidity and verve, Joel Bakan unveils the history and the character of a devilish instrument that has been created and is nurtured by powerful modern states. (Noam Chomsky)
..one of those rare books that opens up a new world. It's message is compelling-- and more important now than ever. (Robert Monks)
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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.
I would criticise it for a few things however:
1. The fact that corporations are psychopaths because of their legal incorporation to make money for their shareholders at the expense of everything else is repeated continually through the book, and that's really the only idea in the book; the rest is just evidence to support this (horrific examples of corporate activities, well worth reading)
2. I almost felt that the author was using the legal status of corporations as an excuse through the book for their behaviour. Perhaps he was just doing a great job of being non-emotive?!
3. I think the book doesn't go far enough, corporations are just institutionalised symptoms of greed; human greed pure and simple: your greed, 'their greed' and my greed. The book touched on this but I think it needed to look deeper at our own psyche.
I'd recommend everybody read this book, but try to look deeper at the human causes behind the greed of corporations: perhaps read a little of Karl Marx's "Das Kaptial" (he is quoted in the book as having said that capitalists will hang themselves on their own excesses).
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.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Corporations are evil. A lot of this may seem obvious, but it bears repeating, and Bakan provides both useful historical and legal background, as well as fascinating and disturbing... Read morePublished 4 months ago by S Litton
A very angry look at what defines a corporation, how they operate and what motivates their operations. Read morePublished 11 months ago by Manx_Giraffe
Fascinating and we'll written. A must read for anyone who wonders about how the world ticks.Published 13 months ago by robert moon
One of my all time favourite books. You will not be disappointed!Published 20 months ago by deirdre OSullivan
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 on 18 July 2014 by Borders Lynn
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 morePublished on 26 May 2014 by Nick Singleton
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 morePublished on 11 Nov. 2013 by John Cov.
the book is woderful. It can help me strengthen the understanding of my course.Good for exam to achieve high scorePublished on 19 Oct. 2013 by Chuan.Lian
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