9780743247467 / 0743247469

The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power


Publisher:Free Press



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About the book:

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

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