The Corporation and Frankenstein

Here are some brief comments I’ll make before the public showing of the excellent documentary “The Corporation” by the Labor Rights Alliance at Northern Illinois University (DuSable Hall, Room 461 at 7 PM). Here is the URL for the flick: http://www.thecorporation.com/

I’m glad to to introduce and then actually see this movie, which I’ve been hearing about for the last two years. I’m told it can be a little chilling but I think I can take it. I get the chills everyday when I pick up a newspaper or turn on the television and start dealing with the savage world — real and imaginary — that corporate power has helped create.

When you hear people on the right say “let the [so-called free] market rule,” remember that they’re basically saying — whether they know it or not — “let the corporation rule.” Corporations are the marketplace’s Frankensteins. They’re creatures of the market that became the market’s masters. Of course, the essential reason for their formation was precisely to master and overthrow competitive market forces and thereby protect investors against market misfortune.

The Corporation has been so successful in this and other regards that it long ago became the world’s dominant economic institution. Along the way, corporations also become the world’s leading social, political, and policy-making institutions. As Joel Bakan, the smart law professor who wrote the book on which this movie is based, says, “corporations now govern society, perhaps more than governments themselves do.” In fact, as I think you’ll see, corporations often govern the governments.

And here again you’ve got the Frankenstein phenomenon, for The Corporation is very much the creature of government. State and national governments created the legal protections and public charters that made corporations possible in the first place.

The irony is that while government charters generally require public officeholders to serve the common good of the broad citizenry, The Corporation’s “legally defined mandate is to pursue relentlessly and without exception” (Bakan) the bottom line profit interests of private shareholders, with no regard for social and ethical concerns with things like justice, democracy, environmental health, and peace. And this is why Bakan refers to “today’s corporation” as “a pathological institution” and a “dangerous possessor of the great power it wields over people and societies.”

Pour yourself a drink and “enjoy” the movie. Right after, let’s include solutions and alternatives in the discussion.

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