43:4 December 2005 0007–1080 pp. 729–746
© Blackwell Publishing Ltd/London School of Economics 2005. Published by Blackwell Publishing Ltd,
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Blackwell Publishing Ltd.Oxford, UKBJIRBritish Journal of Industrial Relations0007-1080Blackwell Publishing Ltd/London School of Economics 2005December 2005434729746Book
Book ReviewsBritish Journal of Industrial Relations
The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power
by Joel Bakan.
Constable, London, 2004, 228 pp., ISBN 1 84529 079 8, £22.46, paper.
is the book written by legal academic Joel Bakan to accompany the
documentary film of the same name which appeared last year. Its main claim is that
many of the ills of contemporary capitalism can be traced to the legal form of the
business corporation. This is because, Bakan argues, the corporation has a legal
mandate ‘to pursue, relentlessly and without exception, its own self-interest, regardless
of the often harmful consequences it might cause to others’; hence its ‘pathological
nature’. Chapter 1 sets out a brief history of company law, tracing the roots of the
concepts of separate personality and limited liability, and noting some of the more
perverse consequences of the US practice of regarding corporations as ‘persons’ under
the protection of the constitution. Chapter 2 is largely devoted to arguing that the
recent revival of the corporate social responsibility (CSR) movement has made little
difference to the underlying ‘pathology’ of the corporate form. Chapter 3 argues that,
while government regulations purport to control corporations and limit the harm they
cause to third parties, this goal is undermined in practice by lobbying efforts. Chapter
4 discusses corporate ambitions to take over government. Chapter 5 is concerned with
the multifarious ways in which modern... [continues]
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