The Corporation: A Book Review
Joel Bakan’s book, The Corporation: the Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power, is a decisive look into the mind of the corporation, or big business. It outlines the importance of profit in business and how ruthless corporations are willing to be in order to bring in substantial revenue. The book uses a historical timeframe to portray the ruthlessness of business ever since the idea of the corporation arose in the 17th century. It provides an insight into a world of cheating, lying and stealing in order to advance in society; which is ultimately the goal Bakan was looking to reach. He provides many cases, examples and accounts which help the reader to understand the scheming which takes place and how the corporation is legally obliged to pursue profit at all cost for its shareholders.
Bakan begins by examining the history of the corporation starting in the 17th and following through to the 20th century. Here is provides the idea that the recklessness in today’s corporations can be traced back to acts committed periodically over the past centuries. He provides examples of companies such as the South Sea company and the railways in the United States and Great Britain. Businesses which were pilots in the creation of companies that had limited liabilities and produced restrictions that were both desirable and needed for the corporation. Bakan also uses the beginning of the book to present the US Supreme Courts decision to give the corporation the same rights as an individual would receive. This leads way into the remainder of the book with the idea that now that corporations were being considered to hold the same rights as human beings, they held the capacity to take over society. This would leave everyone else essentially useless outside of the big business world. One of Bakan’s main premises with this regard is that is the corporation is to be considered the same right as a person, if it to were hold characteristics and attributes associated with humans, it should be considered a psychopath.
Bakan provides a comprehensive analysis of the idea of psychopathology and how its traits relate to the corporation. To do this he obtains a list from Dr. Robert Hare, a psychologist and expert in psychopathology. Dr. Hare uses a checklist to prove the point, stating the corporation is: •
Irresponsible - it puts others at risk in pursuit of its own goals. •
Manipulative - it manipulates everything, including public opinion •
Grandiose - it always insisting that it is the best
Lacking empathy and Remorse - it cannot feel remorse for its actions •
Refusing to accept Responsibility – will not accept responsibility for their actions •
Superficial – only real goal is to present themselves to the public in the light which they look best. With this all together we are presented with the format for a psychopath. This is a great way for Bakan to help the reader’s understand what is really happening with the corporation. It gives the reader’s a basis for comparison and allows them to associate specific attributes with the organization and goals of the corporation. I think it is also important to note that Bakan does point out this is not necessarily all corporations fitting into this mold. It is just the idea of the structural organization of the corporation which portrays such.
We are then preceded to acknowledge Bakan’s view on the idea of the limited liability corporation. He shows both sides for why it is an appropriate form of business, but attempts to influence his readers into seeing that it really just opens the corporations up for no accountability. It is depicted that in order for these limited liability corporations to exist they must be granted by the state, and this is allowing the corporation to rise to prominence in society. This suggests that without the assistance of the state the corporation would not exist, but this does not mean some alternative form would not emerge. Later on,...
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