Joel Bakan’s The Corporation is a must-read for anyone who is hoping to make sense of the world that is North America right now. Published in 2004 alongside a documentary film of the same name, the book explores how corporations have become the most powerful institutions in the world and how we should be more than a little suspicious of them. I knew going in that corporations were far from benevolent, but Bakan’s book makes clear just how problematic they are. As he argues, if a corporation were actually a person (as they are legally but not literally), they would be classified a pathological psychopath because of their obsessive desire to seek their own self-interest in the form of profit. Lest you think that a nice CEO makes a company better, Bakan continually reminds us that all CEOs are legally required to act in the shareholders’ best interests, meaning that they must always choose the ethically wrong choice if it means more profit.
The Corporation is very readable and Bakan does an admirable job explaining what can be a complicated economic realm. He uses a wealth of examples that illuminate his points and push a reader’s understanding of the corporate world today. While it could be easy to sink into cynicism given the disturbing amount of influence corporations currently hold, Bakan’s final chapter does give some key strategies and thoughts on how there is still hope for us today. I appreciated this honest assessment of our future and found it quite inspiring.
Overall, I don’t have a lot to say about this book beyond the fact that you should go read it (or, at the least, go see the film because it is also quite good). Corporations are threatening to derail the democratic gains made in the 20th century, and we are all liable for standing by and letting it happen.
Bakan, Joel. The Corporation. Toronto: Viking Press, 2004. Print.