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Corporation Nation: How Corporations are Taking Over Our Lives -- and What We Can Do About It Hardcover – October 15, 1998

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

We must take up a "positive populism" to defend society against corporations, while at the same time protecting the health of business, argues Boston College sociologist Derber (The Wilding of America). Derber begins with a useful, somewhat polemical survey of growing corporate power, synthesizing and critiquing thinkers such as William Greider and John Kenneth Galbraith and occasionally being unable to resist calling the replacement of workers with contractors "job genocide." He reminds us that seemingly private corporations are actually quite dependent, relying on government for subsidies, infrastructure and trade law, and suggests that strengthened unions can help narrow national income gaps. He warns, however, that the current trend toward corporate "social responsibility" distracts from the need for government policies and proposes a move toward the German-style stakeholder corporation in which workers and community representatives have a voice in governance; he calls for all corporations over $1 billion to be "public corporations," required to "serve clear public needs." Change, Derber suggests, might be effected by the labor movement in collaboration with civic groups, multiculturalists and environmentalists. Derber is genuinely engaged; generally even-handed, this is a necessary critique.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

Derber is a Boston College sociology professor who seems always to be in search of connections and grand themes. In The Wilding of America (1996), the most recent of his seven previous books, he compares the teenagers who savagely attacked a Central Park jogger in 1989 to turn-of-the-century robber barons and to those who operate modern-day sweatshops. In Wilding he also anticipated his current attack on corporate America and its abuse of power, calling for a more virtuous capitalism. Now he debunks the "corporate mystique" and shows how corporations unduly direct public policy and affect private lives. But instead of simply decrying corporate excess, Derber sets an agenda for "how to be against corporate power [but] for business." He advocates a global populism and recommends joining in four movements that he says are leading in the fight to "return basic rights from corporations to the citizens to whom they rightly belong." David Rouse

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press; 1st edition (October 15, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312192886
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312192884
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1.3 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,027,358 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Charles Derber is Professor of Sociology at Boston College and has written 20 books - on politics, corporations, capitalism, climate change, war, the culture wars, culture and conversation, and social change. He writes for and has been reviewed in the NY Times, the Washington Post, the Boston Globe, Truthout, and other leading media. His books are translated into Chinese, Korean, Tamil, German and Polish- and he is a bestseller in South Korea, done extended book tours in German bookstores and blues coffee houses, and has lectured in Italy in June for seven years. Derber is a public intellectual - shortlisted in 2006 for best book in current affairs - who believes that serious ideas should be written in an accessible and entertaining style.His most recent books include Sociopathic Society: A People's Sociology of the United States; Capitalism: Should You Buy It?; and The Disinherited Majority: Capital Questions - Piketty and Beyond. He is also a life-long social justice activist and a terrific public speaker - so contact him and try to lure him to a public talk. Check out his Youtube presentations. He is married and has a beautiful Wheaten Terrier dog named Mojo, who lives up to his name.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

77 of 80 people found the following review helpful By Barron Laycock HALL OF FAME on June 21, 2000
Format: Paperback
Like another recent book, "Opposing The System" by Charles Reich, this effort by sociologist Charles Derber takes aim against the elitist and anti-democratic influence of contemporary multi-national corporations. Noting that corporations have so invaded the social, economic and political arenas of life in modern postindustrial societies that it is problematic for an individual to live a free and meaningful lifestyle without surrendering vital parts of his liberty and free choice to the whims and caprices of corporate policy. Thus, Derber claims, corporations have transformed the meaning of citizenship into a silent euphemism for corporate membership, and the society tends to identify loyalty to these organizations as a sort of patriotism (buy American).
This is an interesting and entertaining reading experience, and Derber's thesis is similar to and compatible with a number of other contemporary social critics like Reich, Neil Postman, Bill McKibben, and Kirkpatrick Sales. To the extent the rise of multinational corporation to a position of nearly exclusive domination of world markets with the new "global capitalism" (touted by politicians as the best thing since sliced bread) continues and endures, to that extent will our lives be increasingly influenced and characterized the kinds of choice these corporate entities view to be in their own narrowly conceived and fundamentally anti-democratic goals and objectives. Thus, to an ever-greater extent, these corporate entities are empowered at our expense to influence, manipulate, and even dictate the specific terms of social, economic and even political transactions within and without our borders.
Probably this single greatest recent example of this trend were the actions by the U.
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26 of 29 people found the following review helpful By L. McGonigal on April 28, 2000
Format: Paperback
What seduced me into buy Derber's book was opening page where he put forth the idea of a "corporate mystique" - a concept he derived from Friedan's "feminie mystique". He noted that American workers live with an impending sense of doom, but can't pinpoint the source of their trepidation.
Derber's book is easily read, and offers the reader very useful information. He goes through the history of the corporation and populist movements in America and also provides a nice analysis of corporate influence on people's lives, and, ultimately on democracy. What I like most about Corporation Nation is that Derber devoted the second half of the book to providing solutions and ways that the reader can become involved to influence change. Much of what Derber wrote in '98 about current populism is proving true - a grassroots movement is growing in America. The rise of union and community groups working together for change, as well as the strengthening of third parties, such as the Green Party, are examples of the increased consciousness and activity that Derber saw the seeds of when the book was written. I highly recommend this book to anyone who lives with that mysterious sense of impending doom.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 17, 1998
Format: Hardcover
Professor Derber's book is one of the most profoundly important books I've ever read about the impact of corporations on all our lives. The book has awakened me to critical dimensions of corporate power and influence. Anyone who thinks that corporations are private entities only should read this work. Not only does it tell some important truths about corporate ascendancy in America, but it also offer real solutions to the problem. It is especially critical that those working for corporations understand how and why their jobs are in jeopardy.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Dan A Staringer on May 30, 2002
Format: Paperback
Derber, a sociology professor at Boston College, gives us a noble, yet futile effort to bring change to our overbearing corporate culture. He does a commendable job of describing the historical role of corporations, starting with their charter as entities that are beholden to public scrutiny and will and with finite lifespan through the sea change of the Gilded Age where the Rockefellers, Carnegies, Goulds and others forced the country to accept corporations as private enterprises that also had the protection given to individuals. Much of Derber's best work is describing how this took place and what the ramifications have been through today.
He also does a decent job of describing how corporate power has been consolidated and is now so powerful that it holds an ever increasing dominance on public policy. With behemoths such as GM, GE, Disney, Microsoft and others holding vast amounts of power, Derber argues that government has become an unbalanced lackey of private enterprise and no longer is a trusted countervailing force to the private sector. As a prime example, Derber points to the merger activity in media companies which compelled the FCC to relax ownership constraints on media companies and has effective consolidated media power in the hands of very few companies. He rightly asks the question, how does this effect the quality and balance of news and information that the public receives and is this a threat to our political, economic freedoms.
He speaks of the corrupting power of contributions to political campaigns and how the legal fiction of the corporation as a person has allowed companies to wield undue influence in our political process.
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