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The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power Hardcover – February, 2004

4.3 out of 5 stars 103 customer reviews

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*Starred Review* Bakan, an internationally recognized legal scholar and professor of law at the University of British Columbia, takes a powerful stab at the most influential institution of our time, the corporation. As a legal entity, a corporation has as its edict one and only one goal, to create profits for its shareholders, without legal or moral obligation to the welfare of workers, the environment, or the well-being of society as a whole. Corporations have successfully hijacked governments, promoting free-market solutions to virtually all of the concerns of human endeavor. Competition and self-interest dominate, and other aspects of human nature, such as creativity, empathy, and the ability to live in harmony with the earth, are suppressed and even ridiculed. Bakan believes that, like Communism, this ideological order cannot last and that corporate rule must be challenged to bring balance and revive the values of democracy, social justice, equality, and compassion. This eye-opening look at a system "programmed to exploit others for profit" has been made into a provocative film documentary that could be the next Bowling for Columbine. David Siegfried
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Ray C. Anderson chairman and CEO of Interface, Inc. Since Rachel Carson's Silent Spring began to expose the abuses of the modern industrial system, there has been a growing awareness that profit at the expense of Earth -- of individuals, society, and the environment -- is unsustainable. Joel Bakan has performed a valuable service to corporations everywhere by holding up a mirror for them to see their destructive selves as others see them. The clarion call for change is here for all who would listen. -- Review

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 229 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press; US ed edition (February 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743247442
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743247443
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.3 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (103 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #886,495 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Hardcover
The modern corporation, according to law professor Joel Bakan, is "singularly self-interested and unable to feel genuine concern for others in any context." (p. 56) From this Bakan concludes that the corporation is a "pathological" entity.

This is a striking conclusion. The so-called pathological personality in humans is well documented and includes serial killers and others who have no regard for the life and welfare of anyone but themselves. But is it really fair to label the corporation, managed and owned by normal caring and loving people, in this way?

Bakan thinks so. He begins with a little history showing how the corporation developed and how it came to occupy the dominate position that it enjoys today. He recalls a time before "limited liability" when shareholders were legally responsible for the actions of the corporation, a time when corporations could not own stock in other companies, a time when corporations could not acquire or merge with other corporations, a time when shareholders could more closely control corporate management.

Next he shows what corporations have become, and finally what can be done about it.

Bakan's argument includes the point that the corporation's sole reason for being is to enhance the profits and power of the corporation. He shows by citing court cases that it is the duty of management to make money and that any compromise with that duty is dereliction of duty.

Another point is that "corporations are designed to externalize their costs." The corporation is "deliberately programmed, indeed legally compelled, to externalize costs without regard for the harm it may cause to people, communities, and the natural environment.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As a small business owner, I am attuned to the impositions of governmental intrusions. I decided to read this book in order to get a more balanced view. Although this author definitely has a bias, he does not come across as overtly fanatical, and has plenty of examples to document his position.

The corporation is compared to a sociopath. The sociopathic personality is "irresponsible, manipulating, grandiose, lacking in empathy, has asocial tendencies, refuses to accept responsibility for actions, and cannot feel remorse....Many of the attitudes people adopt and the actions they execute when acting as corporate operatives can be characterized as psychopathic."

Moreover, by the legal way a corporation is set up, its only motive is profit. Every action taken, no matter how altruistic it looks, has to ultimately be a search for profits. Otherwise, the corporation is subject to litigation by the shareholders. "The corporation is deliberately programmed, indeed legally compelled, to externalize (dump) costs without regard for the harm it may cause to people, communities, and the natural environment. Every cost it can unload onto someone else is a benefit to itself, a direct route to profit."

"Many major corporations engage in unlawful behavior, and some are habitual offenders with records that would be the envy of even the most prolific human criminals." Following this quote is a list of 42 heavy fines levied over 11 years to GE. This sounds akin to keeping a hardened repeat criminal under perpetual parole with minimal supervision and occasional hand slaps. A law professor is quoted, "The practical business view is that a fine is an additional cost of doing business....
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Format: Hardcover
The author accurately describes the corporation as a pooling of money by shareholders into a legal, protected entity run by managers and directors, hopefully to the benefit of the investors but too often with an unsettled trust in the board. Limiting the shareholder?s personal liability to their investment undoubtedly has nourished the growth of corporations, jobs and the economy. But it is bittersweet, as Bakan notes the hyping of worthless stock and corporate fraud that facilitates the wealth of those extracting enormous and unjustified salaries and perks. As well, he notes that ?? over the last 300 years corporations have amassed such great power as to weaken governments ability to control them.? But he who gives it can take it away.
Indeed congress has gotten its piece of the action as corporate leaders share part of their profits with the very politicians charged with regulating them. Some politicians even own stock in the companies they regulate.
What else would explain why congress has failed to strongly intervene in the blatant corporate corruption of late? Is there any question that, were money not changing hands at the political level, corporate CEOs would have been allowed to form sweetheart deals with the very corporate boards charged with their oversight, when instead they should be protecting the shareholders? In virtually every congressional vote, one needs only to follow the money to predict its outcome.
Bakan has many good ideas for cleaning up the corporate system, but his (and any) proposed fixes simply will not happen under the current moneyed political system. Until we stop the cash that flows from those who want laws written to those who write them, corporate abuse of shareholders and the taxpayers will continue.
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