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Childhood Under Siege: How Big Business Targets Children Hardcover – Bargain Price, August 9, 2011

4.3 out of 5 stars 119 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"Childhood Under Siege outlines the powerful strategies at play in the corporate war against children. Bakan maintains that, while most families do their best, they are outmaneuvered by well-paid experts serving the needs of greedy and heartless corporations. This engaging, carefully researched and important book is a call to action to those who believe we have a responsibility to protect all our children with our laws and public policies as well as our hearts."

—Mary Pipher, author of The Shelter of Each Other and Seeking Peace

"Childhood Under Siege is a compelling call to arms in the covert war for our children's minds, health, and future. Joel Bakan empowers us all to stop lamenting the destruction of childhood and do something to rescue it."

—Jane M. Healy, Ph.D., Educational Psychologist and author of Different Learners: Identifying, Preventing, and Treating Your Child's Learning Problems

“The assault on childhood in our corporate-dominated and profit-driven society, painfully dissected in this penetrating study, is a tragedy not only for the immediate victims but for hopes for a better future. It can be resisted, as Joel Bakan discusses. And it is urgent not to delay.”

—Noam Chomsky, author of Hopes and Prospects

“Joel Bakan documents and depicts a modern disaster-in-the-making as ominous as our society's assault on the natural environment: the social and economic destruction of the conditions for healthy childhood. An eloquent and prophetic work we need most urgently to heed.”

—Gabor MatÉ, M.D., author of In The Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters With Addiction

“To be a child today, even in affluent countries like ours, is no longer a time of innocence, idyll and discovery, as Bakan reveals in Childhood Under Siege. Most children today grow up on a planet in which billions of tons of toxic chemicals have been poured into the air, water and soil; in a big city where the opportunity to encounter nature has been replaced by concrete, fast cars, video games and shopping malls; in a world in which childhood represents a marketing challenge and opportunity. Read this important book and then start working for change.”

—David Suzuki, co-author of The Sacred Balance: Rediscovering Our Place in Nature

"Joel Bakan's new book is a compelling, informed alarm about the insidious and invisible ways children are being manipulated into thoughtless consumers. Childhood Under Seige is an essential read for anyone who works for or cares about children because we simply can't advocate for and teach them effectively if we don't know what we are up against. As a mother and a teacher, it was sometimes overwhelming to read this book, but for my own work and parenting I forced myself to keep going. At times it was deeply frightening--and I do media literacy training as part of my work. It's very simple: If you want to be relevant in a child's life, you need to read this book." —Rosalind Wiseman, author of Queenbees and Wannabees

“Our new century of unlimited private profits has put an end to the era of publicly protected childhood. Separated by corporate design from their parents, kids have become capitalism's newest and most lucrative (and most vulnerable) consumers. In his Childhood Under Siege, Joel Bakan offers an angry but careful analysis of how the market flourishes today by selling our children everything from dangerous drugs, toxic plastics and unhealthy snack foods to violent and addictive video games and for-profit standardized tests. The villains here are not playground stalkers but supposedly "child-friendly" companies like Nickelodeon, Facebook, Pfizer and Edison Schools, along with a trillion dollar children's marketing machine and a "government is the problem" ideology that hasmade public regulation of the interests of children all but impossible. If they read Bakan carefully, once they get over their rage, both parents and policy makers may be ready to lift the corporate siege that is threatening not just our children but childhood itself."

—Benjamin R. Barber,author of Consumed: How Markets Infantilize Adults, Corrupt Children andSwallow Citizens Whole

"Bakan offers passionate argument and copious research in this compelling call for parents to stand up for their children." —Booklist (starred review)

"[Bakan] calls for government regulation of big business, citing examples sure to make parents take notice...A provocative argument." -- Kirkus

About the Author

Joel Bakan is professor of law at the University of British Columbia. A Rhodes Scholar and former law clerk to Chief Justice Brian Dickson of the Supreme Court of Canada, he holds law degrees from Oxford, Harvard, and Dalhousie Universities. An internationally renowned legal authority, Bakan has written widely on law and its social and economic impact. He is the cocreator and writer of a documentary film and television miniseries called The Corporation, which is based on the book. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press (August 9, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1439121206
  • ASIN: B006W3ZHAC
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6.2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (119 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #5,672,893 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Dennis Littrell HALL OF FAME on July 22, 2004
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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