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Corporation Nation: How Corporations are Taking Over Our Lives -- and What We Can Do About It Paperback – April 10, 2000
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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.
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
Top customer reviews
Unlike Arianna Huffington's "Pigs at the Trough," which consists entirely of disjointed anecdotes on "what's bad," this book tackles the underlying reasons for WHY it's bad. Corporations have quietly and efficiently consolidated their economic muscle and merged it with political power--witness the everyday complaint that Special Interests hold sway in Washington. But as Derber shows, few are willing to make the obvious connection--that the problem is not simply government per se, but unrestrained corporate power.
And Derber is no hippie anti-capitalist wacko, either. He acknowledges that globalization is inevitable, but simply notes that we need to ensure it's the right KIND of globalization... the kind that's accountable to the public and that serves the public good. For all the conservative and libertarian whining about how the evil UN represents a "loss of U.S. sovereignty," notice that they never say a word about the WTO and similar business deals that have _already_ undermined our sovereignty, setting up arrangements that subordinate our laws to corporate profits--all with zero accountability to anyone but the executives and stockholders.
This books outlines real, practical solutions for putting the brakes on corporate power while still promoting economic growth and profitability. Environmentalists and unions don't HAVE to be at odds, not when they can unite against the common enemy and take positive action to force corporations into their proper, subordinate role to public government.
It's that depressing, folks.
Not the book, but what it speaks of.
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.S Congress to ratify both the NAFTA and GATT trade treaties, whose main beneficiaries were multinational corporate entities. There was little or no meaningful national debate, And most Americans were so distracted by their petty personal pursuits of money, material goods, and the good life that they hardly paid any attention to all this happening under their noses. Rather than focusing on these issues, the national electronic media chose to cover other non-news events like the Michael Jackson child molestation charge, the OJ Simpson trial, the Louise Woodward trial, the Monica Lewinsky scandal, etc. Meanwhile, the corporations achieved their goals, and the future of American worker was sealed. All this transpired without any meaningful or informed public debate. And isn't it quite a coincidence that the electronic media in this country is owned, lock, stock, and barrel by several different multinational corporations.
The author offers an alternative by way of what he terms "positive populism", by which he then outlines an alternative approach to re-engaging the American public in a self-enlightened attempt to regain control of their lives and future through the available political process. This is an interesting, provocative, and often entertaining book, well written and well argued, and one which will engage the reader in a thoughtful process regarding the nature of our contemporary situation vis-à-vis the powers that be. I highly recommend it. Enjoy
Charles Derber gives an excellent description of the history of corporations within the United States and elsewhere as well as timeline leading into what they have become. He advocates careful legislation, but more importantly - grassroots activism. His solutions include educated consumerism, socially-responsible investing, and cooperation of non-profits.
This book is an easy read that doesn't require an MBA to understand - it should be required reading for political economics courses.