The Corporation. The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power

Society and Business Review

ISSN: 1746-5680

Article publication date: 1 September 2006



Bakan, J. (2006), "The Corporation. The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power", Society and Business Review, Vol. 1 No. 3, pp. 281-282.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2006, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

This book is the paperback pendant of the multi‐award wining Canadian documentary “The Corporation” (2003) that was realised by Jennifer Abbott and Mark Achbar. The scenario of this controversial documentary was written by Joel Bakan. This edition is a revised and expanded edition of the first edition (Free Press, 2005). It notably contains an appendix that is a discussion between Noam Chomsky and Mark Achbar.

For those who ignore it, John Bakan is a Law Professor and Legal Theorist. He is an internationally recognized legal scholar. Joel Bakan is a former Rhodes Scholar and Law Clerk to Chief Justice Brian Dickson of the Supreme Court of Canada. His work examines the social, economic, and political dimensions of law, and he has published in Leading Legal and social science journals as well as in the popular Press. Before “Corporation” he wrote two books that were well received by scholars: “Just Words. Constitutional Rights and Social Wrong.” (1997) and “Social Justice and the Constitution Perspectives on a Social Union for Canada. “ (1993).

The purpose of The Corporation is to explore what the corporation truly is. The work “corporation” refers to “the large Anglo‐American publicity traded Business Corporation, as opposed to small‐incorporated businesses, or small and large not‐for‐profit or privately owned ones” (p. 03). The book lies on double assumption. The corporation –as defined is a social and legal institution that dominates our modern society. Joel Bakan argues that the corporation is dangerous for people and society, an institution that is, in fact, weakly controlled. The book is divided in six chapters. The first one is dedicated to the corporation's rise to dominance. The Chapter 2 focuses on the nature of the corporation. According to Bakan, as a “moral” person, the corporation, based upon its personality and characteristics, is a psychopath. The Chapter 3 presents what are the implications of its pathological character. The Chapter 4 – “Democracy Ltd”– and the Chapter 5 – “Corporation unlimited” – argue that the corporation is now the most powerful class of institution on earth. The Chapter 6 looks after how to mitigate its potential to cause harm to people and society. Despite the structural failings found in the corporation, Bakan believes change is possible and outlines a far‐reaching program of concrete, pragmatic, and realistic reforms through legal regulation and democratic control. Notice that Balkan's suggestions look like to Mintzberg's ones in “Power in and around Organization” (1983).

The Corporation draws on in‐depth interviews with people that work within corporation or study it. Among them, we cannotice with such wide‐ranging figures as CEO Hank McKinnell of Pfizer, Nobel Prize‐winner Milton Friedman, business guru Peter Drucker, and critic Noam Chomsky of MIT. The copious bibliography and the previous Balkan's works show evidently that the book is far more than a simple and ordered transcript of interviews but that is backed by extensive research.

This book is an essential reading for those who want to understand the nature of modern business system. It's a sober and careful attempt –Compare, for example, to the Michael Moore's “Stupid White Men” – to describe the contemporary corporate capitalism. The lecture is sometime more terrific than the viewing of the documentary. As incisive as Eric Schlosser's bestselling Fast Food Nation, as rigorous as Joseph E. Stiglitz's “Globalization and Its Discontents”, Joel Bakan's book is a brilliantly argued account of the corporation's pathological pursuit of profit and power and its consequences on people and democracy. Now it will not possible to say “I didn't know!”

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