The Corporation

Released in conjunction with law professor Joel Bakan's book The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power, Mark Achbar (MANUFACTURING CONSENT: NOAM CHOMSKY AND THE MEDIA) and Jennifer Abbott's excoriating documentary offers a stinging diagnosis of contemporary American society's dominant institution. If corporations were people — and under...read more

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Reviewed by Ken Fox
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Released in conjunction with law professor Joel Bakan's book The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power, Mark Achbar (MANUFACTURING CONSENT: NOAM CHOMSKY AND THE MEDIA) and Jennifer Abbott's excoriating documentary offers a stinging diagnosis of contemporary American society's dominant institution. If corporations were people — and under the provisions of the 14th Amendment, which was originally drafted to protect the life, liberty and property of freed slaves, the law does regard corporations as individuals — our for-profit, publicly traded companies would be considered stone-cold psychopaths. To demonstrate Bakan's thesis, Achbar and Abbott use the World Health Organization's Personality Diagnostic Checklist as a framework for much of their two-and-a-half-hour film. In an age of extreme capitalism, corporations are single-mindedly self-interested and exhibit a reckless disregard for others; they're deceitful, amoral and unable to maintain relationships; and in the end they're incapable of experiencing guilt. In short, corporations manifest all the characteristics of sociopaths. That's a harsh conclusion, but none of the talking heads interviewed — not neoliberal economist Milton Friedman, and certainly not Noam Chomsky or popular anticorporate pundit Naomi Klein (No Logo) — dispute the basic analysis. Concerned only with profit, corporations have no interest in the public good and they're not designed to. A corporate CEO's legal mandate is to maximize benefits for the company's shareholders, nothing more and nothing less. Concerns about the environment, say, or conditions in foreign sweatshops are acceptable only if "social responsibility" can be construed as an investment in the company's brand that will ultimately help increase profits. Such moral blindness paradoxically creates both incredible wealth and wreaks terrible, often undisclosed damage upon innocent bystanders, side effects that economists euphemistically refer to as "externalities." In one extreme example cited in the film, author Edwin Black (IBM and the Holocaust) contends that IBM's blind pursuit of profit led to its complicity in the Nazi genocide. There are plenty of other horror stories in this fast-paced and gripping film that should convert the most apathetic into anticorporate warriors, including the testimony of 13-year-old girls sewing Kathy Lee Gifford fashions in Central American sweatshops; images of dairy cows suffering the side effects of bovine antibiotics; and the tale of three intrepid Fox News reporters who went to court after their squeamish network refused to air their unexpurgated expose of antibiotic manufacturer Monsanto. Bakan's arguments are buttressed by entertaining clips culled from commercials, industrial films and, appropriately, monster movies.

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  • Released: 2003
  • Rating: NR
  • Review: Released in conjunction with law professor Joel Bakan's book The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power, Mark Achbar (MANUFACTURING CONSENT: NOAM CHOMSKY AND THE MEDIA) and Jennifer Abbott's excoriating documentary offers a stinging diag… (more)

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