The Corporation: Two Views

By Mokhiber, Russell; Weissman, Robert | Multinational Monitor, July-August 2004 | Go to article overview

The Corporation: Two Views


Mokhiber, Russell, Weissman, Robert, Multinational Monitor


The Corporation

A film by Mark Achbar, Jennifer Abbott & Joel Bakan

The Corporation:

The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power

By Joel Bakan

New York: Free Press, 2004

240 pages; $25.00

THE CORPORATION, a documentary now making its away across the United States, is the most important movie about corporate power and its consequences in memory. It is introducing core issues of the conflict between concentrated corporate power and democracy to an ever-growing audience. Here, two views on the movie and book: an enthusiastic embrace from Russell Mokhiber and Robert Weissman, and a more tempered appreciation and comment from Jason Mark and Kevin Danaher.

PEOPLE ASK, the world is going to hell in a handbasket.

What can we do about it?

We say--read one book, see one movie,

The book is titled: The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power. It is by Joel Bakan.

The movie is called: The Corporation. It is by Mark Achbar, Jennifer Abbott and Joel Bakan.

(Full disclosure--our work--the Top 100 Corporate Criminals of the 1990s--is featured in the movie.)

We've seen the movie.

We're read the book.

And here's our review:

Scrap the civics curricula in your schools, if they exist.

Cancel your cable TV subscriptions.

Call your friends, your enemies and your family.

Get your hands on a copy of this movie and a copy of this book.

Read the book. Discuss it. Dissect it. Rip it apart.

Watch the movie. Show it to your children. Show it to your right-wing relatives. Show it to everyone. Organize a party around it. Then organize another.

For years, we've been reporting on critics of corporate power--Robert Monks, Richard Grossman, Naomi Klein, Noam Chomsky, Sam Epstein, Charles Kernaghan, Michael Moore, Jeremy Rifkin.

For years, we've reported on the defenders of the corporate status quo like Milton Friedman, Peter Drucker and William Niskanen.

But Bakan, a professor of law at British Columbia Law School, and Achbar and Abbott have pulled these leading lights together in a 145-minute documentary that grabs the viewer by the throat and refuses to let go.

The filmmakers juxtapose well-shot interviews of defenders and critics with the reality on the ground--Charles Kernaghan in Central America showing how, for example, big apparel manufacturers pay workers pennies for products that sell for hundreds of dollars in the United States--with defenders of the regime--Milton Friedman looking frumpy as be says with as straight a face as he can that the only moral imperative for a corporate executive is to make as much money for the corporate owners as he or she can.

Others agree with Friedman. Management guru Peter Drucker tells Bakan: "If you find an executive who wants to take on social responsibilities, fire him. Fast," And William Niskanen, chair of the libertarian Cato Institute, says that he would not invest in a company that pioneered in corporate responsibility.

Of course, state corporation laws actually impose a legal duty on corporate executives to make money for shareholders. Engage in social responsibility--pay more money to workers, stop legal pollution, lower the price to customers--and you'll likely be sued by your shareholders. Robert Monks, the investment manager, puts it this way: "The corporation is an externalizing machine, in the same way that a shark is a killing machine (shark seeking young woman swimming on the screen). There isn't any question of malevolence or of will. The enterprise has within it, and the shark has within it, those characteristics that enable it to do that for which it was designed."

Business insiders like Monks and Ray Anderson, CEO of Interface Corporation, the world's largest commercial carpet manufacturer, lend needed balance to a movie that otherwise would have been dominated by outside critics like Chomsky, Moore, Grossman and Rifkin. …

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