‘The Corporation’ by Joel Bakan

This is less of a review of the book than of the accompanying documentary (I started reading the book but gave up once the DVD arrived, rendering it superfluous). Make your own mind up about which you choose.

This book/film has been around for a few years now but remains as valid today (if not more so) as it was on release. So what’s it like? Well, even after 25+ years in the business world, I was still surprised about much of the content of the film. We’ve known for years that large globals have been able to hold governments to ransom when it comes to inward investment but the sheer impotence of those governments is writ large over this film and book. Witness the timidity of successive U.K. governments in beefing up banking regulation since the financial crash.

This film has a series of talking heads (CEOs, Harvard professors and those of other institutions, heavyweight commentators, etc.) talking about the rise of the corporation over the last 50-60 years and they provide biting criticism and affecting insight. The way the film discusses the way children are marketed to in a ‘catch ’em young, and you’ve got ’em for life’ sort of way is both astonishing and depressing. The lesson for us (as consumers) is to be conscious about how we are marketed to, and make increasingly informed decisions about what we consume.

To be fair, these corporations are, in the main, doing what their shareholders expect them to do; increase revenues, profits, close-out competition and markets, etc. and many do it well AND stay within ethical boundaries. Many don’t though and these corporations, says the film, need to be brought to book. Not an easy task when, perhaps through our years of exposure to sophisticated and relentless marketing, we trust brands more than we trust our leaders.

The question for us who make our livings working for large organisations is how best to operate in this world whilst have the knowledge of both the good and bad aspects of how the system operates.

Another book (and film) that will make you think. I recommend you read it once a year and get your late-teenagers to do the same. It’s an education.

by David Atkinson

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