June 17, 2004

The Corporation, Take 3 (of 3), Constructions:

The jewel of The Corporation is its conception of the corporation as being a psychopathic organization. I've previously mentioned its value (or invalue) as a propaganda tool. But this also stands as a key point from which to begin constructing solutions.

I'm not sure to what extent the filmmakers view the psychopath diagnosis as metaphor versus being the actual truth, but I'm fully in the metaphor camp. As a metaphor the psychopath construct's utility is basically constrained to its propaganda value. I don't think you can give a corporation the same therapy you would human psychopath. But right beneath the surface of the psychopath metaphor is an extremely useful analysis of the corporation.

Essentially the filmmakers look at the Corporation as an organizational form, one with a deep genetic flaw. Within the legal and cultural code of the contemporary joint stock corporation are serious flaws that influence the behavior of many, if not all corporations today. By locating and analyzing these flaws we unlock the potential to both alter the corporate legal code for the better, and to construct better organizations capable of replacing the corporate form.

The film underscores one particular flaw in the legal status of a corporation, corporate personhood, the fact that corporations have many of the rights of people under the law. Pretty much an absurdity, so much so that the law doesn't always actually follow the concept. Still a strong legal acknowledgement that corporations are not humans and thus subject to a completely different set of laws and rights could go a long way towards a better conceptualization of what roles these entities should play in society.

Ultimately though I suspect that corporate personhood is an effect of the corporate drive for power, not a cause. Is shifting the balance of power back towards another organization with repressive tendencies, the State, an answer to the problems posed by big business? In order for the answer to be "yes" the State must be ready to recode the corporate laws in a constructive manner. A dubious but not impossible prospect, and one that can be furthered greatly if the ideas on how to recode these entities are in existence. And this my friends is our job.

see also:
Abstract Dynamics: The Corporation, Take 1 (of 3), Propaganda

Abstract Dynamics: The Corporation, Take 2 (of 3), The Permanent Critique

plus a note: this piece was actually intended to be much longer, and might be updated, or might birth another piece. I'm putting it up now mainly because I dislike having an essentially negative piece as the first one on my site, my personal take on the Corporation is more positive then critical and hopefully the site will reflect that now.

Posted by Abe at June 17, 2004 01:48 PM


"The film underscores one particular flaw in the legal status of a corporation, corporate personhood..."

Are you familair Paco Xander Nathan's _Ceteri_ work?


Thanks, Spiros. The other Ceteri writings at Trip and elsewhere draw in more parallels with this.

Perhaps sociopathic would be a closer diagnosis, as a metaphor ;) I used the term "three year old" as my behavioral comparison - and for ample parallels in how to find resolution.

You mention the State... POCLAD and others - Callenbach especially - have done a great job of outlining the process required. Ultimately it gets back to a slightly different take on the old "states rights" issue, which resurfaces now as the bioregionalism antidote to our tax-credit fiction of "globalism".