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The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power

4.05 of 5 stars 4.05  ·  rating details  ·  2,138 ratings  ·  108 reviews
Over the last 150 years the corporation has risen from relative obscurity to become the world's dominant economic institution. Eminent Canadian law professor and legal theorist Joel Bakan contends that today's corporation is a pathological institution, a dangerous possessor of the great power it wields over people and societies.
In this revolutionary assessment of the his
Paperback, 228 pages
Published March 7th 2005 by Free Press (first published 2003)
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Cambridge Programme for Sustainability Leadership
One of Cambridge Sustainability's Top 50 Books for Sustainability, as voted for by our alumni network of over 3,000 senior leaders from around the world. To find out more, click here.

The Corporation begins by reminding us that, originally, corporations (meaning large Anglo-American publicly traded businesses) were established with the explicit purpose of serving the public good (enshrined in a charter), with liable shareholders. Today, however, corporations have a legal obligation to pursue prof
It is no secret that nearly all human societies - including our present societies - favor the rich and powerful at the expense of everyone else.

The dominant institution for implementing this type of exploitation today is the corporation. Corporations get politicians elected, take over our minds with advertising, dump pollution into our environment, and routinely commit crime upon crime.

The basic Premise of this book is fairly simple: Corporations are not run by evil people, but are systematicall
Neil Powell
Although this book (and corresponding documentary) was released back in 2004, it obviously is still massively relevant, given the credit crunch and banking collapses of Bear Sterns, Lehman Bros and RBS last year, caused by putting corporate profit before all else.

A corporation has only one goal – to make a profit for its shareholders. Corporations using shareholders money for any other reason is actually against the law. Companies who apparently are doing business for the benefit of others (the
This book is one of my favorites. I've owned for it only a month, and yet it is notationed, and dog-earred and full of smudge prints from where I pointed to particular paragraphs and said, "Yes, just like that."

I'd like to buy a copy of this book for every friend, family member and neighbor who listens to our town council meetings on our one radio station when a foreign mining company comes to town to make assurances that they should ignore the risks of cyanide spill and increased barge traffic
Judah Martin
An effective introductory text for anyone interested in the rise of [hyper]capitalism. Bakan offers a convincing argument that, because the corporation's singular objective is to maximize profit at all costs, it is inherently exploitative. Given that corporations enjoy legal classification as people, one might call their pursuit of profit-at-all-costs psychopathic. To illustrate this point, Bakan provides numerous examples (most notably Enron, as well as a long list of General Electric's misdeed ...more
Eric Li
Basic premise of the book is to say that if corporations were real people (as the courts look at them as), then they are terrible pathological human beings with no morals and we need to do something about it.
Bakan starts off with a brief history of corporations, essentially coming from technological advances leading to large-scale enterprises that simple partnerships weren't able to finance. And corporations really took off when limited liability was entrenched, thus freeing shareholders of any
Jill Furedy
I'm a few years late finding this book, but some of my other reading lead me to it, as well as a general frustration after working for national retailers for years. I questioned why retail corporations are so disconnected from their employees and customers and how the structures outside the store level operate and make decisions. As a side note, the TV show Undercover Boss also shows the complete surprise most CEO's face when working the front lines of their businesses...which is appalling enoug ...more
David Sarkies
Jun 12, 2014 David Sarkies rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People sitting on the fence
Recommended to David by: The movie of the same name
Shelves: politics
A critical examination of the nature of the modern corporation
2 February 2013

I guess I discovered this book after watching the documentary movie of the same name, though I suspect that the book was based upon the movie (normally such movies tend to spawn books which explore the topics that the movie explores in greater detail). The corporation itself is a dichotomy, namely because despite what is wrong with these entities (Bakan proves that they have all of the characteristics of a psychopath),
Fil Krynicki
It's a well studied phenomenon that we tend to seek out material that re-affirms our existing beliefs. For that reason, I have to be somewhat skeptical about how I approach the Corporation. It's possible that I am too willing to accept some data here or an opinion there without bringing the skepticism that is really necessary in a non-fiction work.

That being said, the framework of the Corporation in the psychopathic model is illuminating. It makes me wonder how many This American Life and Planet
Fraser Gibbs
May 23, 2013 Fraser Gibbs rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Business Students, Corporate Activists, Managerial Students, CEO's, Businesmen
Shelves: business, non-fiction
The Corporation is a no compromise look at the rise of the Corporation and the growth of it's important as a structure in society. It examines from the ground up how corporations have come to dominate our modern world and why the structure of the corporation has lead to abuses of resources, people and the environment in the pursuit of profit. Using a series of specific examples such as Agent Orange during the Vietnam War as promoted by Monsanto or the aggressive activities of Wal-Mart that shed ...more
Falls in line with my current reading matter. Bakan sees the corporate culture as pathological and explains just why and what corporations do to deserve that designation. The more I read about corporations, the more frustrated I become with our entire political/economic system. There must be a way of preventing corporate money from co opting the political process the way it has. For us to survive, there HAS to be a way to prevent that. Got one more book in this "trilogy" then I will have to sit ...more
Externalization is a major lever to "winning" in a competitive market.
Externalization is bad for pretty much everyone except the one externalizing.
Corporations are really good at externalizing and, ironically, using the govt to do so.
My key take away from the book is that corporations were created by the govt and therefore can be un-made or re-made by it as well. It takes political will to do so, but is entirely possible to "rewrite" corporations from being incentivized to act like sociopaths in
Scott Goddard
The book, on the whole, is worth reading. It goes into considerable depth about the inherent problems of the ubiquitous corporation. There is certainly no shortage of examples, either. Unfortunately, however, the book, in large part, suffered from a superficiality on an academic level. There was a severe and noticeable lack of theory, and, as the title suggests (but is now misleading in hindsight), no mention of the psychological theory behind the corporation. I don't mean to denigrate the book ...more
Bakan's description of corporations as psychopaths is both entertaining and insightful. By labeling corporations so negatively, he brilliantly captures the audiences’ attention and sheds light on how seriously the faults of corporations need to be taken today.

Bakan begins by historicizing the creation of corporations in Chapter One. He describes how businessman and politicians had ben suspicious of the corporation from the very beginning in 16th century. Whereas in 18th century the British parli
Steven Brandt (Audiobook-Heaven)
To many of us, the modern day corporation has taken on a role similar to that of a villain or crook. While they often provide goods or services that are useful to us, we still distrust or even despise them. After all, their sole reason for existence is the relentless pursuit of money and personal gain. Not everything they do is bad, they often contribute to charities and the like, but this token gesture often only serves to hide the corporation’s true nature.

In his novel The Corporation , Joel B
I saw the film a couple of years ago and really liked it but the book explains and summarises the reasons causing many people's querulous attitude to the type of capitalism expounded by The Economist in a wonderfully clear and concise fashion in a way I struggle to articulate. It also avoids Michael Moore polemics, yet is still very succinct, so much so that it gets to reemphasise its central tenets throughout the chapters. It excellently attacks and scrutinizes the rigid beliefs fostered global ...more
Corporations are evil. I remain unconvinced, but a good read of those that do.

Setting aside the arguments of the protesters, even among those committed to market-oriented economies, important differences remain about capitalism and the role of globalization. These differences are captured most clearly for me in a soliloquy attributed to a prominent European leader several years ago. He asked, "What is the market? It is the law of the jungle, the law of nature. And what is civilization? It is th
Billie Pritchett
Joel Bakan's Corporation argues that if we consider corporations to be legal persons, as they are considered today, then we would all have to conclude that corporations are psychopaths, and, as such, cannot be accepted socially in their current forms. The characteristics of psychopathy, by the way, are:
- Callous unconcern for the feelings of others
- Incapacity to maintain enduring relationships
- Reckless disregard for the safety of others
- Deceitfulness: repeated lying and conning others for pro
Better than I was expecting, although in a different way than I would have thought. The Corporation is a cogent, lucid analysis of the legal entity known as an incorporated company. Bakan manages to avoid screeching rhetoric while still being rooted in the real consequences of politics, and makes his argument against the idea of incorporation instead of the people in charge of these corporations (although I feel the latter can't be let off the hook that easily). I even learned a few things, like ...more
Atul Sabnis
Nov 03, 2007 Atul Sabnis rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: no one, really.
It is about the ‘Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power’. I found the book extremely repetitive and and therefore irritating. It continues to give never ending examples of how corporations are causing the end of the world or something like that - but how - all the people who work there are the nicest of all people. It takes the time to explore the genesis of a 'corporation', tag it as a non-human entity, perhaps for the reason, not to invite the ire of the 'humans' who work at these greedy cor ...more
Engages a bit too often in Bush-era liberal fear-mongering, citing expert's apocalyptic warnings as if they are evidence. It works because of how well it defines the corporation, as "someone" who, if he is the person he claims to be, would be an utter psychopath, with chilling examples, particularly on marketing to children and undercover marketing.
Harry Lawrence
Very interesting and eye opening read in which the author sees corporations as entities in themselves (as they are legally regarded) and describes how, if the corporation is it's own entity, it is psychopathic and explores the various ways this can affect and damage our society, the environment and more.

Read as it was recommended reading for part of my university course, very glad I did!
Ahmed Al-Emadi
An interesting and a very informative book on the history, evolution and the present state of corporate organizations. The book sheds light on how the nature of a corporation demands it, or its executives to be precise, to exploit all possibilities for the sake of profit. It also outlines the cons of privatization of public services as running such entities requires moral and ethical judgments that a corporation may not be able to afford. I do not see the book calling for socialism or such; only ...more
Colin Pearce
I had been trying to get companies to adopt my character development program for a few years to little effect, and when I read this book I gave up. I could see that I would always be banging my head on the wall.

I tried to tell a group of CEOs the story: that endeavouring to develop good character in the employees of a corporation was for most CEOs a waste of time and probably an affront to corporate law where the main emphasis is the duty of care to the shareholders, not the happiness and well-b
This was an assigned reading for a law course that I'm taking on multi-national enterprises. Highly recommended, though probably politically charged for most readers. The core idea is that corporations have a legal duty to be amoral--that is, they cannot take account of anything except profits, even when the people running the corporation (from CEO on down) may be truly honorable and selfless. The author notes that any inclinations towards social responsibility by a corporation, whether environm ...more
Muneel Zaidi
This book does a good job of explaining the origin and evolution of the modern corporation. It does not hide it's bias against the current corporate structure and makes a good case to call for reform. To somebody reading about this subject-matter for the first time, a lot of the material in this book will be shocking. Capitalism/The Free Market does have flaws in it, and many corporations take advantage of these flaw to exploit humans and the environment. Any "good" action a corporation takes is ...more
Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power is a hard book to read. It's not that the text is difficult, it's that on every page another horrendous example of corporate greed is examined. The author, Joel Bakan (a Canadian), has succeeded in concisely explaining why corporations are perhaps the most destructive force on our planet -- and why it is possible they may never be destroyed. A very well-researched volume, the text weighs in at about 170 pages, and the very extensive notes ...more
This was a pretty quick read. It's apparently the book that the documentary of the same name was based on. I'd recommend just seeing the documentary as all the main ideas of the book are covered there and it's a bit more entertaining. :)
It gives a good basic overview of how the corporate model that has grown to increasingly dominate our world in the last century is inherently flawed. The institution of the corporation is designed to be brutal and fits the clinical definition of 'psychopath.'
Bakan presents the modern Corporation in its historical and legal context and brings the current state of corporate tyranny into sharp focus. A level-headed and well-constructed argument. Outstanding.
Required reading for all Americans.

Some of the negative legal structures and elements of the current economic situation that we are habituated to and take for granted are actually aberrations perpetrated by creative attorneys and greedy, anti-competitive, corrupt business people.

Things don't have to be this way. To understand some of the history of how corporations arose and some of the impacts of their current incarnations, read this book.

The corporate structure, and corporate ability to influe
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Joel Bakan is a professor of law at the University of British Columbia, and an internationally renowned legal scholar and commentator. A former Rhodes Scholar and law clerk to Chief Justice Brian Dickson of the Supreme Court of Canada, Bakan has law degrees from Oxford, Dalhousie, and Harvard. His critically acclaimed international hit, The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power ...more
More about Joel Bakan...
Childhood Under Siege: The Corporate Assault on Children and What We Can Do to Stop It Just Words: Constitutional Rights and Social Wrongs Canadian Constitutional Law Social Justice And The Constitution: Perspectives On A Social Union For Canada Economix: How and Why Our Economy Works (and Doesn't Work), in Words and Pictures

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“The problem with capitalism is that "we have a global theology without morality, without a Bible." And that's dangerous, he warns - "we're not going to be able to exist in a global context if we are the bastards of our business.” 0 likes
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