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Life Inc.: How the World Became a Corporation and How to Take It Back

3.93 of 5 stars 3.93  ·  rating details  ·  772 ratings  ·  122 reviews
Now includes “The Life Inc. Guide to Reclaiming the Value You Create”

InLife Inc,award-winning writer Douglas Rushkoff traces how corporations went from being convenient legal fictions to being the dominant fact of contemporary life. The resulting ideology, corporatism, has infiltrated all aspects of civics, commerce, and culture—from the founding of the first chartered mon
ebook, 224 pages
Published June 2nd 2009 by Random House (first published 2009)
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This book was a severe disappointment. I heard Rushkoff interviewed on radio and was intrigued by his talk. Like most people interested in the book and Rushkoff's views, I am strongly opposed to the US corporate culture and economy and I thought I would be reading a well-researched, historical/economic analysis of that system. The book however turned out to be a dilettante's screed.

Let's start with the style. As some have noted the book is poorly edited, does not have a coherent structure and te
Matthew Boulton
I borrowed this book from the library, and towards the end I found no fewer than three abandoned book marks. This led me to believe that many people found this book hard to finish and in many ways I sympathise. The subtitle implies that this book will be a history lesson followed by advice on how to overthrow our inhuman corporate overlords. The former is definitely present; Rushkoff charts the history of the corporation back to the Renaissance. He explains how the corporation became a way for m ...more
Enrique Santos
I was really drawn to this book after reading the excerpts of it on Boing Boing and Rushkoff's own web site. In short, the book is about two things: how people in society came to adopt the values of corporate interests as their own as opposed to vice versa, and just how this trend can be reversed. What I feel the book suffers from is the fact that there is too much explanation of the former, and far less of the latter.

Rushkoff analyzes the role of corporations from as far back as the Middle Ages
There have been many good books written recently about the implosion on Wall Street, the massive debt held by Americans, corporations, and the federal government, and the current recession, but few have gone into such depth about the United States and its economic and political discontents as Douglas Rushkoff's 2008 book "Life Inc.: How the World Became a Corporation and How to Take It Back." This book explores the history of the corporation from the late Middle Ages through the chartered monopo ...more
Bill Wren
I was excited when I first picked up Douglas Rushkoff’s book, Life Inc.: How the World Became a Corporation and How to Take It Back. I confess I expected it to articulate ideas and feelings I had, hopefully better than I could, and also flesh them out so they were more substantial. Yes, I was doing something I complain others do: looking for opinions that affirm my own rather than challenge them.

In many ways, the book does all that. I also think it’s an important book, at least its thesis is imp
So I suppose Rushkoff is at heart a polemicist, and a very good one. This isn't really new material for me-- I read a lot of anti-capitalist screeds, so when Rushkoff references Adorno, Benjamin, Marcuse, and Deleuze I say "but of course!" And his criticisms of the world of social media, the American cult of the individual pleasure principle, and the corporatization of daily life are my own complaints as well. So on this front, I enjoyed reading him, even if he was preaching to the choir.

It's wh
Tippy Jackson
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Those who control history control the future and in Life Inc. Douglas Rushkoff makes his mark on our future by detailing the history of Corporate Capitalism as the political and economic reality of the modern world. After evolving over hundreds of years into its current form, Corporate Capitalism is now taken so thoroughly for granted that few even question the basic mythology behind it. Rushkoff was jarred into this revelation after being mugged outside his home and being told by neighbors to k ...more
I may rank books, on average, a bit on the higher side than some others, but trust me — if you're politically progressive like I am, this book deserves it indeed.

Rushkoff has a great paean for truly being ourselves without buying into corporate-driven cults of "individuality." With the rise of social media, this message is more true and more necessary than ever. Rushkoff notes that most "branding" into which we are sucked is driven by corporations.

Corporatism goes beyond that, though. It goes to
Meh. I'm sure this is inspiring for people who haven't been paying attention, but I just found this to be more of the same old... It's tiring to be constantly reminded of how evil everything is and how everything is going to shit. It's so tiring it leaves me stunned into immobility. I would have enjoyed this more if the 90% of the book that was devoted to how awful hopeless everything is was swapped with the 10% devoted to what we can do... Tell me what is working. Sad as some may find it, I don ...more
Daniel Clark
This book opens with an interesting story, almost a parable. The author was mugged outside his apartment and subsequently used a local discussion board to warn others. Instead of support, he received criticism from local people worried that this sort of posting would reduce property prices. It's not implausible - I have seen this overriding obsession with property prices in different parts of the UK too. The question driving the book is - at what point did we start to worry more about house pric ...more
This book has an interesting focus, how corporations rule our lives despite it being an outdated (think medieval). It also not only explains the problem but also the solution, which is a breath of fresh air from the nee sayers. However, the authors solution only works if you live in the US, which frankly got annoying. Being so US centric blinds the theory to the fact that the solutions might work if it's implemented around the globe.
Alex Ott
extremely eye-opening and pretty depressing. tracks the history of how corporations came to be, then posits and proves of how the corporate ideology has become pervasive in our culture, from the food we consume to how we present ourselves on facebook to even the systems we create to fight corporatism. spends too little time on possible solutions, but the few suggestions are interesting and novel. a must-read.
This book raises some interesting points. Many of which will make you take a second look at our economic system and your place in it. However, overall I was a bit disappointed.

The book seemed to be more of an emotional appeal than an extremely well researched set of hypotheses concerning where we went wrong and how we can correct it. Don't get me wrong I'm sure Mr. Rushkoff spent a lot of time researching many parts of this book. Some parts of it were fascinating, and did make me reevaluate som
Pax Analog
Sound framing of almost 600 yrs. of corporatism. Points up pre-Renaissance bottom-up economic health before the long era of top-down monopolistic exploitation. I'm drawing on this for a rumination of collective Shadow for this period. Recommend A Hacker Manifesto by McKenzie Wark as a companion text.
This is a book everyone needs to read. It articulates ideas that I've been forming about corporations over the last couple of years. It's pro-capitalism while being anti-corporatism and points out the biases of a central currency vs. a local one. A fantastic, easy-to-read and mind-opening book!
John G.
This is a crucially important book, things don't just happen, they have been shaped and designed by intentional and exhaustive efforts by certain parts of the population to bring these events about and then to actively hide and bury their efforts, or to sell them as "divine" or "natural." I've always said that Corporate values are NOT American values, they're not even human values! This book is a mix of a lot of different elements, part economic history and philosophy, part social analysis, part ...more
Rushkoff writes about two things that bother him:
1. That he got mugged and the people in his neighborhood worried more about the bad publicity reducing their property value than the neighborly / community warning that a mugger might be in the area.

2. That growing up in a poor neighborhood, he felt more a sense of community than when his family moved out to mid-level dwellings in the suburbs... In particular, he mentions his community's barbecues in the city vs. his family's "competitive grilling
Arnav Shah
Reading this book will upset you in two ways. The first is that much of this book sounds like a rant. Rushkoff's claims are pretty bold and out there and sometimes incorrect. You should still read this book - for the second reason: Rushkoff's claims are very revealing about the way we've all been played in the biggest swindle in life. He shows how every facet of our lives have been molded inside a corporate model. We're more consumer than human. Our values only exist in light of the corporate st ...more
Erin Almond
Did you know that our current currency system (i.e. centralized banks and governments controlling all of a country's wealth) is not the only system people have ever used? Did you know that people in the Middle Ages used a local currency that was based upon the work a person in a community did in a season, and that currency had to be reinvested by the end of the year or it lost it's value? And that the average working person actually did better in that scenario because there wasn't a middle man c ...more
Cliff Hare
This book traces the history of the corporation back to its origins in the late Middle Ages. Monarchs of the period often had an excess of power, but not enough cash to fulfill their many ambitions. By granting certain businesses monopolies in exchange for a percentage of their profits, they were able to raise considerable sums of money at no risk to themselves. From there Rushkoff covers many examples of corporate influence over our culture and everyday lives such the destruction of local econo ...more
Using history and present day events, Rushkoff reveals the delusory world he believes western consumers created to protect centralised currency and the codependent indebted lifestyle it supports. On this end, Rushkoff is repititious about the pervasiveness of the corporate mindset - it's his mantra - he is conspiratorial and bold and his findings though well researched and novel are without depth or further explanation. Atleast when he points out all that is wrong with us he also comes prepared ...more
I've wanted to read this for a while, the subject matter intrigued me. I'm not sure how applicable it is to someone who lives in Australia (not that I'm trying to say we're in any way better than America when it comes to money matters, we just have far less captial to throw around for starters). The seminars that sound like a cross between a conference and a faith healing seminar sound horrifying, and the work practices adopted sound borderline inhumane. America: Great place to visit, but live? ...more
We live in a world where we are besieged by corporate imagery and rules, whether we are working for one, with one, or through one. These financial institutions don't exist, but they are given the same rights as a living, breathing person. Everything we own is "branded" with logos, and every transaction we make is intermediated by a company taking a small fraction for a service that is, according to the ads at least, supposed to make our lives better, but is ultimately the result of a series of d ...more
Scott Bartlett
In 1973, consumer debt in the US (comprised mostly of credit card debt) totaled $193 billion dollars. By 1983, that number reached $445 billion, and attained $866 billion in 1993. Want to take a stab at how high that number rose by 2008?

$13.84 trillion.

Now, compare a couple numbers taken from a larger span of time. In 1894, the richest man in America–John D. Rockefeller–earned $1.25 million, which was approximately seven-thousand times the country’s average income. In 2006, James Simons, a typic
Kent Winward
Rushkoff does better at describing the how and pretty weak on the "take it back" part. The real premise of this book is Rushkoff riffing on Marshall McLuhan's "the media is the message." In this case, the medium for Rushkoff is our monetary system.

In some ways this is the most intriguing aspect of the book, not because it offers any solutions, other than challenging how we look at things, but so much of how we look at our lives and our economy is dictated by the medium of money (or more specific
Rushkoff writes a short the history of corporations and corporatism from the Late Middle Ages to the financial crash of 2008. He paints with too broad a brush, but that is the way I like it. What can I say, I am a sucker for anyone who re-interprets familiar historic events in a totally different context. The American revolution was not about taxation, it was about the unfair business practices of British chartered corporate monopolies that kept the American small businesses down. Yes, Lincoln w ...more
Life Inc.: How the World Became a Corporation and How to Take It Back is a book that spawns out of the author's experience being mugged outside of his doorstep in an modestly-upscale neighborhood in Brooklyn. Rushkoff found, when he told his neighborhood association about the experience and need to promote safety, that the responses were concerned about his speaking up about the incident and promoting a poor PR record of the neighborhood, not the actual safety of the neighborhood. From that, Rus ...more
This book teeters on the verge of quite-good-ness, but too much unsupported ranting firmly plants it in mediocrity.

The Good: Douglas Rushkoff's main ideas are very interesting. For one, he maintains that not only have corporations inherited the earth, but we the people have even adopted a corporate mindset and values as our own (corporatism). We can only relate to our economy through which global chain store we choose to spend our money. We can only relate to each other and our own identities th
Rushkoff's book may be a little crazy at times, but it is worth the read. The main thing I got from this book was that we shouldn't be built upon "monoculture" paradigm. We need to see that our lives are bigger and more important than economics and that economics can be a tool for achieving happiness, rather than happiness in and of itself. His notion that we are too beholden to bank notes rather than to other systems of transactions is worrisome; not because its crazy, but because it makes sens ...more
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Douglas Rushkoff is a New York-based writer, columnist and lecturer on technology, media and popular culture.
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“Mortgages were less about getting people into property than getting them into debt. Someone had to absorb the surplus supply of credit.” 6 likes
“Corporations [gained] direct access to what we may think of as our humanity, emotions, and agency but, in this context, are really just buttons.” 5 likes
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