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Life Inc: How Corporatism Conquered the World, and How We Can Take It Back

3.92  ·  Rating Details ·  963 Ratings  ·  149 Reviews
Now includes “The Life Inc. Guide to Reclaiming the Value You Create”

In Life 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 m
Paperback, 384 pages
Published January 4th 2011 by Random House Trade Paperbacks (first published 2009)
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Mar 06, 2010 Aron rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 20, 2012 Matthew Boulton rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: lounge
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
Jul 02, 2016 Michelle rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: dnf
I'm DNFing 38 pages in. Philosophically, I agree with the premise, but the sourcing is just too spotty. While limited notes are in the back, there are statements of "facts" in the book with no source information listed. Statements, which upon researching, I either could not confirm or confirmed partially but not in keeping with the presentation. For example, the information on PASAR is not wrong insofar as the sentences about it contain no untruths; however, it is misleading by virtue of omitted ...more
Oct 12, 2009 Stewart rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 06, 2010 Justin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Ben Babcock
Neuromancer remains one of the most influential science-fiction books I’ve read. It’s the kind of book that influenced me even before I had read it by influencing books and TV shows and movies that I then read or watched. However, it’s not William Gibson’s imagination of cyberspace that sticks with me. Rather, it’s his vision of a future dominated by corporations, one where governments are atrophied entities and one’s life and prosperity are dependent upon feudal loyalties to these transnational ...more
William 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
I listened to the complete version of this, read by the author (whose high voice adds to the overall peevishness of the work) and found it very interesting and engaging throughout. Rushkoff takes the corporation and holds it up to scrutiny. He loosely traces its history, along with that of money (as we commonly use the term), and interweaves this with a free-flowing discussion of culture and community through the centuries. The corporation is evil, he seems to believe, and the source of much tha ...more
Ahmed Salem
Oct 10, 2016 Ahmed Salem rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
يبدأ الكاتب بقصة عن حضوره لجريمة سرقة بالاكراه كان في محل بقالى في احدى شوارع مانهاتن. ثم يكتب تدوينة مفصلة عن الحادثة و عن مشاعره المضطربة. ثم يذكر عرضا عنوان هذا المحل.

تأتي للكاتب ردود على التدوينة معربة عن ضيقها من نشره لعنوان المحل و الشارع الذي حدثت فيه الجريمة لأن ذلك "سيخفض قيمة العقارات في المنطقة" لأن الشارع سيتم وصمه بانتشار الجريمة فيه

يدرك الكاتب ان هناك خطب ما حصل للبشرية نتيجة لوضعها لحسابات المكسب و الخسارة فوق كل اعتبار بشري آخر و من هنا يقرر كتابة هذا الكتاب و كيف بدأتالشركات و ك
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.
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
Jan 11, 2010 Andrew rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-nonfiction
(I listened to the Audible edition, read by the author.) Tremendously insightful, and enormously challenging to our most fundamental collective assumptions about the way the world works. I was not able to wrap my brain around everything Rushkoff had to say, so I'll probably need to listen to it again. Also, it's hard not to get demoralized while listening to Rushkoff tear down one institution after another and expose the seemingly insurmountable obstacles to correcting the flaws in the system. H ...more
Jul 08, 2012 Ashryn rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 27, 2013 Jane rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 14, 2009 Alex Ott rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Oct 15, 2016 Ray rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfic, rushkoff
Rushkoff's incredible critique of capitalism and corporatist values. A lot to digest, and although not always scholarly enough for some readers it was perfect for me. From medieval history to the concept of competing currencies, it's not the usual left-wing book. The system does indeed need to change.

Reads very current and everything that's happened in the past few years confirms Rushkoff's conclusions more than ever... I'm looking forward to reading Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus next.
Pax Analog
Aug 19, 2009 Pax Analog rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Oct 15, 2009 Matthew rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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!
Jan 05, 2017 KMO rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: c-realm-guests
Wonderful book on the history and evolution of money and of the ways that elites use it as a means of social control.
Scott Bartlett
Feb 05, 2013 Scott Bartlett rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Sean Goh
Oct 14, 2016 Sean Goh rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Read his later book (Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus) for a more developed thesis.
The one found here is still quite raw and repetitive. Still, there's stuff that is phrased well. Probably not going to read anymore of his upstream books anymore.

Corporatism depends on our disconnection. The less local, immediate and interpersonal our experience of the world and each other, the more likely we are to adopt self-interested behaviours that erode community and relationships.
This makes us m
Sara Morton
Rushkoff takes the reader through the history of corporations and with it the history of the current class system in western culture. Through this lens, he shows how unbalanced and destabilizing corporatization has been for human interaction and relationships, and suggests ways in which we may take back our collective humanity. I found the book to be thorough and thought provoking, and a call to collective local action sorely needed in a like and post society.
Steven Kaminski
Jun 20, 2016 Steven Kaminski rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Rushkoff invented the term 'Viral Marketing' and in this book he talks a lot about how the language of business is now directly impacted our lives. He brings forward a lot of powerful revelations...

- Because of corporations we now think like them. Even when they fail we now often identify that we have to save them. Corporations are seen as allies and people are often seen as the enemy. When there are layoffs or downsizing people are often seen as lazy...not the companies. Corporate values often
Feb 20, 2012 Oliver rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Aditia Dwiperdana
The author tell the story about the history of money, and companies. The most memorable piece: how money are inherently bad.
John G.
Oct 15, 2014 John G. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Erin Almond
Sep 12, 2012 Erin Almond rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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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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