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

3.93  ·  Rating details ·  1,142 ratings  ·  170 reviews
Douglas Rushkoff was mugged outside his apartment on Christmas Eve, but when he posted a friendly warning on his community website, the responses castigated him for potentially harming the local real-estate market. When did these corporate values overtake civic responsibilites?

Rushkoff examines how corporatism has become an intrinsic part of our everyday lives, choices an
Paperback, 304 pages
Published June 3rd 2010 by Vintage (first published 2009)
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Mar 06, 2010 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
Rebecca McNutt
Life Inc. felt slightly fear-mongering to me, but it's still an impressive book that looks extensively at the modern world's undying addiction to the corporate figures we look up to every day. As I type this on my Microsoft Asus laptop, looking at the screen through my new Converse reading glasses, drinking Bigalow earl gray tea and listening to a CTV News broadcast in the background, I feel like sort of a hypocrite. How many corporations do you rely on daily without even realizing it? :\
Matthew Boulton
Mar 20, 2012 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
Jenn "JR"
This is my second book by Douglas Rushkoff this year -- and while still a bit on the stream-of-consciousness and rant side, I found myself agreeing to much of what he says. He's a very widely read person -- and has synthesized a history of the development of corporations and the corporatization of private life. He discusses the history of money and exchange -- and even how people were better off in the Middle Ages (before the plague) and the multiple problems caused by the growth of capitalism a ...more
Oct 12, 2009 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
Zoe's Human
Jul 02, 2016 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
Kara 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
Sep 29, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Adults.
Recommended to Helen by: No-one.
This book was written in 2009 as the disastrous effects of the '08 crash were rippling through the economy and ruining lives through unemployment, foreclosure, etc. A lot of what he says still holds true, but the unemployment rate has since gone down, and things have more or less returned to normal. Still, the new normal is often jobs in the gig economy, which many times offer no benefits and instead are quite uncertain. Good-paying steady jobs are scarce - especially in areas devastated by the ...more
Jan 06, 2010 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
Sean Goh
Oct 14, 2016 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
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
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 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
Kings created corporations, corporations created governments, replaced communities and isolated us under the guise of independence and self-sufficiency. We now express our identities through brands and media channels. Centralized money is biased towards accumulation rather than investment, bringing everything to a standstill. Hell, it even half-caused the plague in the Middle Ages! And if we try to solve world problems, that's 'cause corporations have taught us to think too highly of ourselves; ...more
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
Jan 11, 2010 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
Oct 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Cullen Haynes
Apr 25, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very timely, provocative and urgent look at how our world has been etching towards a corporatised structure.

In a rather humorous anecdote on the capitalistic side of human nature, the book opens up with award-winning writer, documentary filmmaker, and scholar Douglas Rushkoff being mugged outside of his apartment on Christmas Eve.
After deciding to post a friendly warning on his community facebook page, instead of warmth, pastoral care or concern, the responses quite vehemently castigated for p
Mar 01, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I agree with most of what Rushkoff had to say. In fact, sometimes I believe he didn't go quite far enough in his argument. Corporations have bankrupted America--fiscally, socially and nutritionally. One major purpose of a centralized government is to rein in the power of corporations. Our government has been in the thrall of corporations long before I was born. Every bit of progress that we might make in healing our bodies, our environment and our social networks will be made in opposition to th ...more
Tippy Jackson
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Jul 08, 2012 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
Jul 14, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Factual inaccuracies aside, how can a person be this one sided? Of course there's a lot of scamming and bullshit in general in the modern world but when you support your arguments with farcical claims like how people were better off in the 10th century without any caveats do not expect anyone to take you seriously. You are blinded by your hatred. At one point the author claims corporations were the cause of witch burnings and the plague. A lot of mental gymnastics, all so as to avoid any respons ...more
Alex Ott
Oct 14, 2009 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.
Aug 27, 2013 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.
Jul 05, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The whole book is a relentless attack on capitalism. The author believes that we have all been brain washed by corporatism that we can only think of things in money terms. He proposed that we use informal credits with each other. This is possible in small towns but hard in big cities. One also wonder how taxes can be paid for public services like policemen, teachers and firemen.

Overall a disappointment.
Pax Analog
Aug 19, 2009 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 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!
I love how this book really tied everything together, and how it managed to remain optimistic instead of dismal like most books of these sorts.
Mar 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was a brilliant insight into the power of money and how, together with the rise of the corporation, has corrupted the world around us.
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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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14 likes · 8 comments
“Mortgages were less about getting people into property than getting them into debt. Someone had to absorb the surplus supply of credit.” 7 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.” 6 likes
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