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The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power

4.06  ·  Rating Details ·  3,310 Ratings  ·  159 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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Apr 02, 2009 Matt rated it it was amazing
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
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
J.M. Hushour
Aug 08, 2016 J.M. Hushour rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the companion book to the excellent documentary called, unsurprisingly, "The Corporation". The documentary, to be honest is more fun and has a more attuned sense of humor, which is refreshing. The book tends to be a little drier and feels rushed at times as if Bakan is trying to get the point across as quickly as possible, and with as little depth as possible. Which is fine. Let's face it, if you're reading this book in the first place, much of what is in it will seem familiar or even re ...more
Neil Powell
Jun 04, 2010 Neil Powell rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 15, 2007 Aileen rated it it was amazing
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
This, despite being a decade old now, is still utterly damming in its analysis of the ruling institutions that dominate our society. The fact that when Bakan and others note of how, in history, corporations have flirted with authoritarian regimes, is especially chilling (especially the Plot to overthrow Roosevelt with a fascist dictator) given today's political climate in America.

I worry immensely for our species sometimes.

This book should make you worry as well.
David Sarkies
Feb 02, 2013 David Sarkies rated it really liked it  ·  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),
Jill Furedy
Jul 04, 2012 Jill Furedy rated it really liked it
Shelves: business-books
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
Mark Valentine
Jan 17, 2016 Mark Valentine rated it really liked it
Here's what I gained from reading this book:

1) Corporations have been given the legal status and rights afforded an individual but they have limited liability. The existence of the corporation is to secure and increase profits. After the Supreme Court in 1886 granted the same rights and protections that were meant for slaves rebounding from the Civil War as established in the 14th Amendment to corporations, these corporations have had a special status protected within our legal system. Further,
Fil Krynicki
May 17, 2012 Fil Krynicki rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Scott Goddard
Oct 15, 2014 Scott Goddard rated it liked it
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
Marc Maurer
Jan 10, 2015 Marc Maurer rated it it was ok
This is a book that would have made a good article. I knew what to expect from the very beginning: the word "pathological" in the subtitle indicates only one conclusion that this book is willing to consider.

I'm not an unsympathetic audience for this line of thinking: I'm a strong believer that your sympathy should lie with people before organizations. Corporations don't really deserve our sympathy, etc.

There is something simple and stark about a corporation though: you can trust it to do what it
Ian O'Sullivan
May 13, 2017 Ian O'Sullivan rated it it was amazing
This book is a short but deep read. I had to pause at several moments to reflect on the state of our corporate world and its control over our government and our lives. This book gets to the heart of the matter on how corporations have taken over the modern world, right down to the legal wording that has allowed it to do so. When you see what has been added and taken away from the law in order to further corporate power and control, you truly see the writing of the devil. Subtly over time, the wo ...more
Eric Li
Mar 16, 2014 Eric Li rated it really liked it
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
Apr 01, 2016 Maddy rated it really liked it
Shelves: donated-to-a-lfl
I've seen the movie based on this book so not too many surprises. Sort of a fascinating document of how we thought about corporations before the 2008 financial collapse, Occupy Wall St., movements for raising minimum wage, the rise of Elizabeth Warren, the BP oil spill, the rise of government spying on behalf of corporations as revealed by Snowden, the publication of Piketty's Capital, etc.

I'd forgotten that the financial industry was getting very little attention from anti-corporate types befor
Fraser Gibbs
May 23, 2013 Fraser Gibbs rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Business Students, Corporate Activists, Managerial Students, CEO's, Businesmen
Shelves: non-fiction, business
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
Nov 30, 2008 Chris rated it really liked it
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
Mar 29, 2009 Peter rated it it was amazing
Shelves: have-read
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
Oct 12, 2010 Bri rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites
Reading this opens the minds of consumers and the general public. I find it extremely tragic how this world has come to such corruption and cruelty. Corporations control the world we know, and they have but one purpose, to achieve profit for the stock holders. There is alot more to this story I wish I could put into simple words but for now it will have to suffice that I recomend everyone who wants to be aware of the world we live in reads this book.
C. Scott
May 01, 2015 C. Scott rated it it was amazing
Corporations have psychopathic personalities. That part was hilarious and insightful at the same time. This is a brisk read and absolutely essential for understanding the motivations and weaknesses of the world's most powerful institution: the modern corporation.
Michael Duane  Robbins
Jul 30, 2016 Michael Duane Robbins rated it it was amazing
It's even worse than you thought.
طارق (Tarek)
Mar 12, 2016 طارق (Tarek) rated it it was amazing
I watched the documentary in 2005 and loved it, but forgot most of it by 2016.

The book is short and a quick read, and should be required reading in business schools across the globe. The crux of the argument is that the corporation is an externalizing (more on this later) pathological entity. Some of the most important topics discusses were:

-- The nature of the corporation, the history behind the corporate form, and how the corporation acquired legal personhood.
I was shocked to read that corpora
Mar 17, 2017 Marshall rated it it was ok
This book's premise is that corporations are pathological, even psychopathic in its pursuit of profit and power. At first, I thought this was just hyperbole, but as I read, I started realizing that any person engaging in the activities this book describes would certainly be described in these terms. And, legally speaking, corporations really are people.

So, at the beginning, I was all set up to be persuaded. Or, more accurately, re-persuaded, since I used to be quite anti-corporate. Back then, I
Scout Collins
Nov 13, 2016 Scout Collins rated it it was amazing
Everyone should read this book (and watch the documentary that goes along with it).

This book gives a history of the creation of corporations, talks about the effects on our society, and my favourite part - how corporations have qualities of a psychopath. (Unfortunately the book doesn't go into too much detail on this, but the movie does a great job).

Compared to the movie, I have to say the book is less interesting, and doesn't have the same emotional impact. The book is pretty well organized but
Jun 19, 2017 David rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: economy, politics
Monsters disguised. These monsters do what they have to do, their primary objective: making money. So far, so good. The system creates a disguise for them, a fiction called legal entity. They can kill, split oil in natural parks, borrow money and not repaying it, use semi-slaves as workforce. They can't go to jail. Supported by invasive and aggressive marketing technics, all its activities are subject to a cost benefit analysis, an equation where morality, ethics, loyalty, etc. do not show.
AJ Ostrow
Jul 12, 2017 AJ Ostrow rated it it was amazing
Corporations have legal consistency, elegant if flawed. I prefer dual bottom line too in theory, in practice it's hard to measure.

I would think everyone wants better methods to curb externalities. It's just always so vague, case by case.
Alan Hughes
Dec 22, 2016 Alan Hughes rated it liked it
Shelves: politics, economics
This is a difficult book to review. Not because it is poorly written, far from it, it is well written and easy to read. But rather because it is a book of three parts. The first part, where he analyses the source of the problem is well written and researched. The middle and last part are unfortunately much poorer.

In the opening third of the book Joel Bakan describes the genesis of corporations. How the development of 'limited liability' and the amalgamation of capital permitted large scale proje
Jun 22, 2007 Tom rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Ameya Warde
This book was a surprisingly vital read. I have known that corporations are pulling the strings of our government these days, but I had no idea just how little I understood how they were run and how tightly controlled they are by laws that literally force them to screw over public health&safety, the environment, worker well-being, and "the public good" in order to maximize shareholder profits.

I knew that's the M.O. of corporations, but I thought that it was horrible, sh*tty CEOs & shady
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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
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“The corporation’s legally defined mandate is to pursue, relentlessly and without exception, its own self-interest, regardless of the often harmful consequences it might cause to others.” 1 likes
“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.” 1 likes
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