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The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power

4.08  ·  Rating details ·  4,241 ratings  ·  199 reviews
The inspiration for the film that won the 2004 Sundance Film Festival Audience Award for Best Documentary, The Corporation contends that the corporation is created by law to function much like a psychopathic personality, whose destructive behavior, if unchecked, leads to scandal and ruin.

Over the last 150 years the corporation has risen from relative obscurity to become th
Paperback, 228 pages
Published March 7th 2005 by Free Press (first published 2003)
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Apr 02, 2009 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
Kaelan Ratcliffe ▪ كايِلان راتكِليف

This book, 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.
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
Corporations 101: in the end, the Frankenstein-esque Corporation is still a legal entity, created and maintained by laws.

The Good:
--The documentary version has been my accessible-yet-critical intro for unpacking modern capitalism (esp. to watch in a group). I decided to review the book version for more details and a different pace/presentation style.

Ch.1 “The Corporation’s Rise to Dominance”:
--Most people are uncomfortable with corporations but cannot imagine alternatives. So, let us start by e
J.M. Hushour
Aug 08, 2016 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 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 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
David Sarkies
Feb 02, 2013 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),
C. Scott
May 01, 2015 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. ...more
♥ Sarah
Sep 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
Watched the documentary years ago during college, but never got around to reading the book. The book was a bit drier and less emotionally tugging than the documentary; it also read like a college research paper (which could be good or bad depending on the reader).

Bakan explains in depth (with a lot of data to prove his point/s), about the creation of the corporation & the legal implications of the corporation as an entity. What I really liked about it was that he offered practical solutions that
Aurélien Thomas
Oct 21, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: politics
Here's a fascinating book, making a powerful case, yet trying so hard to be fair that, personally, I think it doesn't go far enough and so misses the point in the (rough) solutions it proposes. What is it about?

Well, written in the shadow of Enron's collapse, the point made by the author is that Corporates, these massive institutions driving our economies and shaping our lives whether we like or not, are, at their core, pathological. They are pathological because their only purposes is to make p
Marc Maurer
Jan 10, 2015 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
Jill Furedy
Jul 04, 2012 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 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 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
Mar 05, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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
Crypto Punk
Jul 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
I enjoyed the read, though it felt a little light compared to other works on politics and economics I've read. Then again, the author does preface it saying he wants anyone to be able to pick up and read this. To that end, it's great.

The book basically talks about the rise of corporations and how they've become these entities that play a significant role in every aspect of our life. The specific examples cited in the book of how the corporation puts shareholder maximization over everything else
Scott Goddard
Oct 15, 2014 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
Oct 12, 2010 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.
Thomas Ray
Jan 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Brilliantly shows that if a corporation is a person, the person is a psychopath. Other excellent works on economics:
Tichana  (The Book Hobbit)
Jul 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
4.5 Stars.
This is one of those books that you read and you sit back and think about all the wrong purchases that you made in your life that fed the corporations. This book is published in 2004 but trust me, it is extremely relevant today. In fact, it may even be more relevant today than it was in 2004 and you need to read it if you're interested in the history of corporations and their psychopathic personality.
The authors does a brilliant job in defining the personality of corporations. He als
Sep 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I saw the movie for The Corporation back in 2003. It was the first time I had ever heard of Monsanto, and while I was not completely politically unaware at the time, the movie caused kind of a jump forward in awareness. I had always meant to read the associated book; it just took me a while.

Having done so, I have to say that it is still well-written, still timely, and still pretty horrifying. I wish there were better answers, but we have often shown that we are not willing to put people before
Sep 24, 2020 rated it really liked it
Very insightful, a thoughtful counter to the idea that businesses can handle everything better than government. Felt like it stretched a couple points that I know weren't totally true (corporate sponsorship is everywhere, but I HIGHLY doubt that I have ten interactions every day with undercover marketers), which makes me wonder if anything I don't have a high understanding of was stretched as well. But it is very persuasive. ...more
Sep 07, 2019 rated it did not like it
Shelves: junk
Another male who has watched enough Judge Judy on TV to know the law and enough Dr. Joyce Brothers to be able to diagnose as well as a Psychology professor.
Inês Febra
May 10, 2020 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed reading this book and would best describe it as scarily informative and eye-opening. Bakan exposes how this pursuit of financial returns has led and continues to lead (now more than ever) to environmental and social damages, providing several convincing arguments and evidence.
Ian O'Sullivan
May 13, 2017 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
Mar 17, 2017 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
Eric Li
Mar 16, 2014 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
Dennis Littrell
Jul 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Striking thesis convincingly presented

The modern corporation, according to law professor Joel Bakan, is "singularly self-interested and unable to feel genuine concern for others in any context." (p. 56) From this Bakan concludes that the corporation is a "pathological" entity.

This is a striking conclusion. The so-called pathological personality in humans is well documented and includes serial killers and others who have no regard for the life and welfare of anyone but themselves. But is it real
Fraser Gibbs
May 23, 2013 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
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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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110 likes · 22 comments
“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.” 4 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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