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

3.92  ·  Rating details ·  1,050 ratings  ·  158 reviews
This didn’t just happen.

In Life Inc., award-winning writer, documentary filmmaker, and scholar Douglas Rushkoff traces how corporations went from being convenient legal fictions to being the dominant fact of contemporary life. Indeed, as Rushkoff shows, most Americans have so willingly adopted the values of corporations that they’re no longer even aware of it.

This fascinat
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published June 2nd 2009 by Random House (first published 2009)
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Mar 06, 2010 rated it did not like it
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
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
Jun 14, 2009 rated it liked it
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
Oct 12, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
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
Jan 06, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
Apr 28, 2012 rated it it was ok
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
Oct 21, 2016 rated it liked it
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
Nov 19, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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  ·  review of another edition
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
Ahmed Salem
Oct 10, 2016 rated it really liked it
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
Jan 11, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
Shelves: rushkoff, nonfic, audio
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.
Mar 01, 2018 rated it liked it
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
Dec 08, 2009 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jul 08, 2012 rated it liked it
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
Aug 27, 2013 rated it it was ok
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 rated it really liked it
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.
Jul 05, 2014 rated it it was ok
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
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
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 rated it it was amazing
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.
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.
Aug 27, 2009 rated it really liked it
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.
Scott Bartlett
Feb 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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 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
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Douglas Rushkoff is a New York-based writer, columnist and lecturer on technology, media and popular culture.
“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.” 6 likes
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