The Corporation (film)

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The Corporation is a 2003 Canadian documentary film critical of the modern-day corporation, considering it as a class of person (as in US law it is understood to be) and evaluating its behaviour towards society and the world at large as a psychologist might evaluate an ordinary person.

Directed by Mark Achbar and Jennifer Abbott. Written by Joel Bakan.

Narrator ("Mikela Mikael")[edit]

  • 150 years ago, the business corporation was a relatively insignificant institution. Today, it is all-pervasive. Like the Church, the Monarchy and the Communist Party in other times and places, the corporation is today's dominant institution. This documentary examines the nature, evolution, impacts, and possible futures of the modern business corporation. Initially given a narrow legal mandate, what has allowed today's corporation to achieve such extraordinary power and influence over our lives? We begin our inquiry as scandals threaten to trigger a wide debate about the lack of public control over big corporations.
  • Through the voices of CEOs, whistle blowers, brokers, gurus and spies, insiders and outsiders, we present the corporation as a paradox, an institution that creates great wealth, but causes enormous, and often hidden harms.
  • To determine the kind of personality that drives the corporation to behave like an externalising machine, we can analyse it like a psychiatrist would a patient. We can even formulate a diagnosis, on the basis of typical case histories of harm it has inflicted on others selected from a universe of corporate activity.
  • Having acquired the legal rights and protections of a person, the question arises - what kind of person is the corporation?

Noam Chomsky[edit]

  • The dominant role of corporations in our lives is essentially a product of roughly the past century. Corporations were originally associations of people who were chartered by a state to perform some particular function. Like a group of people want to build a bridge over the Charles River, or something like that.
  • Corporations were given the rights of immortal persons. But then special kinds of persons, persons who had no moral conscience. These are a special kind of persons, which are designed by law, to be concerned only for their stockholders. And not, say, what are sometimes called their stakeholders, like the community or the work force or whatever.

Others[edit]

  • Robert Keyes: The word corporate gets attached in almost, you know, in a pejorative sense to and gets married with the word "a-gen-da." And one hears a lot about the corporate a-gen-da as though it is evil, as though it is an agenda, which is trying to take over the world. Personally, I don't use the word "corporation." I use the word "business." I will use the word... use the word "company." I will use the words "business community" because I think that is a much fairer representation than zeroing in on just this word "corporation."
  • Ray Anderson: The modern corporation has grown out of the industrial age. The industrial age began in 1712 when an Englishman named Thomas Newcomen invented a steam driven pump to pump water out of the English coal mine, so the English coal miners could get more coal to mine, rather than hauling buckets of water out of the mine. It was all about productivity, more coal per man-hour. That was the dawn of the industrial age. And then it became more steel per man-hour, more textiles per man-hour, more automobiles per man-hour, and today, it's more chips per man-hour, more gizmos per man-hour. The system is basically the same, producing more sophisticated products today.
  • Mary Zepernick: There were very few chartered corporations in early United States history. And the ones that existed had clear stipulations in their state issued charters, how long they could operate, the amount of capitalisation, what they made or did or maintained, a turnpike or whatever was in their charter and they didn't do anything else. They didn't own or couldn't own another corporation. Their shareholders were liable. And so on.
  • Richard Grossman: In both law and the culture, the corporation was considered a subordinate entity that was a gift from the people in order to serve the public good. So you have that history, and we shouldn't be misled by it, it's not as if these were the halcyon days, when all corporations served the public trust, but there's a lot to learn from that.
  • Robert Monks: The great problem of having corporate citizens is that they aren't like the rest of us. As Baron Thurlow in England is supposed to have said, "They have no soul to save, and they have no body to incarcerate." (and) The corporation is an externalizing* machine, in the same way that a shark is a killing machine. *(moving its costs to external organizations and people)
  • Michael Moore: I believe the mistake that a lot of people make when they think about corporations, is they think you know, corporations are like us. They think they have feelings, they have politics, they have belief systems, they really only have one thing, the bottom line - how to make as much money as they can in any given quarter. That's it.
  • Ira Jackson: The eagle, soaring, clear-eyed, competitive, prepared to strike, but not a vulture. Noble, visionary, majestic, that people can believe in and be inspired by, that creates such a lift that it soars. I can see that being a good logo for the principled company. Okay, guys, enough bullshit.
  • Oscar Olivera: At the climax of the struggle, the army stayed in their barracks; the police also remained in their stations; the members of Congress became invisible; the Governor went into hiding, and afterwards, he resigned. There wasn't any authority left. The only legitimate authority was the people gathered at the city square making decisions in large assemblies.
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