Dark Side (2010) by Alex Gross
The first corporations were established by government declaration in the sixteenth century. They were allowed to own land, participate in the legal process, and hold assets such as bank accounts. They were few and far between until the Industrial Revolution, but in 1886, a dubious judgement of the U.S. Supreme Court granted them the status of "legal persons".
Over the last 150 years the corporation has risen from relative obscurity to become the world's dominant institution. Today, corporations govern our lives. They determine what we eat, what we watch, where we work, and what we do. We are inescapably surrounded by their culture, iconography, and ideology. And, like the church and the monarchy in other times, they posture as infallible and omnipotent, glorifying themselves in imposing buildings and elaborate displays. - Joel Bakan The Corporation
If the corporation is a "person" argues Bakan, let's assess its personality using psychiatric criteria, such as the Diagnostic Standard Manual. Dr Robert Hare demonstrated that corporations show systematic symptoms of psychopathy: callous disregard for the feelings of other people, incapacity to maintain human relationships, reckless disregard for the safety of others, deceitfulness (continual lying to deceive for profit), incapacity to experience guilt, and failure to conform to social norms and respect for the law.
While we can all recall the incapacity to experience guilt of "Too Big to Fail" banks or how BP's recklessness led to the Deepwater Horizon blowout, continual lying to deceive for profit is exemplified best by the world's most profitable corporation. The Union of Concerned Scientists has verified how Exxon Mobil has poured millions and millions of dollars over decades into a campaign to create doubt in the public mind about the reality of global warming.
There are excellent and worthwhile corporations. We admire the innovation and altruism of a Google, and celebrate many companies' development of breakthrough technologies in renewable energy, energy saving and energy storage. It is the role of corporate greed in the destruction of the biosphere that must be addressed as a pressing moral issue. Attempts to reform the corporation through social responsibility and ethical management have not overcome one fundamental limitation - its legal mandate to pursue its own self-interest without exception. To reform the corporation meaningfully, states Bakan, that mandate would have to be changed:
We must remember the most subversive truth of all: that corporations are our creations. They have no lives, no powers and no capacities beyond what we, through our governments, give them.
When Naomi Klein wrote the international bestseller, The Shock Doctrine, she laid out the evidence for predatory corporate manipulation of disaster and shock across the world. In the following video, she describes how Disaster Capitalism is operating in the current period of extreme energy and climate change catastrophes. We share the view she expresses here:
My fear is that climate change is the biggest crisis of all...If we don’t come up with a positive vision of how climate change can make our economies and our world more just, more liveable, cleaner, fairer, then this crisis will be exploited to militarize our economies, to create fortress continents. And we’re really facing a choice. What we really need now is for the people fighting for economic justice and environmental justice to come together.