4.0 Documentary - 'The Corporation'



The previous chapter looked at the issue of trust and business and how a lack of trust has shaped the response of both businesses and stakeholders alike. This session explores the theme further through the medium of documentary.


Activity 4.1 – The Corporation

This activity requires you to watch a Canadian documentary written in 2003 by Joel Bakan entitled

The Corporation. The documentary shows the development of the contemporary business corporation, from a legal entity that originated as a government-chartered institution meant to affect specific public functions, to the rise of the modern commercial institution entitled to most of the legal rights of a person.

One key theme is its assessment as a "personality", as a result of an 1886 case in the United States Supreme Court in which a statement by Chief Justice Morrison R. Waite led to corporations as "persons" having the same rights as human beings, based on the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. The film's assessment is effected via the diagnostic criteria in the DSM-IV; Robert Hare, a University of British Columbia psychology professor and a consultant to the FBI, compares the profile of the contemporary profitable business corporation to that of a clinically-diagnosed psychopath. The documentary concentrates mostly upon North American corporations, especially those of the United States.

The film is in vignettes examining and criticizing corporate business practices. It attempts to compare the way corporations are systematically compelled to behave with the DSM-IV's symptoms of psychopathy, e.g. callous disregard for the feelings of other people, the incapacity to maintain human relationships, reckless disregard for the safety of others, deceitfulness (continual lying to deceive for profit), the incapacity to experience guilt, and the failure to conform to social norms and respect the law.

Topics addressed include the Business Plot, where in 1933, General Smedley Butler exposed an alleged corporate plot against then U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt; the tragedy of the commons; Dwight D. Eisenhower's warning people to beware of the rising military-industrial complex; economic externalities; suppression of an investigative news story about Bovine Growth Hormone on a Fox News Channel affiliate television station; the invention of the soft drink Fanta by the Coca-Cola Company due to the trade embargo on Nazi Germany; the alleged role of IBM in the Nazi holocaust (see IBM and the Holocaust); the Cochabamba protests of 2000 brought on by the privatization of Bolivia's municipal water supply by the Bechtel Corporation; and in general themes of corporate social responsibility, the notion of limited liability, the corporation as a psychopath, and the corporation as a person.

Go to http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLFA50FBC214A6CE87 and watch the 23 chapters of The Corporation. Each one lasts a few minutes. After each chapter, make an entry in your learning diary under the title ‘The Corporation’ and record one or two learning points that really resonate with you. Keep them concise, spending only a few moments on each. They are intended to enable you to reflect on the documentary and assist your learning during this module.

This will take you the best part of two hours to complete.

Content in this section is sourced from Wikipedia on 25/7/12 under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Licence. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Corporation_%28film%29.