Another Chicken or Egg Conundrum

The following headline, 'The Problem is Corporations: Their Purposes, Powers, Wealth, Influence and Control,' graces the top of a website selling and promoting activist literature; books like: Global Dreams: Imperial Corporations and the New World Order; The Corporate Planet: Ecology and Politics in the Age of Globalization; Corporations Are Gonna Get Your Mama: Globalization and the Downsizing of the American Dream.

These books—along with nearly all others in the over-crowded literature of activism—love to paint corporations as Machiavellian beings, their heartless sentience responsible for all the ills of the planet.
As governments are doing less and less—entities like the WTO, the World Bank, APEC, etc. are making sure of this—the current trend in activism has clearly shifted towards corporation-bashing! Brash people like Michael Moore and, to a lesser extent, intellectuals like Naomi Klein have paved the way, demonstrating that success and recognition is obtainable through the demonization of corporations and corporate ‘beings;’ since the late 90s this genre has evolved into a very important market niche. But are these really aimed at enlightening consumers and shaping change or are they one's attempt at getting their Warhol-ian ten minutes?

It seems to me that the Activists’ foray into conservative media has slowly transformed from being impassioned manifestos aimed at the populace to a formulaic, tabloid-like form of entertainment for the intelligentsia.
Other than in terms of focus, is a show like Idiot Nation really any different from a show like TMZ? Instead of being shown naughty stars and their foolish money-filled ways being caught on tape, the camera is now aimed at corporations, politicians, and lobbyists…

Audiences are presented with well-researched or whistle-blown case studies pinning the label of monster on corporations like Chevron, Shell, Mitsubishi, Ford, Philip Morris, Sony, Bertelsmann, and Citibank, and so forth; rarely do these books focus on the investors and the consumers that have given momentum to these giants and who have made their success possible. It’s easy to complain about Wal-Mart, but it’s also very easy to spend money there! Ultimately, who is responsible for Wal-Mart’s success?

So now we’re inundated with tired slogans like, ‘Multinational (and national) corporations possess more rights and have less accountability than you do.’ But a corporation’s accountability, and therefore its main priority, is to its shareholders for whom they must generate profits and dividends; ultimately, who is responsible for such a disconcerting obsession with the bottom line?

In essence the problem is people! Not corporations; responsibility is currently being shifted away from all the stakeholders who—removing themselves from the decision making processes—care solely about spending less money and/or about seeing big returns on their investments; anything beyond that, they tell themselves, is out of their control. Yet corporations CAN be greatly influenced by customers, suppliers, and all the other stakeholders such as trade unions, etc.
So this attitude, that corporations are the real problem, is but another example of blame displacement. Corporations are easy targets; indeed their behaviour can often be described as Machiavellian and since every fight needs a villain... and given that books and documentaries (including mock-umentaries) that chastise consumers and the public at large are not only self-defeating, they are also hard to market...

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© 2009, Pascal-Denis Lussier

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