By Joel Bakan
A deeply informed and unflinching look at the way corporations have slyly rebranded themselves as socially conscious entities ready to tackle society's problems, while CEO compensation soars, income inequality is at all-time highs, and democracy sits in a precarious situation.
Over the last decade and a half, business leaders have been calling for a new kind of capitalism. With income inequality soaring, wages stagnating, and a climate crisis escalating, they realized that they had to make social and environmental values the very core of their messaging. The problem is corporations are still, first and foremost, concerned with their bottom line.
In lucid and engaging prose, Joel Bakan documents how increasing corporate freedom encroaches on individual liberty and democracy. Through deep research and interviews with both top executives and their sharpest critics, he exposes the inhumanity and destructive force of the current order--profit-driven privatization subverting the public good, governments neglecting duties to protect the environment, the increasing alienation we experience as every aspect of life is economized, and how the Covid-19 pandemic lays bare the unjust fault lines of our corporate-led society.
Beyond diagnosing major problems, in The New Corporation - a follow-up to his book The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power (2004) - Bakan narrates a hopeful path forward. He reveals how citizens around the world are fighting back and making gains in ways that bolster democracy and benefit ordinary citizens rather than the corporate elite.
Short interview with Bakan about the book:
"In April 2019, recounts University of British Columbia law professor Bakan, JP Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon led a drive with 200-odd other CEOs to declare that corporations were committed not to maximizing returns for their shareholders, but also to serving “workers, communities, and the environment.” It was an unexpected repudiation of the dog-eat-dog capitalist ethic. As the author argues, it is also misplaced; even with this declaration, born of Davos conferences and economic think tanks, the corporation really hasn’t changed, “at least not fundamentally.” Bakan views the "psychopathic institution” with jaundiced disdain, and clearly he does not trust the Dimon declaration. Instead, he expects, the corporation will simply take the occasion of being seen for once as good guys to “cajole governments to free them from the regulations designed to protect public interests and citizens’ well-being,” pushing for further deregulation and privatization. “Visit the website of any major corporation and you’ll wonder whether you’ve accidentally clicked on that of an NGO or activist group,” writes the author—but then read between the lines. Quoting Joseph Stiglitz, Bakan predicts that the drive to deregulate and allow corporations to self-regulate is a recipe for further financial crises, and the supposed transformation of the corporation into a “caring, publicly minded” entity is a false front that disguises the voracious wish of the corporation to take control of every aspect of the economy. This includes the public sector and such services as delivering drinking water to municipalities, which leads to disasters like Flint. Writing clearly and with minimal pleading to economic authority, the author closes by invoking the lessons of the pandemic, which tells us that corporate values are not those of ordinary people: “Unbridled self-interest, individualism, competition, and commoditization cannot be the values that guide us.” A rigorously argued manifesto against corporate capitalism, even with its supposedly friendly face."
Book Launch: Panel Discussion with Joel Bakan
- "Threat of U.S. election chaos a terrifying reminder Big Tech should not be entrusted to uphold democracy" - OpEd by Bakan in The Globe and Mail, 25 October 2020
- Podcast of interview with Bakan by The Sustainability Agenda, 18 October 2020
- Podcast interview with Bakan on Literary Hub, 13 October 2020
- "‘New’ corporations are up to the same old tricks" - OpEd by Bakan in The Globe and Mail, 18 September 2020
- Interview with Bakan about the book on the website of the University of British Columbia, 10 September 2020
Table of Contents of The New Corporation
- The New Corporation
- Still Crazy After All Those Years
- The Corporate Liberation Movement
- California (Bad) Dreaming
- Being Coroporate
- Democracy Unbound
About Joel Bakan
Joel Bakan is a professor of law at the University of British Columbia, and a legal scholar and commentator. A former Rhodes Scholar and law clerk to Chief Justice Brian Dickson of the Supreme Court of Canada, Bakan has law degrees from Oxford, Dalhousie, and Harvard. His critically acclaimed international hit, The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power (Free Press, 2004) was published in over 20 languages, and became a bestseller in several countries. The book inspired a feature documentary film, The Corporation, written by Bakan and co-created with Mark Achbar, which won numerous awards, including best foreign documentary at the Sundance Film Festival, and was a critical and box office success. Bakan’s highly regarded scholarly work includes Just Words: Constitutional Rights and Social Wrongs (University of Toronto Press, 1997), as well as textbooks, edited collections, and numerous articles in leading legal and social science journals. A frequent recipient of awards for both his writing and teaching, Bakan has worked on landmark legal cases and government policy, and served regularly as a media commentator, appearing on national television and radio. He is a popular and accomplished public speaker who has addressed business, government, academic, and activist audiences in the United States and abroad.