How the World Became a Corporation and How to Take it Back

By Julian Burke in Economy on February 12th, 2010 / No Comments

Author Douglas Rushkoff’’s most recent work, Life, Inc.: How the World Became a Corporation and How to Take it Back, provides an interesting take on how society and the corporate world currently interact and more importantly, how the market forces have changed society for the worse.

Though the book makes some wild assumptions and at times provides little support for its positions, it does represent a comprehensive look at the ways society has changed over the last few decades. The corporate world has taken precedence according to Rushkoff’s work, and that’s push communities and individual relationships to the brink of disaster.

The Basic Premise
When looking at this work, it’s easy to see the major premise and the primary themes that shine through. Specifically, the author takes aim at the corporate mindset from multiple angles. People have changed as a direct result of the pressures that they face in today’s highly corporate world, and this causes society to erode from its core. Rushkoff assumes in the book that people are better off when they live in a society that is interdependent. Though this might be an ambitious assumption, it’s worth considering, and it provides a serious talking point for the rest of the book.

Society has always been highly adaptable and since the beginning of time, people have been shaping their environments to suit the things that they have to do. In the past, this has been a good thing for society, as it has let to greater dependence upon one another to come up with new ideas for how to deal with problems and how to improve life overall. The author writes that this former strength has turned into a major weakness now, as people are doing more changing for the worse and there is less reliance upon others at this point in time. That’s a somewhat scary idea, but it’s a reality that we’re faced with, at least in Rushkoff’s view.

The Erosion of Personal Relationships
One of the central themes of How the World Became a Corporation and How to Take it Back is that individuals no longer look at social interaction in the same way that they used to. In the past, people have gone after social interaction as a means of enhancing friendships and building bonds. In the modern sense, people are using social interactions as a completely opportunistic thing. Even having a drink at a bar is a chance to make a sales pitch for many, which has hurt society and made it much more difficult for people to carry on lives away from work.

It is important to note that the author does not place much of the blame for this on the individuals who work for corporations. Much to the contrary, the book plays hard on the idea that these people are forced into their situations. Companies and businesses are competitive and the world runs on money, so if people are going to keep up in today’s society, they are going to have to beat the other guy. It is a cutthroat world where there is little time for focusing on anything other than climbing to the top of the latter, in a corporate sense.

Beating the Other Guy
According to Rushkoff, the focus has shifted for individuals today and it’s certainly not moved in a healthy direction at all. Instead of leaning upon friends and individuals that we meet to make everyone stronger, today’s business world encourages people to climb up other people’s backs to get to the top. People are no different than resources and they are exploited much the same way.

What this has created is a society where individuals are almost turned into enemies, while corporations are looked upon with all sorts of admiration. The corporations are the heroes and they provide a way out for many people, or a better life for others. Rushkoff argues that although it might seem like the better life, breaking down those around you for the sake of personal advancement is anything but noble.

A Move Away From Family
No review of How the World Became a Corporation and How to Take it Back would be complete if one left out the themes of family that are central to the book’s point. The entire idea behind the book was to explain that Americans, for the most part, had neglected everything else in their lives for the sake of business.

One reason for this is that playing the corporate game requires much more than just a sound mind. It requires a lot of time and it requires energy, as well. Those who are able to successfully navigate the corporate waters do so because they take themselves out of their reality of their home life and focus their energy on the work at hand.

Individuals, families, communities, and society at large would be better off with a race of people looking to build up from the ground, according to the author. Sacrificing one’s family and the development of one’s children is something that will come back to haunt the nation down the road, as kids are not learning from their parents and families are more splintered than ever before.

All of this is done in the name of the almighty dollar, which seems to draw the disdain of the author on more than one occasion. Rushkoff has no time or patience for those who pursue these types of worldly trappings, so he predictably opines about money’s place in the deterioration of values in America.

Presenting a Solution
This book is an interesting one because it does not simply offer a bunch of things that are wrong with how we operate today. In addition to that, this book focuses hard on explaining how the corporate nature can be fixed and how we can change the way society runs. Many of Rushkoff’s ideas are relatively idealistic and they take a broad view that might not be applicable in every situation. Still, they provide some substance to add to his clearly judgmental tones in the early part of the book.

Getting Involved in Community Building
One of the things that the author suggests in order to take back society is for individuals to take it upon themselves to get involved in community building, both in America and around the world. Rushkoff extols the virtues of signing up for local community events and contributing directly to local businesses.

This will take the focus off of the corporate mindset, according to the author, and that is the first step to establishing a better society in his opinion. Additionally, the author urges people to reach out with micro loans for budding entrepreneurs in third world countries. This will help to provide individuals with a bit more perspective on the world at large.

In all, How the World Became a Corporation and How to Take it Back is a book that provides some interesting suggestions and is eye-opening in many ways. It takes a broad stance on a major issue with society in America, so much can be learned from the book. Though it comes off as being very preachy at parts, it still manages to get across the central themes and messages in a way that’s easy to understand.

Available at amazon: Life Inc.: How the World Became a Corporation…

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