Corporate Hegemony and The Rise of Corporate Personhood.
The rise of corporate hegemony is in my firm belief responsible for many of the ills of society at the present time.
What exactly do I mean by this you ask? (while hopefully nodding your head in agreement)
To explain this you must first understand that in todays society there exists a new kind of person, that of the corporation. Gradually over time society and governments have been granting corporations the same rights and freedoms as individuals.
This is a very dangerous idea and one that must be fully explored before it can be allowed to continue.
Although at face value it may seem a reasonable proposition to give corporations the same rights as individuals , it leaves us open to increased risk of Americanisation and Mcdonaldization due to the sheer amount of power and wealth attached to large organisations.
How the spread of corporate culture that has exploded at an alarming rate across the globe has been explored many times by authors such of Chomsky (See ‘Hegemony or Survival’) and of course Naomi Klein’s ground breaking book “No Logo”, as such it isn’t really necessary for me to go into the factors of how corporate hegemony.
Although I will touch on it in the next couple of paragraphs, but if you’re are interested in this I highly recommend you pick up the afore mentioned books, and read up on ‘Fordism’ and how corporate efficiency can be implemented to integrate corporations into society.
What worries me is not corporations themselves but the social viewpoints that they maintain, particularly in the ‘Old Media’ such as the Packer Empire or more appropriately News Corporation. Is it okay for a corporation being able to put forward one viewpoint without shining light on another, for instance Fox News has had many talking heads who are often anti-choice and highly conservative. (Glenn Beck, Anne Coulter to name two)
This is where the beginnings of a problem form, when you give freedom of speech to corporations you run the risk of of the mis-use of corporate power.
In a world where corporations hold the same rights as individuals, everything could change. Imagine if the IWC had no oversight at all on international whaling for example.
When an individual is given certain rights then they are in general allowed to chose the way they live their lives, obviously within certain social structures supported by the status quo.
In this Author’s opinion , to prevent the spread of corporate ideals, a change in the way we think and view corporations is necessary.
Organisations should not exist as entities serving the public for a profit while serving the greater good of said corporation.
Instead they should serve the public good by the will of the people.
At our suffrage, if you will.
If a corporation exists to use the people as a means of profit it can create a situation where the corporation makes a profit at the EXPENSE of the people as apposed to service the people.
At the end of the day this is all about perception, not only from the point of view of the corporations but from ours as well.
So how do we change how we perceive corporations?
The first step is of course through education, awareness and affirmative action to help erode the idea that corporations are vast entities with the power to do as the please. Unfortunately this is where lies the greater issue.
Everyday under our noses corporations work to make themselves appear more human. They do this by presenting an image of who they want to be.
Through the use of sociological data , corporations build up an idea of who their target audience is, what demographics they lie in and what ideals they might hold.
Through this they can use the process of branding to present an image of that company to the public based on what they believe the public would best react to.
So we know that corporations put on happy face to ease public perception, they want to be our friends, our neighbours and our trusted advisors.
In conjunction to this PR and the branding process organisations work on a second front, that of back room deals, court cases, payoffs and political lobbying with one goal in mind.
That goal is simple to realise yet difficult to prove, the goal is one of full corporate personhood.
While marketing may be affective at changing public perception it is less useful when it comes to changing laws.
To that end there is increasing pressure from organisations to decrease government oversight and allow corporate entities to claim the rights and liberties afforded to individual citizens.
An example of this comes from a US supreme court ruling on the 21st of January this year which allows US corporations freedom of speech during election campaigns as well as lifting restrictions on corporate spending during the same time period. (Citizens United -vs- Federal Election Commission)
Another ruling from 2008 in favour of the infamous Blackwater Corporation, stated and I quote “Blackwater is a person and has a right to due process under the law and would suffer significant damage due to not being able to start on its $400 million Navy contract.”
Now this I do not generally have a problem with, I believe that all people have the right to due process, but corporations do not deserve to be labeled as ‘people’ particularly in a courtroom and government setting.
In my view it is cases such as these that not only serve to erode controls designed to stop corporations from controlling governments as well as other corporations by granting them personhood.
Imagine if you will a world where a corporation can come out in direct support of a governmental candidate or funnel money openly into campaign contributions.
Is it such a step from there to consider a corporation running for government?
Thankfully, that world doesn’t exist. But it might, so in the meantime there is a lot you can do to help prevent the spread of corporate hegemony and personhood.
First steps are simple, you can write your local MP or senator, you could join a radical culture jamming group, or donate money to organisations such as ‘Wikileaks’ or ‘Electronic Frontier Foundation’ or most anyone who helps campaign for open standards and corporate oversight.
Other options include doing your own research before making a purchase, so you make sure your money doesn’t go into a company that doesn’t support or share your way of thinking. You could even get directly involved , as many affirmative action groups are desperately in need of volunteers plus you can easily do this in your local community.
On a person level you can use more open source software and products , as they are not only free but they are made by people who support freedom of information and open standards which definitely helping the fight against corporate culture.
This is a long game that wont likely change in our lifetime, but bit of help is sorely needed.