Doug Rushkoff interviewed by Richard Metzger: Dangerous Minds


Former BB guestblogger Richard Metzger interviews author and BB pal Doug Rushkoff, in this five-part video on YouTube. They cover a lot of territory in this conversation -- and if you dug Richard's posts here on the blog, you'll dig what they cover here.

Much of this is terrain explored in Rushkoff's new book, Life Incorporated: How the World Became a Corporation and How To Take It Back.

Here's a blurb from the book introduction:

Unquestionably but seemingly inexplicably, we have come to live in a world where the market has insinuated itself into every area of our lives. From erection to conception, school admission to finding a spouse, there are products and professionals to fill in where family and community have failed us. Commercials entreat us to think and care for ourselves, but to do so by choosing a corporation through which to exercise all this autonomy.

Sometimes it feels as if there's just not enough air in the room. People who used to know better now condemn Wikipedia for refusing to accept ads on their site - as if there were no justifiable reason to do anything if not for the money. At a moment's notice, any dinner party can turn into a stock promotion, a "networking" event, or an impromptu consult - "let me pick your brain." Brands strive be cults, while religions strive to become brands.

Corporatism tells the story of how we got here, how this value system now perpetuates itself and, most importantly, how we can reconnect with the real and get ourselves out of this mess. The book reveals how the propaganda state attempted in 1930's Europe finally did reach fruition here in the United States, just as early 20th Century American industrialists always hoped. Transcending conspiracies, politics, and even blame, the book argues that while the preconditions for corporatism were established as long as ago as the renaissance, it could not be fully realized until even its most ardent supporters had, themselves, been removed from the total equation.

Richard Metzger's DANGEROUS MINDS: Doug Rushkoff interview (video). Part 1 / Part 2 / Part 3 / Part 4 / Part 5 (YouTube)

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  1. It has been suggested, by Marx I believe, that this started even earlier, perhaps at the dawn of man, since it can be argued that the only reason we ever interact with each other is to conduct some sort of trade.

  2. Indeed. How significant is the label of “corporatism” compared to “religion” or “nationalism” or any other sort of socialization / zeitgeist?

    Is there just as much willingness to condemn the “national service” meme going around lately? to deride JFK’s “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country”?

    “Life Incorporated: How the World Became a Corporation and How To Take It Back” …back to what, exactly?

    Hopefully not back to loyalty oaths and flag salutes, and not back to confessionals and sacraments.

  3. A corporation is simply a binding of people and capital to create something more efficiently than the individual people could do on their own. That’s it. There’s no secret dark magic about it. The reason such structures are so pervasive is that they are damn good at what they do. Their role isn’t something you can fill in for on your own – at least, not as efficiently.

  4. How can somebody publishing with Random House – a giant corporation that is, itself, the property of Bertelsmann, the German corporation that also owns Europe’s biggest broadcaster, Europe’s biggest magazine publisher, and the world’s largest book and music club service (not to mention the publisher that admitted in 2002 to whitewashing their WWII era use of slave labor) – push this stuff with a straight face? Isn’t giving these guys yet more product to shill, especially a product that allows them to monetize dissent and anger at their own public-space-crushing ways, just feeding the beast?

  5. @ Bloom

    I think the main criticism is aimed at the whole system of corporations, government and monetary system. He’s not just saying “companies are bad, mm kay”?

  6. That, too.

    I write and speak a lot about the irony and – perhaps – futility of criticizing corporatism while using corporations to spread the message.

    But I’m not arguing for the end to corporations. What I’m looking in my book are the reasons why chartered corporations were created in the first place, and how some of their biases have been internalized.

    We can allow corporations to live in a market ecosystem rather than dominate it. But right now it’s hard to post on BoingBoing without supporting the corporations that make our computers, provide our access, host the servers, pay for the ads. So the argument that anything critical of corporatism must be constructed and distributed from beyond the corporate sphere rings a bit false to me. Especially if people can get and read the material for free, anyway.

  7. Corporations can also act as progressive entities with policies for diversity and inclusion. Even companies long regarded as conservative. Cutting across and outpacing federal, state and local governments in many cases in regards to protecting the rights of the individual. Like hiring and promoting women and minorities in executive positions (while not discriminating against white men), making it possible for some disabled people to work, protecting transgendered employee rights, providing same-sex couples health care benefits, etc.

    This isn’t always altruism. It’s critical to serve and respond to the marketplace, and to attract/retain the best employees.

  8. Like hiring and promoting women and minorities in executive positions (while not discriminating against white men), making it possible for some disabled people to work, protecting transgendered employee rights, providing same-sex couples health care benefits, etc.

    Jane-O… c’mon…

    Almost brings a tear to my eye… I just wish there was some way all this could happen without having to use these giant monopolistic entities that lurch around in massive sloth and waste…

    Oh wait… there’s small businesses.

    Jane-O…. we do not NEED these corporations. Shit, they’ll spend 5 million dollars advertising the fact they gave money to some charity… but how much did they actually give? 1 million.

    Shit, many corporations are CAUSING the need for charities they “give” to.

    Small business already can and does better than that. Way better.

    It’s critical to serve and respond to the marketplace, and to attract/retain the best employees.

    You sound like a robot there, so I’ll let some archaic A.I. take it from here.

    Liza: How do you really feel?

  9. #2 POSTED BY ZUZU

    “Life Incorporated: How the World Became a Corporation and How To Take It Back” …back to what, exactly?

    Zuzu, read the book maybe?

  10. #8 POSTED BY RUSHKOFF

    So the argument that anything critical of corporatism must be constructed and distributed from beyond the corporate sphere rings a bit false to me.

    Yeah, I tried to critique Wal-Mart with smoke signals but was forced to extinguish the fire once I realized I had used matches from Safeway.

  11. Wal-Mart is the classic example of this — managers bully union organizers and call it ‘free speech’, executives brag about the high percentage of their employees on foodstamps to emphasize how they have ‘cut costs’ by letting the state feed the workers.

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