Life Inc: The Movie

Douglas Rushkoff is a guest blogger.

My friend and colleague Janine Saunders just finished this 9-minute video, Life Inc: The Movie, which previews and visualizes some of the core concepts of my upcoming book.

You can watch a medium-quality version by clicking on the embedded link above, or go to: for the highest quality stream/file (Quicktime), YouTube for another option, and the movie's home,, for a few more choices of playback, as well as some excerpts and information about the whole Life Inc. project.


  1. Hey Douglas,
    What about a version on dotsub for collaborative translation?
    Thanks for the great work!

  2. “Banks are the institutions we need to let die”

    That sounds like a bad thing to me – Wouldn’t a lot of people loose everything they have if such a thing were to happen?

  3. I see what you you’re thinking, Tom, but I don’t mean to wipe out our deposits. “Letting the banks die” doesn’t mean ending FDIC insurance for depositors. It means no longer supporting the bank corporations who defrauded the American public.

    The deposits of real people and the business plans of banks are not really connected – not anymore, not for the banks going under. If we had let Citibank go bankrupt and paid for any lost deposits, it would have cost a whole lot less than trying to bail out the bank and its shareholders the way we are now.

    So I’m not arguing for people to lose the money they entrusted to banks. I’m arguing that the taxpayers not entrust money to the banks’ illegitimate business plans.

  4. ++ on letting the banks die. I didn’t panic when the meltdown came. None of my neighbors did. Everyone saw it coming, far, far away. It kept myself and my peers out of the housing market since about 2001 because nobody (no genuine homeowner) wanted to be the last one standing when the music stopped. I talked with a sobbing Real Estate agent at Quinton’s in downtown Columbia, MO, in 2005, confessing that he could get a mortgage for a dog.

    Outrageous profits were earned, the stock market reached unprecedented heights. Windfall profits for banks, insurance companies. So this brings me to my question. Easy come, easy go, right? So they made all sorts of billions that they probably shouldn’t have, people got richer than they should have. And then it snapped back, equilibrium, right? Why should this warrant a bailout? We were told the bailout was necessary to allow day-to-day lending continue. That the “small businessman” wouldn’t be able to make payroll without a bailout. Yet here we are and we aren’t doing anything of the sort any longer. We are propping up failed institutions in order to inspire confidence.

    I’m reminded of a dead Montgomery Burns, from The Simpsons, propped up like a Marionette and prancing around on a stage. That’s what we are being asked to believe in.

  5. Thanks for answering my question, that sounds a lot better than what I was thinking.

    On corporations, maybe I’m taking a too simplistic view on this but, if any business becomes very successful and large enough, wouldn’t incorporation of that company be…

    Hmmm, I read your “About this Book,” on your site and began this post. I thought I should research this a bit more – starting with the definition of corporation, then incorporation, then charter. I then backed up and read Wikipedia’s article on corporations. I’m going to stop there.

    Maybe if I were to watch your video a few more times I’ll understand how all of this works and why Corporations are bad. Maybe someone can put in terms a 5 year old would understand – thanks. I look forward to the conversation and what I may learn from it.

  6. I’m with Rushkoff in a general way here, but It seems like ( haven’t read the book yet, of course) that too much emphasis is being placed on various monarchs’ creation of corporate charters, when, as I understand it, the monarchs actions were a response to the rise of the merchant class and the banking systems that they used.In other words, the monarchs were losing a great deal of power and essentially merged with these early international systems. Far from being a blow to the merchant networks, it gave them the sheen of official state power. The logic of the monarchs was that they could at least be involved in controlling these networks to a certain extent in the hopes of maintaining the older system, but it in fact led to their total irrelevance, as mercantile/corporate actors had no real need to maintain “the kingdom” save for it’s name alone.This led to the creation of corporate bank/dummy states, pretty much. The powers behind the throne- merchant/bankers- ruled from behind the throne.
    To put it simply, I don’t think the premise that if only monarchs hadn’t created corporations, we wouldn’t be in the state we’re in today. For a time, monarchs held it at bay, just as nationals in modernity often seek to keep monopolies and cartels from gaining power. These merchant networks were the original banker/userers, and traditional systems sold out to and were enveloped by it.
    A “free” banking/currency system will not place limits or controls on the existing power structures, it will only give them absolute free reign, imo. I’d rather have strong Nation/States stamp them out and reassume the right to coin their own currency, as monarchs should’ve done centuries ago.

  7. Nice, and as far as I can tell, broadly correct. But there are a lot of variables to be considered closely. Its not a simple transition. This thing has been wound up for 1000 years and unwinding it isn’t a simple job. Just look at our food production and distribution mechanisms – they are highly fragile and dependent upon multiple different well-functioning pieces of the global economy.

    I don’t disagree with you. We stand on the precipice of one of the great opportunities, but as the old order declines, harm will occur and as harm occurs fear will build. If that fear passes a certain threshold, the consequences will be dire.

    If we can keep our heads clear and stay mindful, we have a chance.

  8. “The renaissance was not a golden age, it was the end of a golden age”

    Maybe I just don’t get it, but if you are saying that the Middle Ages were a golden age I have to strongly disagree.

    Still, I can’t wait to read your book!

  9. Hey Tom, a great resource is 1000 Years of Non-Linear History by Manuel De Landa. Another good pair are Tragedy and Hope and The Evolution of Civilizations by Carroll Quigley. The thing to keep in mind is that modern corporations (and modern society) are the result of a long history of developments.

  10. Thanks, I’m reading Quigley’s The Evolution of Civilizations now. I found it on Scribd.

  11. I can’t wait to read your book! I agree 100% that this economic “downturn” is in fact an opportunity more so than anything else. We live in a society CREATED by man in their own visions to serve their own purposes. These Corporate CEOs don’t care about people they only care about making money and caring only about their own families and passing on their wealth. An example is, one of my professors in College who word for the ad agency which handled the account for one of the biggest automakers in the country, spoke with one such CEO who told him, “We are NOT in the business of making cars. We are in the business of making money.” The National Reserve is also a great example of this corporate world manipulation. The national Reserve was established in a hush hush meeting between bank owners without government involvement and now the government will forever be in debt as the Reserve lends out money on interest. So as soon as you borrow money, you already owe interest. So how are you supposed to pay that interest??? Borrow more money. It’s a never ending Greed Cycle. JFK signed a bill that would eliminate the National Reserve and instead the mint would issue more currency from it’s silver reserves. Coincidentally, JFK was taken out before the bill saw the light of day. This isn’t fiction. Google it. It’s not just a movie plot which we are constantly fed in media to make these subjects seem unbelievable. This is what our modern world is all about. We are getting more and more away from being human and that’s a frightening thought. The world is being run be the wrong kind of people with the wrong vision. And to secure that vision, we are bombarded and conditioned by commercialism to just consume consume consume! The world is heading into another dark age which, if we don’t take action, will either result in the establishment of a world order where we are all a part of one world government or we’ll simply wipe our race off the planet. I’m not some old fool who thinks everything is a conspiracy, I’m 27 and am a part of an ever growing youth that sees what the world really is and I will not let myself be dumbed down by senseless mindless tv programming to numb myself from the world. That is what these corporations want. They want to create and sustain all this misery so that all we want to do is get away from it, go home and watch some tv, through which those same corporations feed us more images of fear followed by the newest piece of *bleep* to buy which causes us to consume more and more. It’s a cycle that will never change unless there is a human and humane revolution. We as people own the world not these greedy corporations. Such a tiring thought, I’m gonna go watch some tv……..

  12. I like in the movie how you discuss the impact of corporations on our daily life. The rennaisance stuff I don’t really have an opinion on because I don’t have enough background to evaluate the arguments myself. But the daily stuff, like bbq and tv I can relate. Although I come to a different conclusion. At this point, I think you have to consider yourself extremely lucky if we can come home after a day of work at the corporation and watch tv and have a bbq with the family. Focusing on ways to create more jobs, by the corporations, by state-sponsored monopolies, by the utilities, and schools and fire departments and all the rest seems like the way to go. We need more and better industries. Less polluting industries. More jobs in the creativity sector! Better TV, PRAY GOD, and more parks so people can get together and play sports, be in nature, whatever.

  13. @ Tom Hale

    You don’t want to miss the documentary film “The Corporation.” It can be viewed in its entirety online for free, if you look for it. Consider making a donation to the filmmakers @

  14. Speaking of charters, here’s the mother of them all:

    “Between 1820 and 1870, HBC issued its own paper money.”

    “The new united company virtually had absolute rule over a vast territory that extended from the Atlantic to the Pacific, since all of Canada except the settled eastern provinces was leased to the company…. It began to change from being solely a fur-trading organization and eventually became a gigantic corporation of almost innumerable interests. The sales of company lands brought in much money.”

  15. Yup. When you actually go to Yale Library (or, now, their website) and start reading these charters, you realize just how sick and total they were. I mean, American colonists weren’t allowed to make clothes out of the cotton they grew! British East India Co had the monopoly – and local value creation was against the law. They had to ship the cotton back to England (through the Company) where it was made into clothes. Then they had to buy the clothes from the Company, as well.

    A lot of the old Dutch charters have been translated now, too. And they even challenge some of the language (or lack thereof) in the AIG bailout documents for outrageous chartered behavior.

  16. “The industrial age was really about perpetuating this dehumanizing trend. We like to think of the industrial age as really, oh, we created all these great machines so that we had better production, no. What the industrial age really was about was disconnecting human beings from their own labor, from their own pleasure. The society that we built for the industrial age was built to mythologize the mass produced object. Because we needed to create a society of consumers who thought that buying all of this stuff would somehow make them happier.

    I see what you did there. That’s the standard Marxist critique. But I’m wondering if you have any ideas on the way forward. It is one thing to critique and another to propose.

  17. Thank you Douglas.

    I’m going to buy your book. My only hope is that you can spread this message even further. We need a critical mass of conciousness about this before anything will be done.

  18. “That’s the standard Marxist critique. But I’m wondering if you have any ideas on the way forward. It is one thing to critique and another to propose.”

    I think I did. I’ll try to post some of that in the last installment of excerpt.

  19. I will buy your book if:

    1. It is printed on paper you manufactured yourself
    2. It was written by hand, without the use of a corporate-designed computer or components
    3. It is shipped to me without corporate or “government-as-monarch” assistance (no fedex, usps, ups, etc)
    4. You refuse to accept credit cards or bank-facilitated e-checks as currency (cash in person only)

    The mere fact of your book’s existence is a monument to the ubiquity of corporate productivity. You are entirely dependent on them to produce & disseminate your ideas – so don’t forget to thank FedEx, Apple, Bank of America, etc. while you use them to your benefit.
    We couldn’t be having this conversation without them.

  20. Absolutely, Costlow. A point I make repeatedly in the book, and have tried to make here.

    Just because we do everything – pretty much – through corporations doesn’t mean corporations and the money they run on can’t be analyzed or even criticized. Their ubiquity doesn’t justify their role in society, or negate our justification in measuring their effectiveness.

    It’s as if you’re arguing that because a car accident victim was brought to the hospital by ambulance, he has no right to explore whether automobiles are causing some problems that need to be addressed.

    I think the argument is a non-starter when it’s phrased that way.

    On the other hand, I’ve often had the discussion of whether and how I could have created and released my book with less corporate involvement, and how that would have impacted my ability to write it and get it out to the public.

    Or, in other words, until you’ve created an organic farm alternative, you’re going to have to eat something else while you’re building it.

  21. @tcostlow

    I will accept your comment if:

    1. It didn’t pass through any free/open-source software on its way across the internet.
    2. It was written purely to raise the share price of some company.
    3. etc…

    The mere fact of your comment’s existence is a monument to the ubiquity of commons-based peer-productivity. etc…

  22. The anecdote about the reaction to your blogging about the location of a mugging reminded me of something similar that I encountered as a child at a suburban NJ middle-school in the late 1970s. One day a student loitering outside the school brained another student with a baseball bat as he exited a bus. The victim was so severely injured he was left in a coma for life. The attacker’s explanation for the assault? He was ‘bored’. It was a shocking -but actually not uncommon- act of violence for such a small suburban town yet, surprisingly, the news never reached regional newspapers or metropolitan TV news. No charges were filed, no law suits, nothing. The whole thing quickly disappeared and word spread among the students and townsfolk that the reason for this was that town and school officials had met with the parents of the victim and convinced/coerced them to keep the incident quiet for the sake of the community image and their own and their neighbors’ property values.

    And here I am now an adult with a similar obsession with Post-Industrial cultural and economic theory… I wonder how common incidents like this really are in the contemporary experience.

    Of course, I still want my Hudson Bay point blanket capote, though I’ll need a proper top-hat or bowler to go with it.

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