Life Inc: a book against corporatism, published by a corporation


19 Responses to “Life Inc: a book against corporatism, published by a corporation”

  1. jjasper says:

    @ # 3 – The silly thing is, gives just as good, if not better affiliate rates.

    But sometimes we don’t realize *all* of the things we can do to decorporatize.

    @ #5 – think the point Rushkoff is making is that instead of trying to dismantle that sort of CEO’s reality by trying to get people howling for justice, creating a parallel economy that doesn’t tie into corporatism is a better, more sustainable idea.

    Right now, if I wasn’t married to someone who was in love with NYC, I’d strongly consider getting off the grid as much as I could, and not just power wise, but getting out of the day to day life that depends on corporatism as a way of life.

  2. ablebody says:

    i wonder if in this argument manufacturing makes more sense than corporatism.
    anybody can incorporate. it doesn’t take much to enjoy the tax benefits and legal shield that many “big” businesses enjoy.
    i think everybody should incorporate. it’s pretty easy to do and would save a lot of people tax monies they can then put towards their green idea corp.’s or whatever they wanna do.
    make it a common thing rather than the single notion that is being villified here.

  3. hardwarejunkie9 says:

    Wow. This is very impressive writing; it will take awhile to digest.

  4. Eric Hunting says:

    I’d be interested in hearing your take on the emerging Open Manufacturing movement and the trend of industrial demassification. Many in this movement see industrial independence -the ability of progressively smaller business and individuals to manufacture an increasing diversity of goods on demand in increasing proximity to the consumer (where producer and consumer aren’t one in the same)- as the ultimate alternative to corporatism.

    I’ve suggested a notion that this industrial demassification promotes a trend in commoditization on the larger market as it deals less with goods and more with raw materials which, when traded in an increasingly automated marketplace, tends toward progressively grater efficiency in exchange -that efficiency ultimately leading to a mathematical factoring-out of profit by the transparency created by increasingly intelligent automated trade. We see this in some part by increasingly automatic and global price capitulation in commodities market today -where the price of oil, for instance, is essentially the same worldwide. Profit relies on asynchronous perceived value in exchange -on one party not quite knowing the true value of something to the seller. But market automation has so effectively worked out by deduction the value of commodities that the only variable left to base profit on is labor tied to currency value -for which we deliberately lack any scientific mechanism for the valuation of. (otherwise no CEO could ever justify his salary) But with localization of production and commoditization on the larger market, labor value is progressively factored out and spot-market commodity values become more rationally indexed to each (based on relative supply and energy cost) other than to currency values. So we have a possible situation of ‘digital transparency’ or ‘total market awareness’ that makes profit impossible, leading to a state of market equilibrium.

    I imagine this as the stalemate that might lead to something akin to Jacque Fresco’s Cybernation, based on the digital trading systems sort of arriving at a collective realization (assuming they ever arrive at some sufficiently high level of intelligence) of a ‘open reciprocal production’ logic; the idea that you give away free whatever you can within reason and practicality on the assumption that you can take whatever you want for free, again within reason, from everyone else. I’ve imagined this as a scene sort of like the climax in War Games where NASDAQ computers keep modeling futures over and over, faster and faster, like the WOPR playing tic-tac-toe, then suddenly realize the only way to win is not to play.

    This situation may be further encouraged by the emergence of open reciprocal production networks among the open manufacturing community, where independent manufactures deliberately adopt this premise with the intent of establishing increasingly comprehensive and automated systems of open reciprocal exchange crafted with a ‘lazy like an engineer’ logic. One attempts tailor the production capacity across the network to meet all the needs of a contemporary standard of living while reducing all individual production to something as labor intensive as maintaining an open community web server. Thus it becomes easy to contribute a lot of free production to the network because, personally, one isn’t really putting much labor into it. (after all, we squander a lot of our own time and effort already to someone else’s profit -never getting paid what we’re worth, never getting our money’s worth when we buy with cash. If you were producing only to meet the spot-demand within a community network, you probably wouldn’t have to work anywhere near as much even without the benefit of automation -a key premise of P.M.’s Bolo concept of Post-Industrial economics)

  5. Citryphus says:

    #8 Rushkoff: “Don’t get me wrong. Some of my best friends are corporations…”

    If corporations per se are not the problem, why do you use the term over and over again? Why do you twist the definition of corporation into a pretzel to fit the needs of your polemic? Why not find another word that better fits your meaning? Like “monopolists,” for example. I think it’s because you purposely want to tar the whole system with the misdeeds of a few. But most corporations, and even most banks, did not take on too much debt. And almost no corporations are monopolies or have enough market share to exhibit monopolistic behavior. Did you even bother to check?

    This excerpt, like all the others, is just one unsupported assertion after another. The few details provided are often incorrect. It’s disheartening that more of the readers here can’t see through it. All this rambling about 16th century royal chartered monopolies and early central banking, nothing about antitrust law or economies of scale. Aren’t some businesses big for a good reason?

    In 2005, 5.7 million US corporations filed tax returns and 4.7 million (82%) of them had less than $1M in revenues. 1.3 million (23%) had less that $25,000 in revenues. Lots of small operations. Doesn’t that sound a lot like your desired end? All these corporations are free to accept other people’s volunteered money and share profits, and risks, with them. Is that what you dislike? Some of these corporations will excel at supplying their customers and grow to be big corporations. Is that the problem?

  6. rushkoff says:

    Not sure where you are coming from Citryphus.

    I’m sorry I wrote in a style or fashion that you can’t receive my meaning. And I will look at how you could have reasonably interpreted what I considered to be a subtle argument in such a polarized way.

    I do get from your language that you are mad, and that you feel I dislike a entire way of doing business that you have great respect for. I respectfully submit that my book is not for you.

    If you can’t accept the arguments of, say, #12 who points out the way laws change when smaller entities end up creating value (or anyone who has tried to grow swiss chard on land that has been legislated to be used for corn, or nothing) then you don’t have to.

    As for my notion that a truly free marketplace would make many of the larger corporations impossible to maintain, that’s just true – not crazy. Corporatism was never about maintaining free competition – it was specifically designed to prevent it. This quite simple, direct history. Large corporations enjoy many less mandated protections than they did in the 15th century – but they still get their federal money cheaper than you or I can, they still have access to legislation that promotes their products and industries, and they still violate what almost any anti-trust lawyer would consider to be the fundamental anti-trust concepts.

    The reason to use the words corporatism and corporations is that the original concept of the corporation was embedded with values we don’t generally acknowledge today. No, Coke doesn’t kill as many people in South America as British East India Company did. Neither does Wal-Mart. But both companies have internalized value systems that work the same way – and those value systems are intrinsic to the operation of a debt-based economy created through ongoing corporate-government collusion.

    You can spend your energy denying this in BoingBoing comments sections, or, I’d suggest, put your effort to better use by proving me and all my kind wrong in the real world. Help large banks restore the public trust, help convince people to borrow more money, to shop at larger chains, to eschew local agriculture and the local economies that go along with them.

    It’s possible that further conglomeration and reduction of competition will help create more relaxed boards of directors who will rise to the occasion and become benevolent parents to us all. Then books that force some facts into the debate will be unnecessary.

  7. rushkoff says:

    Absolutely! Corporations aren’t the enemy here, and everyone should feel free to LLC, S-corp or C-corp to their heart’s content.

    The corporatism I’m referring to is more a state of mind and set of policies dedicated to centralizing power, monopolizing industries, and defining and economy on debt. I’m not arguing against the Starbucks on the corner, or even the notion that Wal-Mart can co-exist with smaller entities (incorporated or not) on the commercial landscape.

    And even if everybody incorporates, this doesn’t give all those one-person corporations the same kind of leverage that giant centralized institutions enjoy.

    The link to buy books had a bunch of independents on it, but none of their sites allowed link to the book when I made the page. I’ll check and see if they’ve gotten them up, yet. The one on still has more links on it, I believe.

  8. PaulR says:

    1) While you’re waiting for this book, you can get warmed up by buying/watching Marc Achbar’s excellent ‘The Corporation’.

    2) Douglas: will a non-DRMed digital version be available for eReaders? Please? And not at the same price or more expensive (I still don’t get the economics behind that) that the dead-tree version? Thanks.

  9. PaulR says:

    Swap that last ‘that the dead-tree version’ with a ‘than the dead-tree version?’


  10. Anonymous says:

    Hi. There is an Anne Elizabeth Moore exhibition at Columbia College Chicago’s Center for Book and Paper Arts June 19!

  11. jjasper says:

    Good end point. Though honestly, I think I’d prefer a better example to explanation ration, weighted on the example side of things. You’re really on to something when you talk about creating an alternative, but I think a more radical movement is needed – if we could try coming up with a plan for people to unplug themselves as much as possible from corporatism and sustain a growing community or tribe, we’d be getting somewhere.

    I’d like to see a few real world plans for an shadow economy. I’d like to see people taking part in them in reasonably large numbers. I’d like to see what’s required to be a participant in these plans, and how that might differ from plan to plan.

    I’m with you on the small steps as being important, but I think seeing how things might end up by trying big steps is also important.

  12. Citryphus says:

    Rushkoff, in each of the threads following the excerpts from your book I have taken the time to point out the interpretations of law and history in your book that are factually incorrect. I may have been a harsh critic, but I’m not “mad.” I’m sure it’s not your first bad review.

    Your “corporatism,” in brief, seems to mean anti-competitive behavior. I never denied such behavior didn’t exist; I wondered aloud why you fail to discuss government actions to counter it, such as trustbusting, in your history. In other words, I said your history was one-sided. But somehow I’m the one who’s “polarized.”

    #12 loses me at “corporations pass laws.” Legislatures pass laws. Starting out with a nonsensical statement is not an argument. You want to wave away the difference. You want to call it shorthand for undue influence of lobbying or something. Whether corporations, as associations of free people, should lose 1st Ammendment rights seems to me like something still open to debate. Your shorthand glosses over the important questions that challenge your conclusions. This is the exact sort of inattention to detail that pervades your book, or what I’ve seen of it.

    The rest of your comment is just ridiculous. You’re essentially saying if I disagree with you I should go out and aspire to be a bigger jerk. And that I’m wasting my energy commenting here. I wonder how that sentiment will go over with the rest of Boing Boing. A lot of the “facts” your book forces into the debate are demonstrably false. I gave some examples. You ignored them. So yes, my energy was wasted on you. But hopefully not everyone.

  13. @mro says:

    Indeed as predicted in the Metaverse Manifesto,
    “The old guard aggregators will post these insights up for view as if they are their own ideas.”

    “The old corporate media will post these insights as their own product.”

  14. syphax says:

    I know this post acknowledges that we can’t de-corporatize quickly or easily, but I found it kind of funny that the 3 options for pre-ordering the book ( are all via large, corporate booksellers (Amazon, B&N, Borders)…

  15. steauengeglase says:

    “If conservatives got their open marketplace and maintained a truly hands- off approach, most of the corporations they seek to liberate from government control would cease to exist.”

    Ya know, then you hear someone say something that you have been saying for years, something that your friends and family have always brushed off, it is high time to look in the mirror and realize that yes, you are crazy.

  16. Johnny A says:

    I read a great commencement address from a very different perspective, but essentially saying the same thing

  17. asuffield says:

    Which is all fine and dandy until you start to accomplish something, at which point corporations pass laws explicitly forbidding it. Patents aside, look at what happens every single time somebody tries to get a communal wireless internet service running on any scale.

  18. Ernunnos says:

    Build bike lanes?

    Y’know, if I’m a corporate CEO, getting fellated by the NYT while Obama hands me billions in bailouts, nothing could make me happier than to know that the little people are occupied building bike lanes instead of howling for justice.

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