Corporations, capitalism and conceptions of the self

What is capitalism? What is a corporation? What is the relationship between one's desires for consumption, capitalist notions of the individual self, and the power of corporations? The following documentaries help answer these and other questions about how capitalism limits democracy, and how psychoanalysis has impacted consumption and the notion of the social.

First released in 2003, and based on the book The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power by Joel Bacon, the documentary by the same first name has won 26 awards."Taking its status as a legal 'person' to the logical conclusion, the film puts the corporation on the psychiatrist's couch to ask 'What kind of person is it?' The Corporation includes interviews with 40 corporate insiders and critics—including Noam Chomsky, Naomi Klein, Milton Friedman, Howard Zinn, Vandana Shiva, and Michael Moore—plus true confessions, case studies and strategies for change."

The Corporation, in turn, contextualizes Inside Job by Charles Ferguson which won the 2010 Oscar for best documentary film. Inside Job explains the intricacies of classic economic theory, the politics of capitalism with regards to policies and laws, and the impact of deceptive credit agencies, greedy investment bankers, and hedge fund managers on the lives of everyday people. The crux of the story is that the economic crisis of 2008 negatively impacted tens of millions of people, while a handful of wealthy individuals and corporate entities made out like…well, capitalists.

After your anger subsides from learning about the manipulation of markets and predatory lending practices targeting working-class and communities of color, you might be ready for the three part series, Century of the Selfby British Filmmaker Adam Curtis. First broadcast as a TV series in 2002 and now available in its entirety, Century of the Self examines the impact of the ideas of Sigmund Freud on politics, economics, and foreign and domestic policies in Great Britain and the United States throughout the 20th Century. The episodes, "Happiness Machines," "The Engineering of Consent," "There is a Policeman Inside All Our Heads; He Must Be Destroyed," and "Eight People Sipping Wine in Kettering", specifically focus on Edward Bernays, Freud's nephew and the inventor of the "profession" of public relations. These episodes ask us to consider our relationship to capitalist consumption, the uncritical acceptance of the corporation as having legal personhood, as well as whose imaginary animates your/our desires for consumption.