The Corporation is a 2003 Canadian
documentary film critical of the modern-day corporation, considering it
as a class of person and evaluating its behavior towards society and the
world at large as a psychologist might evaluate an ordinary person.
This is explored through specific examples.
Mikela J. Mikael
Raymond L. Anderson
Leonard J. Paul
Big Picture Media
September 9, 2003
The film was written by Joel Bakan, and co-directed by Mark Achbar
and Jennifer Abbott. The documentary has been displayed worldwide, on TV
(sometimes in 3 parts) and is also available in DVD.
Bakan wrote a book,
The Corporation - The Pathological Pursuit of Profit
and Power, during the filming of the documentary.
The film charts the development of the corporation as a legal entity from
its origins as an institution chartered by governments to carry out specific
public functions, to the rise of the vast modern institutions entitled to
some of the legal rights of a person.
One central theme of the documentary
is an attempt to assess the "personality" of the corporate "person" by using
diagnostic criteria from the DSM-IV; Robert Hare, a University of British
Columbia Psychology Professor and FBI consultant, compares the modern,
profit-driven corporation to that of a clinically diagnosed psychopath.
The film focuses mostly on the corporation in
North America, especially in the United States.
The film is composed of several vignettes examining and critiquing corporate
practices, and drawing parallels between examples of corporate malfeasance
and the DSM-IV's symptoms of psychopathy: callous unconcern for the feelings
of others, incapacity to maintain enduring relationships, reckless disregard
for the safety of others, deceitfulness (repeated lying to and deceiving of
others for profit), incapacity to experience guilt and failure to conform to
the social norms with respect to lawful behaviors.
The film draws on many commentators, including Noam Chomsky, Milton
Friedman, Michael Moore, Naomi Klein, and Howard Zinn, who discuss and
criticize aspects of corporate behavior.
Other topics addressed include:
Other important topics Bakan brings insight into include:
the notion of limited liability
the corporation as a
the corporation as a person
The film also features interviews with prominent corporate critics such as
Noam Chomsky, Naomi Klein, Michael Moore, Vandana Shiva and Howard Zinn as
well as opinions from company CEOs such as Ray Anderson (from the
Interface carpet & fabric company), the conservative viewpoints of
Peter Drucker and Milton Friedman, and think tanks advocating
free markets such as the Fraser Institute.
Interviews also feature Dr. Samuel Epstein
with his involvement in a lawsuit against
Monsanto for promoting the use of
Posilac, (Monsanto's trade name for recombinant Bovine Somatotropin)
to induce more milk production in dairy cattle.
"The corporation is an externalizing machine
(moving its operating costs to external organizations and people), in
the same way that a shark is a killing machine."
- Robert Monks
a corporate governance
advisor in the film
and former GOP [Republican] candidate for Senate
Film critics gave the film generally favorable reviews.
aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reported that 90% of critics gave the film
positive reviews, based on 104 reviews Metacritic reported the film
had an average score of 73 out of 100, based on 28 reviews.
Variety praised the film's,
"surprisingly cogent, entertaining, even
rabble-rousing indictment of perhaps the most influential institutional
model for our era" and its avoidance of "a sense of excessively partisan
rhetoric" by deploying a wide range of interviewees and "a bold
organizational scheme that lets focus jump around in interconnective,
humorous, hit-and-run fashion."
In the Chicago Sun-Times, Roger Ebert
described the film as,
"an impassioned polemic, filled with
information sure to break up any dinner-table conversation."
He felt that "at 145 minutes, it overstays
its welcome. The wise documentarian should treat film stock as a
The Economist review suggests that the
idea for an organization as a psychopathic entity originated with Max
Weber, in regards to government bureaucracy. Also, the reviewer remarks
that the film weighs heavily in favor of public ownership as a solution to
the evils depicted, while failing to acknowledge the magnitude of evils
committed by governments in the name of public ownership, such as those of
the Communist Party in the former USSR.
The Maoist Internationalist Movement, in their review criticizes the
film for the opposite: for depicting the communist party in an unfavorable
light, while adopting an anarchist approach favoring direct democracy and
worker's councils without emphasizing the need for a centralized
The film, in their view "offers no realistic alternative to
imperialism" and "it shares some of the strengths and downfalls" of Mark Achbar's film Manufacturing Consent, which celebrated the life of
anarcho-syndicalist, linguist, and activist
In their view,
"corporate power for profit [is]
not the same as mega-bureaucracy without profit."
The film was nominated for numerous awards, and won some of them.
It won the 'World Cinema Audience Award:
Documentary' at the Sundance Film Festival, 2004, and won a Special
Jury Award at the Amsterdam International Documentary Film Festival in
2003 and 2004.