I recently watched The Corporation, a documentary by March Achbar
and Jennifer Abbott based on the book The Corporation: The Pathological
Pursuit of Profit and Power by Joel Bakan.
Michael Moore appears a few times in the film, as an interviewee. I liked him a
lot more in this capacity than I liked him in his own films. It was refreshing
to see him just talking and displaying his knowledge, without the clowning and
intentional impishness that are highlighted in his own movies. He still
managed to be entertaining, especially when he talked about how large
corporations are willing to put out his films---despite the fact that the goal
of his movies might be to put them out of business---precisely because they
don't believe in anything and they don't think anyone else will either.
The overall approach of the film bothered me a bit. It presented a checklist of
psychological characteristics of a sociopath, and then proceeded to show how
several corporations manifest each of the behaviors---inability to feel guilt,
reckless endangerment of others, etc.
The documentary tells the history of how the corporation as an entity came to
be regarded as a legal individual. This view of corporations is one that needs
to be abandoned. I appreciated seeing the history of how it came to be, and the
description of the problems that it causes, but I was disappointed to see the
movie buy into the trope by treating the corporation as a sociopathic
Maybe I'm wrong, though. Thinking of corporations as individuals does have some
advantages. For example, we can easily see how outrageous it is that we put a
man in jail for a very long time for stealing a golf club because he exhibited
a pattern of criminal behavior, but we just modestly fine corporations who make
and distribute products that lead to many deaths.
I think there should have been more emphasis on the fact that they are not
individuals, and less emphasis on the fact that if they are individuals, they
are very bad ones.
Related to a point I started to make in my post about the Whale Guy, someone in
this movie points out that the idea of "voting with your dollars" to change
corporate behavior is undemocratic, because everyone's vote is not equal.
Some standard corporate evils are surveyed, from Monsanto's chemical escapades
(don't be drinking milk while you watch) to sweat shop labor conditions.
It's a good reminder that our society is sick, and that we need to work to
change it even while we do what we have to from within it in order to stay sane
and have some happiness.