This didn't just happen.
In Life Inc., award-winning writer, documentary filmmaker, and scholar Douglas Rushkoff traces how corporations went from being convenient legal fictions to being the dominant fact of contemporary life. Indeed, as Rushkoff shows, most Americans have so willingly adopted the values of corporations that they're no longer even aware of it.
This fascinating journey, from the late Middle Ages to today, reveals the roots of our debacle. From the founding of the first chartered monopoly to the branding of the self; from the invention of central currency to the privatization of banking; from the birth of the modern, self-interested individual to his exploitation through the false ideal of the single-family home; from the Victorian Great Exhibition to the solipsism of MySpace-the corporation has infiltrated all aspects of our daily lives. Life Inc. exposes why we see our homes as investments rather than places to live, our 401(k) plans as the ultimate measure of success, and the Internet as just another place to do business.
Most of all, Life Inc. shows how the current financial crisis is actually an opportunity to reverse this six-hundred-year-old trend and to begin to create, invest, and transact directly rather than outsource all this activity to institutions that exist solely for their own sakes.
Corporatism didn't evolve naturally. The landscape on which we are living-the operating system on which we are now running our social software-was invented by people, sold to us as a better way of life, supported by myths, and ultimately allowed to develop into a self-sustaining reality. It is a map that has replaced the territory.
Rushkoff illuminates both how we've become disconnected from our world and how we can reconnect to our towns, to the value we can create, and, mostly, to one another. As the speculative economy collapses under its own weight, Life Inc. shows us how to build a real and human-scaled society to take its place.
Rushkoff (Nothing Sacred) offers a shrill condemnation of how corporate culture has disconnected human beings from each other. An engaging history of commerce and corporatism devolves into an extended philippic on how increasing personal wealth and the rise of nuclear families constituted a failure of community-whose services are now provided by products and professionals. While he makes some good points-for instance, about how some laws are now written to favor the rights of corporations above the rights of human beings, and the phenomenon of pro-wealth spirituality as espoused by The Secret, Creflo Dollar and Joel Osteen-he skews wildly off-course lamenting how "basic human activity... has been systematically robbed of its naturally occurring support mechanisms by a landscape tilted toward the market's priorities." His unsupported and flawed assumption that societal interdependence is a natural or even preferable state for all people, everywhere, his disdain for filthy lucre and joyless recasting of independence as "selfishness" will leave readers weary long before the end. (June)
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May 31, 2009
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