CORPORATION NATION by Charles Derber

CORPORATION NATION

How Corporations Are Taking Over Our Lives and What We Can Do About It

KIRKUS REVIEW

America’s in deep trouble—corporate oligopoly is seizing our money and stealing our humanity, too. Derber (Sociology/Boston Coll.; Money, Murder and the American Dream, 1992) diagnoses the problem and prescribes a cure. Writing 100 years ago at the height of the Gilded Age, John P. Davis concluded his seminal study, Corporations, by noting that citizenship “has been largely metamorphosed into membership in corporations and patriotism into fidelity to them.” Now the situation is no better, claims Derber. He says we—ve entered another Gilded Age at the turn of a century just as problematic as the last one. His tract compiles complaints against big business and how it blights our lives. Acquiescent politicians, autocratic CEOs, and huge mergers enable corporations to act as a new branch of government, and we confront businesses bigger than nations. The top 200 transnational companies enjoy more income than four fifths of the world’s population; their combined income is greater than the combined economies of 182 countries. Corporate plunder thrives; countervailing forces are weak. It’s time to rethink what a corporation is supposed to do beyond rewarding shareholders. It’s time to fix things. Derber’s answer: populism. But not the hayseed, xenophobic populism of William Jennings Bryan, nor the prejudiced populism of Father Coughlin, nor the reactionary populism of Pat Buchanan. Instead, the professor’s sermon considers and reconsiders what he calls “positive populism.” This new version of an old idea is global, embracing labor, grassroots community groups, multiculturalism, and the environmentalist agenda in a broad movement where corporations must serve people, not the reverse. How practical is this? Derber, unsurprisingly, affirms signs of hope; to be fair, his program makes more sense than Bryan’s platform ever did. An epilogue offers a few halting first steps. His vibrant polemics cite plausible villains and an implausible solution. It remains to be seen if anyone will follow.

Pub Date: Nov. 11th, 1998
ISBN: 0-312-19288-6
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1st, 1998




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