Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Ehrenreich: Blaming the Victims of Corporate Power

Barbara Ehrenreich relates her experiences as a white-collar job hunter in her 2005 book, Bait and Switch.

An interview with Barbara Ehrenreich published on the Web provokes more questions than provides answers about corporate culture and the abuses of corporate power in America. Whether it's 10-year-olds working in garment=industry sweatshops in India for The Gap, or Wal-Mart chiseling money out of a disabled employee, something is broken deep within the American economic system. The problem isn't Wal-Mart or The Gap. The problem is systemic.

Corporations exist to make money within a context devoid of human impacts. The very institution, the corporation, is fundamentally without any socially redeeming value. Why we tolerate their existence is the next phase of cultural evolution. The economic institution of slavery had its apologists not solely in the houses of the plantation masters, but throughout the American social fabric, not excluding the religious institutions and "science" of the day.

Social change comes from the bottom up. Massive fictitious justifications for the most obvious social abuses will always permeate the mass media, which is controlled by the corporate modern-day economic equivalent of slavery. 2008 differs from 1808 in that the economic abuses of millions of people persists in subtle linguistic subterfuge instead of iron chains and leather whips. Social progress is the process of forcing the power elite in the United States to resort to more subtle manipulations. The corporation can't get away with outright chaining you to that cubicle; and "freedom" is posited as the freedom to choose one cubicle over another cubicle while the underlying power structure remains unspoken and unchallenged.

Democracy is a good thing. If we accept this premise, more democracy is better than less. During the past hundred years, corporations have moved from employing about five percent of the workforce to about 95 percent today. The institution is undemocratic. Funny; we think ti's a good idea to vote for power managers in government (elected officials; president, city council members, etc.), yet no one thinks twice about spending 40 hours per week within the confines of a publicly-owned institution that isn't managed democratically. Why don't corporate employees elect the managers? Why are corporations accepted in their present form as tyrannies run for the express purpose of making profits for the wealthy investors? The only reason corporations are run autocratically is because we, the people, let them.

Corporations are not objects of the natural world. They are wholly arbitrary associations of individuals. The institution of plantation slavery was ended by people who decided that the dominant economic institution of the South was wrong. Corporations exist only because we tolerate them. They nave no natural right to exist in any shape or form. No social institution has any rights whatsoever. People have rights.

We have the right to put an end to any social institution. The notion that the corporation as we know it is a natural, inevitable, and desirable organization of the American workplace is simply false. America is not synonymous with the corporation. The term, corporation, doesn't appear in the U.S. Constitution. They didn't exist in any substantial form in 1776, and they don't have any divine right to exist today, either.

Here, again, is a link to the interview with Barbara Ehrenreich.

Big business is not small business writ large. The topic warrants further consideration elsewhere.

Working with nonprofits and small businesses can be an honorable path.

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