Creating the Corporate Utopia:
Transnationalism, the W.T.O. and the I.M.F.

Can you recall the imagery of the earth from the orbiting rockets in the 1960’s—earth as a blue marble—and how supposedly that was going to be such a unifying image that it would give rise to a new conceptual paradigm?  And then that never happened.  Remember Arthur Jensen’s Corporate Cosmology speech in Paddy Chayefsky’s film, Network?[1]  (Jensen is the head of a television network and brings Howard Beale, that channel’s anchorman, into his boardroom to speak to him after Beale has said things on the air that threaten the sale of the network to a Saudi company.)  Here is Jensen’s speech:

You have meddled with the primal forces of nature, Mr. Beale, and I won’t have it, is that clear?!  You think you have merely stopped a business deal -- that is not the case!  The Arabs have taken billions of dollars out of this country, and now they must put it back.  It is ebb and flow, tidal gravity, it is ecological balance!  You are an old man who thinks in terms of nations and peoples!  There are no Russians.  There are no Arabs!  There are no third worlds!  There is no West!  There is only one holistic system of systems, one vast and immense, interwoven, interacting, multi-variate, multi-national dominion of dollars!  Petro-dollars, electro-dollars, multi-dollars!, Reichmarks, rubles, rin, pounds and shekels!  It is the international system of currency that determines the totality of life on this planet!  That is the natural order of things today!  That is the atomic, subatomic and galactic structure of things today!  And you have meddled with the primal forces of nature, and you will atone!  Am I getting through to you, Mr. Beale?  (pause)  You get up on your little twenty-one inch screen, and howl about America and democracy.  There is no America.  There is no democracy.  There is only IBM and ITT and AT&T and Dupont, Dow, Union Carbide and Exxon.  Those are the nations of the world today.  What do you think the Russians talk about in their councils of state -- Karl Marx?  They pull out their linear programming charts, statistical decision theories and minimax solutions and compute the price-cost probabilities of their transactions and investments just like we do.  We no longer live in a world of nations and ideologies, Mr. Beale.  The world is a college of corporations, inexorably determined by the immutable by-laws of business.  The world is a business, Mr. Beale!  It has been since man crawled out of the slime, and our children, Mr. Beale, will live to see that perfect world in which there is no war and famine, oppression and brutality -- one vast and ecumenical holding company, for whom all men will work to serve a common profit, in which all men will hold a share of stock, all necessities provided, all anxieties tranquilized, all boredom amused.

In a nutshell, this is the reason that the iconography of the globe, “the blue marble”, doesn’t function as a unifying paradigm:  globalization, happening at exactly the same time that the global image arrived, overtakes and subsumes it.  Iconography doesn’t exist apart from culture, it arises out of it.  Before the “blue marble” could ever become an operable icon, the cultural experience was transformed by international economics.  The transnational corporation was a much stronger—which is to say, more fundamental—force than the image produced by the space shots.  Sure, it’s pretty, but it doesn’t stand a chance against corporate cosmology.[2]

            We cannot begin to understand globalization, or the philosophical -isms that have accompanied it, without first understanding the Corporation. The Corporation is both the rudder and the engine of the global economy. It is still true that most business organizations, both in the United States and in other countries, are not corporations but some form of small sole proprietorship or partnership.[3] However neither the family farmer, the single motel owner, nor the restaurateur sits at the NAFTA and GATT negotiating tables. More so than any other form of business organization, it is corporations that influence, if not dictate, international trade policy, prices, and labor standards.[4]  In the United States and Western Europe in particular it is corporations that pump oil, grow food, and build homes.[5]  But while it is the Corporation that feeds us, clothes us, and warms us, it is also the Corporation that bribes governments, promotes fear, spies, operates sweatshops, and pollutes our water and air.[6]

Corporations no longer limit themselves to simply selling things.  Achieving success in the global economy now demands that corporations sell ideas and commodify meaning in addition to products, a demand which companies (and consumers) readily comply with.  The Nike “swoosh” symbol is now the most popular tattoo in North America; if we buy its product, we are inspired and inspirational.  Diesel jeans are a way to live.  Benetton is diversity, promising political and cultural tolerance; McDonalds is hip, and drinking Coke is an act of rebellion.[7]  Yet, could we argue as well that the only inspiration Nike produces is to encourage exploiting inexpensive overseas labor, or that the only cultural tolerance Benetton produces is a homogenized ideal of style borne out of painstaking cultural appropriation.  The corporate search for brand meaning had been incredibly lucrative, but also “an enormously predatory process, and a transformative process in our culture.”[8] It has penetrated into the halls of public education, with corporations providing teachers with free curriculum lauding the coal industry, bioengineered foods, and timber logging.[9] When activists have attempted to protest this process, corporations have insisted that their free-speech rights protect their efforts and allow them to engage in a wide range of questionable practices.[10]

            Corporations have also done a great deal of good. Millions of lives have been saved by drugs manufactured by pharmaceutical companies. Telecommunications giants have facilitated a revolution in human interaction. Construction firms have built damns, bridges, roads, and canals that have fostered economic development and a higher standard of living for many. But the Corporation needs no further help in spreading the message of its benevolence. Its self-promotion spills out of every newspaper, radio, and television on the planet, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Again, it is not the critics of the Corporation that set trade policy, or tax rates. Therefore, while we should acknowledge the good corporations have done, we should not be shy about confronting their more ignoble attributes. They can fend for themselves.

                It is also true that corporations come in all shapes and sizes, and that their behavior runs the gamut from pure profit engines to concerned, ecologically conscious organizations that measure success by factors other than the bottom line.[11] But in analyzing the causes and effects of globalization we reach the unfortunate conclusion that corporate selflessness and the prioritization of social justice and environmental benevolence are exceptions to, rather than the rule of, corporate behavior.[12]  Far too often corporations have asserted themselves, and more particularly their bottom lines, at the expense of larger society. This predilection was laid bare by former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Lewis F. Powell, in a memorandum he wrote to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in 1971.[13] In 6,000 words, Powell stated that the executive officers in charge of the “American System” must combat rising popular demands for change by giving less regard to a corporation’s public and social responsibilities, and more concern to “protecting and preserving the system itself,”[14] a goal accomplished through the aggressive pursuit and consolidation of political power.[15]

            When analyzing a phenomenon as variable and controversial as corporate behavior, it is important to qualify our terms, and to think succinctly. With this in mind, it is helpful to discard, or at least to tamper down, the use of Aristotelian universality. We are educated and accustomed to think of the world in terms of absolutes: democracy is good, dictatorship is bad. While handy and easy to employ, such logic all too often blurs necessary and proper distinctions that should be made when discussing any matter, especially one as prone to misunderstanding as the Corporation. Our educational and cultural mediums ceaselessly churn out the following syllogism:

Economic growth is good.

Corporations are necessary to promote economic growth.

Therefore corporations are good.

            This presumption—more accurately this series of presumptions—forces us to accept a theory of corporate behavior that is absolute and unswerving. It ignores the reality that words stand for ideas, and that the idea of the Corporation is colored with emotional and historical bias.[16] In order to escape from such bias, to be able to approach the subject with an open mind, a first item of business should be to re-order our thinking. We should reject the “dictatorship of the “is,” and embrace the openness of relativity.[17]  Reforming society’s presumptions to more closely mirror reality,

Economic growth can be good.

Corporations can be necessary to promote economic growth.

Therefore corporations can be good.

The advantage of such a reordering is that our corporate flaws become more apparent. If economic growth can be good, perhaps it can also be bad. And if the Corporation can be necessary to such growth, and to economic plenty and freedom in general, then it can also serve as a roadblock to such goals. This should be our true starting point—a recognition of how universality colors our subject with prejudice, and a solution to the obfuscation such biases causes. In analyzing where the Corporation fits into globalization, this new perspective more accurately considers what the Corporation means and does.

The Legislative and Judicial Origins of Corporate Power

            According to its most exuberant supporters, the Corporation means greatness, liberty, and plenty. “The limited liability corporation is the greatest single discovery of modern times,” proclaimed Nicholas Murray Butler. “Even steam and electricity would be reduced to comparative impotence without it.”[18] The Corporation is hailed for having played a decisive role in the ideological battles of the 20th century, battles won so handily by capitalism and its corporate sibling that some voices were even heard to proclaim that the end of history itself was upon us, an end whose portents were “liberal democracy in the political sphere combined with easy access to VCRs and stereos in the economic.”[19] Central to such contentions is the belief that the Corporation, and the neo-liberal economic policies that have gone hand-in-hand with its current success, are organic, seemingly inevitable outgrowths of human progress and economic evolution.[20] The modern-day Corporation is popularly conceived as having its roots in Roman and medieval corporate bodies, such as towns and universities, as well as in merchant and tradesman guilds.[21] The purpose of such assertions is to provide the Corporation with the popular legitimacy a distinguished historical lineage often confers.

Something that has worked for a long time is good.

The Corporation has worked for centuries.

Therefore the Corporation is good.

Unfortunately for this syllogism, it may contain a flawed reading of history. The Corporation, with all of its current legal characteristics, has not been working unchanged for a long time. The trade guilds and burial societies known to ancient Roman law did not exist under the theory of collective personality that corporations benefit from today.[22] When the idea of collectivity began to evolve in Medieval corporate bodies such as towns, its purpose was to unify individuals within an existing group, in contrast to the Corporation of today which is a purely fictional entity separate and apart from its constituent members.[23] Corporate members of these centuries past did not enjoy limited liability—arguably the single greatest factor that has allowed modern corporations to flourish—but were instead subject to joint and several liability.[24]

When the true progenitors of the modern Corporation emerged in the seventeenth century as the “chartered company,” they acted as accomplices to imperialist conquest. Acting under a charter sanctioned by the Dutch monarch, the Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie (VOC), or Dutch East India Company, defeated Portuguese forces and established itself in the Moluccan Islands in order to profit off the European demand for spices. Investors in the VOC were issued paper certificates as proof of share ownership, were able to trade their shares on the original Amsterdam stock exchange, and were explicitly granted limited liability in the company’s royal charter.[25] However, the ambitions and influence of the VOC on modern commerce paled in comparison to its more famous imperial rival, the English East India Company.

Labeled by both contemporaries and historians as “the grandest society of merchants in the universe,” the East India Company would come to symbolize the dazzlingly rich potential of the Corporation, as well as new methods of business that could be tragically brutal and exploitive.[26] On December 31, 1600, the English monarchy granted the company a fifteen-year monopoly over trade to and from the East Indies and Africa. By 1611 shareholders in the East India Company were earning an almost 150 percent return on their investment. Subsequent stock offerings demonstrated just how lucrative the Company had become; its first stock offering in 1613-1616 raised £418,000, and its second offering in 1617-1622 raised £1.6 million.[27] However, as can be seen with modern-day corporations, such tremendous profits came at a terrible environmental, cultural, and human cost. Not surprisingly, it was history’s foremost critic of the capitalist system who cast his scathing eye towards the Company’s practices in India, and sought to publicize their horrific brutality.

The profound hypocrisy and inherent barbarism of bourgeois civilization lies unveiled before our eyes, turning from its home, where it assumes respectable forms, to the colonies, where it goes naked. Did they not, in India…resort to atrocious extortion, when simple corruption could not keep pace with their rapacity? While they prated in Europe about the inviolable sanctity of the national debt, did they not confiscate in India the dividends of the rajahs, who had invested their private savings in the Company's own funds? While they combated the French revolution under the pretext of defending "our holy religion," did they not forbid, at the same time, Christianity to be propagated in India, and did they not, in order to make money out of the pilgrims streaming to the temples of Orissa and Bengal, take up the trade in the murder and prostitution perpetrated in the temple of the Juggernaut? These are the men of Property, Order, Family, and Religion.[28]

            It is important to note that the British East India Company did not only attract the ire of revolutionaries and socialists. Adam Smith, the patron saint of laisser-faire capitalism, saw in the Company the most extreme abuses of the corporate form. His main thesis on the subject posited that the Company had failed as an efficient economic producer because 1) it had moved away from its original incarnation as a trading organization, and refocused its activities on the transfer of wealth within India, and 2) Company servants simultaneously began to focus their business efforts on this lucrative transfer of wealth, and ignore more traditional commercial activities in favor of what began to resemble outright extortion.[29]  Some scholars have claimed that Smith’s critique of these practices does not expose his disdain for the joint-stock form, but rather his concern over the negative effects of monopoly as practiced by the era-specific imperial trade organizations.[30] However, recent events in corporate America may suggest that such exploitive behavior, based on a corporation forfeiting actual trade in favor of wealth transfer, is not a mere historical curiosity.[31] But more importantly for Adam Smith, the East India Company did demonstrate inherent flaws in the corporate form. The division between owners and managers in a joint-stock company, and the limited legal liability this division was based on, guaranteed that stockholders would be apathetic about a company’s activities as long as the company continued to be profitable. Just as worrisome, the laws of agency upon which the corporate form was based allowed for boards of directors to be so autonomous from and unconstrained by stockholder wishes that directors became negligent and ultimately self-interested in the management of the corporation. It is worth quoting Smith’s argument at length, in order to get a feel for just what he thought about the Corporation in its eighteenth-century form.

The trade of a joint stock company is always managed by a court of directors. This court, indeed, is frequently subject, in many respects, to the control of a general court of proprietors. But the greater part of those proprietors seldom pretend to understand anything of the business of the company, and when the spirit of faction happens not to prevail among them, give themselves no trouble about it, but receive contentedly such half-yearly or yearly dividend as the directors think proper to make to them. This total exemption from trouble and from risk, beyond a limited sum, encourages many people to become adventurers in joint stock companies, who would, upon no account, hazard their fortunes in any private copartnery…directors of such companies, however, being the managers rather of other people's money than of their own, it cannot well be expected that they should watch over it with the same anxious vigilance with which the partners in a private copartnery frequently watch over their own. Like the stewards of a rich man, they are apt to consider attention to small matters as not for their master's honour, and very easily give themselves a dispensation from having it. Negligence and profusion, therefore, must always prevail, more or less, in the management of the affairs of such a company. It is upon this account that joint stock companies for foreign trade have seldom been able to maintain the competition against private adventurers. They have, accordingly, very seldom succeeded without an exclusive privilege, and frequently have not succeeded with one.[32]

            Contemporary economists and historians have placed this criticism in its proper context by noting that Smith’s concerns applied only to joint-stock companies, which were monopoly firms chartered for a specific purpose.  They claim that at the time of Smith’s writing such companies did make sense, given the enormous risks of trading with the other side of the world.  Furthermore, they state that the more conservative and popular form of doing business, the general partnership, proved inefficient in the newly industrializing world because unlimited liability hampered a partnership’s ability to raise large amounts of capital.[33]  With such limitations encumbering older forms of business, they argue it was both necessary and proper for the Corporation to emerge as the business form that could most practically and efficiently greet and exploit the revolutionary changes of industrialization and global trade. Such arguments continue to employ universalist presumptions.

Efficiency is good

Corporations are the most efficient method of business organization

Therefore corporations are good

This presumption is loaded with ambiguities. Such supposedly normative values as “efficiency” and “good” are frequently left undefined. All too often their expression adopts the absolute legitimacy of the perfect form, when these values are in fact relative to time and place. What is considered “efficient” on Wall Street may be a rapid exploitation of oil resources in the Niger Delta, with profit maximization hinging in part on the conscious ignorance of the effect such exploitation may have on the environment and local Indigenous cultures. For the Ogoni people of the Delta, destruction of their traditional landholdings and cultural milieu is decidedly inefficient for their “good,” which is contingent on their continuation and flourishing as a people.[34] Yet despite their one-sidedness, these propositions (reflecting, at least until lately, western capitalist ideology) have dominated the history of the Corporation for the last 200 years.

By the beginning of the nineteenth century, government policy on both sides of the Atlantic began to change, reflecting the growing popularity of the proposition that corporations were riding the economic wave of the future. In 1819, the U.S. Supreme Court granted corporations a plethora of rights they had not previously recognized or enjoyed.[35] Corporate charters were deemed “inviolable,” and not subject to arbitrary amendment or abolition by state governments.  The Corporation as a whole was labeled an “artificial person,” possessing both individuality and immortality.

Near the same time, British legislation was similarly freeing the Corporation from the shackles of historical restrictions. In 1844 Parliament passed the Joint Stock Companies Act, which allowed companies to incorporate without a royal charter or an additional act of Parliament.[36] Ten years later, England enshrined into law the preeminent hallmark of modern corporate law—limited liability. Acting in response to increasing pressure from newly emerging capital interests, Parliament passed the hallmark Limited Liability Act in 1855, which established the principle that any corporation could enjoy limited legal liability on both contract and tort claims simply by registering as a “limited” company with the appropriate government agency.[37] This revolutionary switch from unlimited to limited liability prompted a writer for the English periodical Economist to write in 1855 that “never, perhaps, was a change so vehemently and generally demanded, of which the importance was so much overrated.”[38]  The glaring inaccuracy of the second part of this judgment was recognized by the same magazine more than seventy-five years later, when it claimed that, “The economic historian of the future ... may be inclined to assign to the nameless inventor of the principle of limited liability, as applied to trading corporations, a place of honour with Watt and Stephenson, and other pioneers of the Industrial Revolution.”[39]

            By the end of the nineteenth century the forces of limited liability, state and national deregulation, and vastly increasing capital markets had colluded to give birth to the Corporation in its modern-day form: as a legally immortal organization enjoying every-greater state and national deregulation.[40] In the infamous Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad decision, the then-Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court declared that corporations were recognized legal persons, protected by the equal protection clause of the fourteenth amendment.[41] This and latter rulings made clear that corporations were now free and clear of the legal shackles of personal liability and accountability. Beginning with New Jersey and Delaware, U.S. states engaged in a race to the bottom in their attempts to create more and more liberal and, therefore, more lucrative incorporation regulations.[42]  The decline of restrictions on mergers and acquisitions encouraged a wave of corporate consolidation: from 1898 to 1904, 1,800 U.S. corporations were consolidated into 157.[43]  The modern corporate era had begun.

Corporate Criminality

In his landmark and controversial study of the organization of American society, the sociologist C. Wright Mills cast his analytical gaze on what he labeled “the Corporate Rich,” who caused him to reflect that, “[t]o be truly rich is to possess the means of realizing in big ways one’s little whims and fantasies and sicknesses.”[44]  British and American legal reforms of the nineteenth century had allowed the company to evolve into the far more wealthy and powerful Corporation, whose new-found privileges and riches would make the corporate history of the twentieth century a story of both legal prosperity and illegal excess.

In the wake of Enron, WorldCom, and a host of other scandals, the modern-day corporations’ propensity to illegality has been popularly recognized and increasingly condemned.[45] In a recently published and exceptionally detailed study, Lawrence Salinger chronicled in 1000 pages the history, scope, and continuing problem of corporate criminality.[46] Some legal scholars have accounted for this illegality by positing that corporations which adhere to the strict letter of regulatory and statutory law are at a “competitive disadvantage” when compared to the businesses which choose, with varying degrees of frequency, to operate outside of the law.[47] This remains true despite the plethora of legal recourses that already exists to address corporate malfeasance, including most states’ statutory ability to suspend or repeal corporate charters.[48] Such preexisting regulatory schemes all too often fail to deter corporate criminality because corporate executives make a rational decision to skirt the law due to a low likelihood of criminal or civil sanction, versus a high potential for increased revenue and/or cost-savings.[49] One potential solution is the proposed “Corporate Death Penalty Act” (CDPA), which would mandate the involuntary dissolution of any corporate entity that commits three or more illicit acts.[50] While such measures have been labeled draconian, advocates of this reform claim it is necessary in light of increasing government hostility and/or inability to pursue meaningful prosecution of corporate criminality.[51] Yet measures that may help deter corporate wrongdoing such as the CDPA could only operate effectively in a climate of transparency and disclosure. Unfortunately, recent geo-political events have allowed corporations to erect ever-higher and more opaque walls around their finances and operations.[52]

“Free” Trade

            One of the infamous Millian “fantasies” realized by the corporate elite in the last decades has been the phenomenon of international free trade. As originally conceived by Adam Smith and David Ricardo, free trade was envisioned as the primary economic method of ensuring widespread global prosperity.[53] Smith believed that tariffs and quotas on goods acted as an impediment to world trade, while Ricardo argued that if countries were allowed to engage in unfettered trade in those goods they most excelled at producing, all trading partners would benefit in the end.[54]

            After World War II, the economic philosophies of Smith and Ricardo were advanced by the victorious Allied powers as a means of creating “a dynamic world economy in which the peoples of every nation will be able to realize their potentialities in peace, and enjoy increasingly the fruits of material progress on an earth infinitely blessed with natural riches.”[55] To this end the Bretton Woods conference of 1944 created the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) as institutional means of advancing “economic globalization—erasing economic borders to allow free flow of goods and money.”[56] However, operating under the rubric of “neoliberalism,” these policies and institutions have been criticized as masking exploitive practices of richer nations at the expense of the poorer.

            Promoted as “the mechanism to allow global trading that would see all nations prospering and developing fairly and equitably,” neo-liberalism has often epitomized the growth of corporate power and excess.[57] This has largely been due to the neoliberal preference for privatization, deregulation, and floating interest rates at the expense of social spending and government oversight. These policies, pushed by IMF and World Bank lending practices as the “Washington Consensus,” have often served the bottom line of trans-national corporations far more than the interests of individual and communities.[58]  In his widely publicized—and occasionally demonized—critiques of the Washington Consensus, Joseph Stiglitz, Chief Economist and Senior Vice-President of the World Bank from 1997-2000, has stated that,

The (Washington) consensus policies often assumed the worst about the nature and capability of governments and made that one size fit all. That resulted in a strong bias against basing policy advice on an analysis of what [economic] interventions are appropriate in what contexts or to build the institutions or capacity of states to intervene effectively.[59]

In this brief overview, Stiglitz demonstrates how a political assumption—that governments are generally poor at running their own economies—leads to political decisions to encourage public ownership societies to privatize and deregulate, which often precipitate economic crises, such as the 1994 Mexican crash[60] and the 2001 Argentine crash[61].

            These historical examples reinforce one of Stiglitz’s prime hypotheses: there is no theoretical or historical proof that applying neoliberal policies of economic globalization will lead to efficient outcomes.[62]  This conclusion has been echoed by other leading economic thinkers such as Richard Freeman, who has consistently argued that there is no empirical evidence that proves trade liberalization causes economic growth.[63]  These observations have been embraced in both the developing world, which has experienced first-hand the negative impact of neoliberal policies, and the developed western nations.[64]  France’s rejection of the European Union’s draft Constitution was interpreted as a sign that much of Europe was hesitant to adopt globalization as a blueprint for the future. As one analyst wrote,

Whether in the form of populist rhetoric, anti-globalization street protests, or the destruction of genetically modified corn fields, this activity gives the impression of a continent determined to resist the integration of global markets and cultures.[65]

Other critics on the European left have offered more strident observations. In 2004 the European United Left Group issued a “Collective Understanding of Globalization” that described an alternative view of globalization as experienced by both European and African peoples. This “understanding” castigated globalization as a process almost wholly driven by the demands of corporate capital, and one that is “inherently unequal and produces unequal benefits.”[66]

            Additional criticism has been levied against globalization over how the policies of international organizations can clash with international human rights. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has gone on record stating that WTO rules conflict with international human rights treaty provisions regarding individual and community rights to clean food, water, health, and self-determination.[67] Indeed, the UN’s concern over the issue led it to implement a “Global Compact” program in 1999, in an attempt to encourage transnational corporations to voluntarily embrace human rights, fair labor standards, clean environmental policy, and anti-corruption practices.[68]

            Despite the increased frequency and credibility of voices criticizing neoliberalism, the push toward globalization has continued on with a great deal of forward momentum. This often-myopic drive has been inspired and directed by multi-national corporations, whose agenda has centered less around tariff reduction and more on the imposition of “a complex set of non-trade rules covering investment, property rights, and domestic sovereignty that will profoundly limit the policy choices of those countries where the factories are built, the capital invested.[69]  The highly lauded and intensely vilified North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) contains provisions that, under the label of “free trade,” operate to threaten the sovereignty of signatory nations at the expense of foreign investors.[70]  The “proportional sharing” provision contained in chapter six of the agreement grants signatory nations the right to share in other country’s natural resources in perpetuity.  This allows, for example, foreign water corporations to exploit Canada’s abundant freshwater supplies regardless of domestic Canadian concerns for conservation.[71] Although the Mexican government did not agree to these provision in regards to its domestic oil production, Article 27 of the Mexican Constitution was amended to allow foreign energy companies unprecedented access to crucial subsidiary industries, such as contract labor and pipeline construction and support.[72]

            The story of NAFTA is but one example of how the corporate backers of globalization have promoted the erosion of national sovereignty at the expense of multinational corporate power.  In his excellent study of globalization and the current scope of corporate power, David Korten demonstrates how international financiers generally see the power of the Corporation as properly supplanting many of the roles formerly played by national and local governments.[73] He cites the comments of Kenichi Ohmae, managing director of the consulting firm McKinsey & Company Japan, in order to demonstrate the extent of the new multinational corporate elites’ hunger for more prestige and power.

Multinational companies are truly the servants of demanding consumers around the world…When governments are slow to grasp the fact that their role has changed from protecting their natural resource base from outside economic threats to ensuring that their people have the widest range of choice among the best and cheapest goods and services from around the world—when, that is, governments still think and act like the saber-rattling mercantilist ruling powers of centuries past—they discourage investment and impoverish their people. Worse, they commit their people to isolation from an emerging world economy, which, in turn effectively dooms them to a downward spiral of frustrated hopes and industrial stagnation.[74]

            Yet when governments follow Ohmae’s prescription, and abdicate their responsibilities to protect and defend their citizens in favor of economic development, the results have often been far from impressive. In the eighties and nineties, the government of Mexico aggressively courted multinational corporations in an effort to encourage them to build manufacturing facilities for exporting goods. These facilities, popularly known as Maquiladoras, were successful at improving the profit margin of their corporate parents, but largely unsuccessful at providing a better life for their underpaid employees. [75] This failure of globalization to raise the standard of living for its most directly affected participants has been attributed to the Mexican government’s refusal to promulgate legal and educational reforms to accompany the changing economy and better prepare its citizens for its new economic and political realities.[76]

            The problems created by Maquiladoras are but one example of globalization’s impact on national politics. In her study of corporate social responsibility, law professor Cynthia Williams describes how globalization “undermines the practical ability of nation-states to regulate the totality of activities of transnational companies in a dispassionate, objective fashion”[77]  This occurs both through corporations’ abilities to “shop around” to different countries in an effort to do business in whatever nation has the most favorable and least restrictive regulatory structure, and because corporations are increasingly able to influence what laws governments pass and enforce in the first place.[78] Williams shows how this is especially true in the areas of environmental and labor regulation (or deregulation as the case may be), when countries that contemplate strict standards and controls may suffer from this decision by missing out on a corporate presence that will seek a more libertarian environment in which to do business.[79]

            A darker picture of multinational corporations’ intent to interfere with the sovereignty and democratic operation of national governments was lately painted by former economist John Perkins.[80] Perkins writes about his work for MAIN, a pseudonym for a large U.S. energy and consulting corporation that pursued investment projects around the globe. He describes how, during his first days in training, he was told by a superior that

[t]here were two primary objectives of my work. First, I was to justify huge international loans that would funnel money back to MAIN and other U.S. companies (such as Bechtel, Halliburton, Stone & Webster, and Brown & Root) through massive engineering and construction projects. Second, I would work to bankrupt the countries that received these loans (after they had paid MAIN and the other U.S. contractors, of course) so that they would be forever beholden to their creditors, and so they would present easy targets  when we needed favors, including military bases, UN votes, or access to oil and other natural resources.[81]

It was these nefarious motivations that caused Perkins to label himself and others engaged in similar schemes as “EHMs:” economic hit men.[82]

Beyond the Balance Sheet

            Perkins’ experiences make clear that there is as aspect to Corporationism that has been historically ignored, or even perceived as unmentionable. Corporations unquestionably pursue their business models with an eye toward increasing the bottom line. But somewhere along the path to profit corporate behavior ceases to be strictly economic, and begins to encroach on other more sociological, and even metaphysical spheres of human interaction.

            In his unpublished philosophical discourse on globalization, Ron Gard makes an excellent study of the numerous aspects of “material cultural spaces” that corporations occupy, thereby affecting individuals’ lives in ways that transcend traditional economic theory.[83]  He cites Althusser and Marx for the proposition that accurate conceptions of economic production cannot be separated from the social relationships that underlie all human actions.[84]  While laws and regulations lead to relative systemic stability at any one point, significant shifts in patterns of accumulation (such as the agricultural revolution, the industrial revolution, and globalization) radically alter both cultural and individual identity.[85]  While such a conclusion may be facially obvious, Gard is careful to demonstrate how important it is to recognize that economic organization in general, and the Corporation in particular, affect not just the “superstructure” of society, but can and have fundamentally altered individual identities and even bodies. Gard recognizes this as, “[t]he near constitutive role corporations have come to play in the formulation of individual identity within contemporary hyper-commodified social conditions.”[86]

            Corporationism’s “near constitutive role” has not only affected the individual and their social space, but has also cast a shadow over society’s communal spaces. Garrett Hardin’s seminal 1968 article, The Tragedy of the Commons, examined the impact of individualism and the pursuit of self-interest on natural resources that humanity has long held to be the fair property of all.[87]  In 2004, the Program on Corporations, Law & Democracy[88] redefined the commons most relevant to today’s world as, “We the People’s promised authority to govern, the power to make decisions about matters affecting nature and society.”[89]  Seen in this light, corporations have further revolutionized social space through the “theft of our right to self-governance,” which has and continues to allow the corporate agenda to trump both ecological and sociological concerns.[90]  Aided by Supreme Court doctrine and the global trade regime inaugurated by Bretton Woods,

[t]he corporation has once again become, as in colonial times, not only a commercial or economic institution but a governing institution. The few who wield the constitutional rights of the giant corporation, along with their complicit public officials, decide policies on investment, production, technology and work; foreign and military policy; policies on energy, agriculture, pharmaceuticals, and the environment, including natural resources like water, minerals and forests; policies on social issues like welfare, health care, transportation, education and more.[91]

            A quick, cursory examination of the track record of modern life is enough to reveal the often-depressing totality of the corporation’s influence over individual space, physical communal space, and humanity’s political and philosophical inheritances.’s list of issues involving corporate power is divided into thirty-two entries, which run the gamut from war profiteering to the prison industry to human rights.[92] It is not an exaggeration to state that corporations now hold sway over tremendously important matters of life and death. Union Carbide’s employment of untested technologies and unproven designs in their chemical plant in Bhopal, India led to the gassing death of thousands in 1984.[93] Unocal’s partnership with the dictatorial State Law and Order Restoration Council of Burma allowed it to profit from the rape, intimidation, forced relocation, and slave labor of the Burmese people.[94] Numerous grassroots organizations seek to hold corporations responsible for such abuses,[95] and even entire communities try to exert what pressure they can to mitigate and alleviate the more detrimental effects of 21st century corporationism.[96] However, despite the best efforts of the dedicated and well-meaning, one must appreciate the full scope of the problem to be confronted.[97]

The “-ism” of Our Time

            This discussion began by presenting a different, non-Aristotelian interpretation of the Corporation, and its history and functioning. Despite what many in the western—and ever-more commonly eastern—world are led to believe, corporationism exists entirely in a relative value matrix. Corporations do good, but they also do bad. Corporations can help people, and can assist millions in making their lives more comfortable, but they can also wreck tremendous destruction upon the earth and all of its inhabitants. While politicians and interest groups struggle to interpret such behavior as proof of the rightness of this or that philosophy, many have failed to recognize a stunningly simple axiom; capitalism, it all of its pain and glory, is and has been for hundreds of years, the dominant ethos of the industrialized world. Accordingly,

[i]t should go without saying that it is capitalism that most defines our national character, not Christianity or the Enlightenment…As Henry Osborne Havemeyer, president of the sugar trust, acknowledged in 1899, ‘Business is not a philanthropy…I do not care two cents for your ethics. I don’t know enough of them to apply them…And as a business proposition it is right to get all out of a business that you possibly can…’  Capitalism has not believed and does not believe in the Authority of Christ’s spiritual vision nor does it feel constrained by Kant’s Enlightenment ethic, which argued that human beings should be treated as ends, not means. It can’t even be said to believe in utilitarianism’s calculating approach to benefit: ‘the greatest good for the greatest number.’  Such a precept causes good capitalists a sort of painful suspicion that they might be distracted from the immediate goal of maximizing profit.[98]


It is supremely important to remember this history in any discussion of globalization and the corporation. When one looks at the excesses, and when activists lament the destruction of Indigenous land and culture in favor of oil exploration, when protestors rage against free trade policies that destroy subsistence agriculture,[99] it is not the corporations, or even corporationism, that is to blame. Such tragedies are, quite simply, the nature of a beast created over two hundred years ago.[100]  Money, wage work, and private property rights accreted to form the system that is paving over the world. Corporations and globalization are only the latest facets of the self-interested orientation of world affairs. Thus in homage to historical and intellectual honesty, contemporary perception should be reformulated:

Globalization both creates and destroys

Globalization is but the latest manifestation of the Capitalist impulse

Therefore it is Capitalism that both creates and destroys

            The refusal to adopt this relativist interpretation has been a barrier to a more nuanced and complete understanding of the current global economic order. Many fear that such truthful interpretation of the capitalist impulse must, by default, lead to the adoption of a creaking and rickety Marxist ideology. But the creation of the aggregate identity of the proletariat still did not relieve society from the burden of money, of production, of those economic activities that have alienated people down through the ages, regardless of the political orientation of their particular national system. Profit maximization, whether measured by market share or the domino effect, still reigns supreme. What is missing, and what many resent most about globalization—even if they do not realize it—is the spiritual.

            The tyranny and totality of the Corporation is forcing more and more of us to confront the fundamentally uncomfortable question of what it means to be a human being. The triumph of capitalism and the latest “end” of economic history is forcing people to belatedly realize that the systems and philosophies that so many have defended with life and limb may not be worth such unquestioning sacrifices. For as Madison Avenue so ironically reminds us, the worst example of universalist logic is that “money is everything.” Globalization, and the increasingly precarious position of individuals in relation to corporationism, is finally forcing the world to consider seriously the relativist contention that, while money is many things, it is not every thing.[101]

The New Industrial Revolution

            The world abounds with criticism; what it sadly and sorely lacks is solutions.  Neither NAFTA, the IMF, nor the World Bank are going to go away any time soon.[102]  On the contrary, ever-expanding transportation and communications technology will ensure that the world will keep getting smaller, and communities from the smallest village to the largest nation will become increasingly dependant on each other.[103]  This reality demands that progressive activists and educators seek to modify the “anti-globalization” agenda; for in this day and age being anti-globalization is, like Kurt Vonnegut said about writing anti-war novels, as futile as being anti-glacier.[104]  Likewise, the transnational corporations that are the constituency of globalization are not likely to change their monopolist, extractive, profit-driven ways. While proposals such as the Corporate Death Penalty Act,[105] and the activities of groups such as the Program on Corporations, Law & Democracy[106] are intriguing, they will probably remain the fancy of academics and activists, and are unlikely to become economic or political reality. This is not to say that change is not needed; it is, and urgently. Methods of production, distribution, and consumption are in need of a revolutionary overhaul if humanity is to close out the twenty-first century with any degree of prosperity and ecological security. However, in order to succeed the needed revolution cannot call for the overthrown of capitalism, corporationism, or globalization, but must instead remake these institutions so that they become instruments of sustainable plenty.[107]

            Architect and industrial designer William McDonough has called for a new industrial revolution, to “crank the wheel of industry in a different direction to produce a world of abundance and good design—a delightful, safe world that our children can play in.”[108]  In his seminal work Cradle to Cradle, McDonough writes that growth and consumption are not problems in and of themselves.[109]  In an ironic interpretation of the infamous Gordon Gekko doctrine,[110] McDonough describes how human greed for new products, for building and consuming is good—greed works.  But it need not take the form of the second industrial revolution, of poorly designed factories that pump toxins into our water and air, or poorly-implemented development programs that further impoverish the communities they intend to enrich.  This “cradle to grave” product flow ensures ever-worsening pollution, expenditure of non-renewable resources, and expensive and wasteful regulation of human and industrial systems. McDonough pointedly argues that the necessity of regulations is a signal of design failure, and as an alternative he advocates perpetual “reuse:” returning consumer products to the environment as “biological nutrients,” or to industry as “technical nutrients” that can be infinitely recycled.[111]

            On the surface this may appear to be a vain attempt to swim up the stream of the “natural” course of ecological and commercial development. But upon closer examination, cycles of extraction, consumption, and waste represent a decidedly unnatural development paradigm. McDonough’s vision, and efforts to comfortably merge consumption and profit with social and environmental sustainability, have followed the path of biomimicry.  In short, biomimicry looks to natural systems of production and recycling, and seeks to design processes whereby human activities mimic those found in nature, for example, the production of “a solar cell inspired by a leaf.”[112]  Translated to a dynamic system, biomimicry:

1. Considers waste as a resource.

2. Diversifies and cooperates to fully use the habitat.

3. Gathers and uses energy efficiently.

4. Optimizes rather than maximizes.

5. Uses materials sparingly.

6. Doesn’t foul our nest.

7. Doesn’t draw down resources.

8. Remains in balance with biosphere.

9. Runs on information.

10. Shops locally.[113]

            Far from being utopian or even unnatural, such a system represents a closer, more comfortable, less violent, and far more sustainable relationship between humanity and its home. Economies incorporating such principles would herald the creation of a truly integral culture, which has been eloquently described as

…[a] new way of looking at the world. It seeks to integrate all the parts of our lives: inner and outer, masculine and feminine, personal and global, intuitive and rational, and many more. The hallmark of the integral culture is an intention to integrate-to consciously bridge differences, connect people, celebrate diversity, harmonize efforts, and discover higher common ground. With its inclusive and reconciling nature, an integral culture takes a whole-systems approach and offers hope in a world facing deep ecological, social, and spiritual crisis.[114]

            Lest we dismiss such a vision as a mere fairy tale, consider the extent to which such principles have already been put into action.  A German corporation manufactures a paint that mimics the surface of a lotus leaf, allowing buildings coated with it to stay cleaner longer, and resist mold and mildew.[115]  Aviation experts are examining the small bumps on the flippers of humpback whales, which allow the animals to glide through the water with less drag, and are trying to build them into airplane wings in order to allow for faster and more fuel-efficient flights.[116] “Green roofs” cover the corporate campuses of the Gap and Ford Motor Company, naturally manufacturing oxygen and recycling rainwater.[117] Seven World Trade Center, an office building constructed in New York City to replace one destroyed on September 11, 2001, was constructed with stone floors that generate heat in the winter and absorb heat in the summer. An atrium lobby naturally ventilates the building and filters its air, and the roof collects rainwater that reduces sewage otherwise dumped in the city’s sewer system.[118]

            Biomimicry, and William McDonough’s cradle-to-cradle production cycle, are not ventures that seek to overthrow capitalism and globalization, but rather efforts to overhaul it. Such attempts recognize that corporationism, globalization, and the profit impulse will not disappear anytime soon. In order to ameliorate the often destruction and non-sustainable by-products of these systems, we must use the tools they provide us. We must sell our way out of ecologic and demographic crises by marketing green energy, perpetually re-useable newspapers, building sewer systems that cause gardens to grow, and constructing buildings that are incorporated onto the landscape rather than blasted into it.[119]  We cannot continue to allow the things we use to transform our culture for the worse, but must instead use a new, more integral culture to transform the things we use into products that profitably and sustainably enrich our lives. We can, and we should, embrace the fecundity of the world, and in doing so we need not sacrifice the natural abundance that gives us comfort. The change required may be complex, but it is the antithesis of unnatural, and it will ensure that our economic and political systems truly serve our human needs, rather than having the needs of the systems we create define and destroy their human masters.


                [1]  Network (1976).

                [2] Cf. Andrew G. Kirk, Counter Culture Green: The Whole Earth Catalog and American                 Environmentalism (2007).

                [3] Based on tax filings, as of 2001 there were 18,328,000 sole proprietorships in the U.S., 5,136,000 corporations, and 2,132,000 “unincorporated associations.” U.S. Census Bureau, Statistical Abstract of the United States 483 (2004).

                [4] For a brief overview of Transnational economic activity in the globalizing economy, and for an encapsulation of the evolution of predominantly nation-based companies into the pattern of multinational corporations we now observe, see Cynthia A. Williams, Corporate Social Responsibility in an Era of Economic Globalization, 35 U.C. Davis L. Rev. 705 (2002) and Linda A. Mabry, Multinational Corporations and U.S. Technology Policy: Rethinking the Concept of Corporate Nationality, 87 Geo. L.J. 563, 568-576 (1999).

                Fifty-one of the top 100 economies in the world are corporations; the top 200 corporations’ combined sales are bigger than the combined economies of all countries minus the biggest nine; that is, they surpass the economies of 182 countries.  See Sarah Anderson & John Cavanagh, “Top 200: The Rise of Global Corporate Power, Global Policy Forum,   It is estimated that transnational corporations spend well over one-half as much money in advertising as the nations of the world combined spend on public education.  The structural adjustment programs (SAPs) (these tools to recolonize, promote large scale deregulation, enforce social spending cuts, lower corporate tax rates, expand the export of natural resources and agricultural products, devalue currency and remove restrictions on foreign investment) all inure to the benefit of transnational corporations.  The systems of corporate role are global finance, global industrial production, global product distribution, resource control, banking, insurance and education.  See Tony Clarke, Mechanisms of Corporate Rule, in The Case Against the Global Economy and for a Turn Toward the Local (J. Mander & E. Goldsmith, Edu. 1996).  See also Panos Mourdoukoutas, The Global Corporation:  The Decolonization of International Business (1999).

                [5] In some parts of the world, it is the oil companies that assume the neglected or corrupted responsibilities of government.  See Brian Ellsworth, The Oil Company As Social Workers, NY Times, March 11, 2004, Sec. W. p.p., 1, 7.  Sometimes the outcome of this usurpation can be violent.  See “Ken Saro-Wiwa and 8 Ojoni People Executed: Blood on Shell’s Hands,”; “Standing Before History: Remembering Ken Saro-Wiwa,” PEN World Voices Festival,

                [6] Naomi Klein, The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism (2007); Tim Shorrock, Spies for Hire: The Secret World of Intelligence Outsourcing (2008).

                [7] See Naomi Klein’s seminal work, “No Logo: Multinationals and the Appropriation of Meaning, Lapis, Issue 13.

                [8] Id.

                [9] See John F. Borowski, “Teachers Beware: Corporate America has Invaded the Schools!” CommonDreams News Center, April 17, 2003, available at

                [10] See Kasky v. Nike, Inc., 27 Cal. 4th 939, 45 P.3d 243 (Cal.2002). Nike responded to allegations that false statements made by corporate officers regarding the company’s overseas employment practices—specifically worker maltreatment—qualified as protected speech under the 1st amendment and were thus immune from California’s unfair competition and false advertising laws.  The United States Supreme Court dismissed its previously-granted Writ of Centiorari as improvidently granted.  Nike, Inc. v. Kasky, 123 S.Ct. 2554, 156 L.Ed.2d 580 (2003).

                [11] See, e.g., Ford Motor Company 2000 Corporate Citizenship Report, Culture&LEVEL3=buildingRelationships.  Of course, ecological consciousness within corporate paradigms brings along the whole notion of corporate social responsibility.  See Cynthia A. Williams, Corporate Social Responsibility in an Era of Economic Globalization, in Symposium - Corporations Theory and Corporate Governance Law, 35 U.C. Davis L.Rev. 523, 705 (2002); Symposium - Corporate Social Responsibility: Paradigm or Paradox?, 84 Cornell L.Rev. 1133-1355 (July 1999).  See also Michael Hopkins, Corporate Social Responsibility and International Development (2007).

                [12] In his article, The Rules of Corporate Behavior, Jerry Mander dispels the notion that corporations are neutral structures whose harms to people and the environment are caused by the greed and heartlessness of the leaders within the corporation.  Instead, corporations are compelled to operate by a set of rules regardless of the personal feelings of those working within the corporation.  It is these rules that produce the harmful effects of a corporate-led global economy.  The number one rule of the corporation is profit, followed by growth.  Other rules shaping corporate actions include competition and aggression, amorality, hierarchy, quantification, linearity, segmentation, dehumanization, exploitation, ephemerality, mobility, opposition to nature and homogenization.  Jerry Mander, The Rules of Corporate Behavior, in The Case Against the Global Economy and for a Turn Toward the Local (Jerry Mander & Edward Goldsmith, eds., 1996).  See also Joel Bakan, The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power (Free Press, 2004); Lawrence E. Mitchell, Corporate Irresponsibility:  America’s Newest Export (2001); David A. Westbrook, Between Citizen and State: An Introduction to the Corporation (2007); Dirk Matten, et al., Behind the Mask: Revealing the True Face of Corporate Citizenship, 45 J. Bus. Ethics 109 (2003); S. James Anaya, Indigenous Peoples in International Law (2004).

                [13] Full text available at

                [14] Id.

                [15] Dave Wheelock, “The Pencil Warrior: Lewis Powell’s Memorandum was a Blueprint for Corporate Takeover,” CommonDreams News Center, February 23, 2006, available at

                [16] See Margaret M. Bryant, Understanding English, in 18 American Speech 288 (1943).

                [17] For an analysis of the ramifications of Aristotelian universality and a proposed solution to its problems see Alfred Korzybski, Science and Sanity (New York: Institute of General Semantics 1933).

                [18] John Micklethwait & Adrian Wooldridge, The Company: A Short History of a Revolutionary Idea xxi (New York: Modern Library 2003).

                [19] Francis Fukuyama, The End of History?, The Nat’l Interest, Summer 1989, full text available at

                [20] See John Micklethwait & Adrian Wooldridge, The Company: A Short History of a Revolutionary Idea (New York: Modern Library 2003), for a clear example of such ideological commitment. Micklethwait and Woolridge claim that the company is the “basic” unit of modern society. It is significant to note how easily such a universality can percolate through elite consensus: both men are senior editors and writers for The Economist magazine.  See also David Harvey, A Brief History of Neoliberalism (2007).

                [21] Id.

                [22] Corporations, in 3 Dictionary of the Middle Ages 606 (Joseph R. Strayer ed., 1982).

                [23] Gerald E. Frug, The City as a Legal Concept, 93 Harv. L. Rev. 1059, 1089 (1980).

                [24] H. Ke Chin Wang, The Corporate Concept (Or Fiction Theory) In the Year Book Period, 58 Law Q. Rev. 498, 507 (1942).

                [25] For a good overview of the history of the chartered company as a tool and enabler of early European imperialism, see Om Prakash, European Commercial Enterprise in Pre-Colonial India (Cambridge Univ. Press, 1998).

                [26] John Keay, The Honorable Company: A History of the English East India Company xxii (MacMillan 1991).

                [27] 113.

                [28] Karl Marx, The Future Results of British Rule in India, N.Y. Daily Trib., July 22, 1853, at A2.

                [29] Gary M. Anderson & Robert D. Tollison, Adam Smith’s Analysis of Joint-Stock Companies, 90 J. Pol. Econ. 1250-1251 (1982).

                [30] Id.

                [31][31] The fall of the Enron corporation stemmed largely from the company’s attempt to create new energy trading markets, and its strategy of trading paper wealth in order to maintain the appearance of profitability. For a thorough analysis of Enron’s missteps and ultimate destruction, see Kurt Eichenwald, Conspiracy of Fools (Broadway Books, 2005).

                [32] Adam Smith, An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations 741 (Oxford, Clarendon 1976) (1776).

                [33] Id. at 45.

                [34] I would also throw the idea that corporations themselves act as nation-states.  In Nigeria, where oil production in the Delta regions is far away from the capitol, Lagos, the firm is often looked upon to provide general governmental responsibilities such as health care, clean water, sanitation.  Ike Okonta & Oronto Douglas, Where Vultures Feast: Shell, Human Rights, and the Oil in the Niger Delta (2003).

                [35] Trustees of Dartmouth College v. Woodward, 17 U.S. 518 (1819).

                [36] Sean M. O’Connor, Be Careful What You Wish For: How Accountants and Congress Created the Problem of Auditor Independence, 45 B.C. L. Rev. 741, 749 (2004).

                [37] Limited Liability Act, 18 & 19 Vict., ch. 133 (1855) (Eng.), cited in Paul G. Mahoney, Contract or Concession? An Essay on the History of Corporate Law, 34 Ga. L. Rev. 873, 892 (2000).

                [38] Quoted in Graeme G. Acheson and John D. Turner, The Impact of Limited Liability on Ownership and Control: Irish Banking, 1877-1914, School of Management and Economics, Queen’s University of Belfast, available at

                [39] Economist, Dec. 18, 1926, at 1053, as quoted in Mahoney,Contract or Concession? An Essay on the History of Corporate Law, 34 GA. L. REV. 873, at 875 (2000).

                [40] For an excellent graphical depiction of the differences between the “Classic Corporation” (before 1860) and the “Modern Corporation” (after 1900), see Ted Nace, Gangs of America: The Rise of Corporate Power and the Disabling of Democracy 71 (San Francisco, Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc. 2003).

                [41] Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad, 118 U.S. 394 (1986).

                [42] Joel Bakan, The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power 14 (New York, Free Press 2004).

                [43] Id.

                [44] C. Wright Mills, The Power Elite 163 (London, Oxford Univ. Press 1956).

                [45] For a contemporary sampling of corporate crime, see (last visited Apr. 23, 2008).

                [46] The Encyclopedia of White Collar & Corporate Crime (Lawrence M. Salinger, ed., New York, Sage 2004).

                [47] Mary Kreiner Ramirez, The Science Fiction of Corporate Criminal Liability: Containing the Machine through the Corporate Death Penalty, 47 Ariz. L. Rev. 933, 942 (2005).

                [48] 19 Am. Jur. 2d Corporations §§ 2391-2417 (2004).  See also Press Release, Humboldt County, CA Passes Measure Limiting Corporate Political Power,

                [49] Mary Kreiner Ramirez, The Science Fiction of Corporate Criminal Liability: Containing the Machine through the Corporate Death Penalty, 47 ARIZ. L. REV. 933, 942 (2005).

                [50] Id. at 973.  See also Special Report, Stand Up To Corporate Power, Yes Magazine, Fall 2007.

                [51] The Corporate Crime Reporter’s 2005 report, entitled “Crime without Conviction,” profiles thirty-four cases in which prosecutors have been confronted with evidence of corporate wrongdoing, yet have chosen to enter into either non-prosecution or deferred prosecution agreements with potential criminal companies. See Corporate Crime Reporter, Crime Without Conviction: The Rise of Deferred and Non Prosecution Agreements, Dec. 28, 2005, available at    

                [52] The non-profit group Common Cause issued a report in 2003 detailing how dozens of companies successfully lobbied Congress to insert provisions in the Homeland Security Act that deny the public information about health, safety, and environmental problems that may occur at any corporate facilities labeled “critical infrastructure” sites. See Common Cause, Agenda For Secrecy, Mar. 14, 2003, available at   

                [53] See ADAM SMITH, AN INQUIRY INTO THE NATURE AND CAUSES OF THE WEALTH OF NATIONS 741 (Oxford, Clarendon 1976) (1776). David Ricardo, Principles of Political Economy and Taxation  (New York, Prometheus 1996).

                [54] Id.  For a modern analysis of the relevance of Smith and Ricardo’s justifications for free trade (labeled “absolute advantage”), see John Cassidy, Winners and Losers: The Truth about Free Trade, The New Yorker, Aug. 2, 2004, at 26-30.

                [55] U.S. Secretary of Treasury Henry Morgenthau, opening session of the 1944 Bretton Woods Conference, as quoted in David C. Korten, The Failure of Bretton Woods, in The Case Against the Global Economy and the Turn Toward the Local 21 (1996).

                [56] Id.

                [57] For an excellent, highly detailed source that addresses neoliberalism among other contemporary issues, see also Kenneth F. Scheve and Matthew F. Slaughter, A New Deal for Globalization, Foreign Affairs 34, July/August 2007.

                [58] For an overview on the practices of trans-national corporations, and the social, environmental, and economic disturbances they often cause, see  

                [59] Joseph E. Stiglitz, Post Washington Consensus, Initiative for Policy Dialogue, at 3, available at

                [60] For a description of the role the IMF, World Bank, and Inter-American Development Bank played in the 1994 Mexico crisis, see Moisés Naím and Sebastian Edwards, Mexico 1994: Anatomy of an Emerging Market Crash (1998).

                [61] Greg Palast uses internally generated IMF and World Bank documents to demonstrate how the policies of these institutions inexorably led to 2001 crash. The neoliberal program enacted in Argentine consisted of four main steps: 1) Capital-market liberalization, 2) privatization, 3) market-based pricing, and 4) free trade. By the end of 2001, when all of these steps had been implemented, the Argentine middle class was joining the poor in rooting through the garbage for food. See Greg Palast, The Road to Ruin: The World Bank/IMF Takeover in Four Easy Steps, Harpers Mag., Mar. 2003, at 48-51.

                [62] Joseph E. Stiglitz, Post Washington Consensus, Initiative for Policy Dialogue, at 4, available at

                [63] Gordon Campbell, The Free Market Fantasy, Listener, Oct. 18, 2003, at 32.

                [64] But see Kenneth Rogoff, The IMF Strikes Back, Foreign Pol’y 39, Jan./Feb. 2003; The Case for Globalization, Economist, Sept. 23-29, 2000; Peter Marber, From Third World to First Class: The Future of Emerging Markets in the Global Economy (1999).

                [65] Philip H. Gordon, Globalization: Europe’s Wary Embrace, YaleGlobal Online, (Nov. 1, 2004), available at see Claudio Celani, London’s Democratic Party is Pro-Globalization, Anti-FDR, available at

                [66] “Globalization, Europe and Africa: Towards a Solidarity Agenda,” Meeting of the European Left Group on Globalization and Africa at the European Parliament, Apr. 15-17, 2004, available at

                [67] Leif Utne, The WTO: An Utne Field Guide, Utne Reader, Nov.-Dec. 2005, at 73.  See also “Top Reasons to Oppose WTO,”

                [68] See also S. James Anaya, Indigenous Peoples in International Law (2nd ed 2004) (See citation p. 94, note 161).

                [69] William Greider, Why the WTO is Going Nowhere, The Nation, Sept. 4, 2003) available at  

                [70] North American Free Trade Agreement between the Government of Canada, the Government of the United Mexican States, and the Government of the United States of America, full text available at BACON, THE CHILDREN OF NAFTA: LABOR WARS ON THE US/MEXICO BORDER (2004); J. Enrique Espinosa, Jaime Serra, John Cavanagh, G. Sarah Anderson, Happily Ever NAFTA?, Foreign Policy 58, Sept./Oct. 2002; See also The Ecologist Report, Globalizing Poverty: The World Bank, IMF and WTO - Their Policies Exposed, Sept. 2000; Maude Barlow, The Free Trade Area of the Americas: The Threat to Social Programs, Environmental Sustainability and Social Justice (IFG Special Report 2001).

                [71] NAFTA at Ten Series, Undermining Sovereignty and Democracy: The Ten Year Track Record of the North American Free Trade Agreement, Pub. Citizen, Jan. 2004, at 4.

                [72] Id.

                [73] David Korten, When Corporations Rule the World 127 (1995).

                [74] Id. at 129-130.

                [75] See Jen Soriano, Globalization and the Maquiladoras, Mother Jones, Nov. 24, 1999, available at see David A. Gantz, New Changes for the Maquiladoras: Legal and Policy Implications of NAFTA Article 303 for United States-Mexico Trade, 30 Denver J. Int’l. L. & Pol’y 1, 4 (2001).  

                [76] Sanford E. Gaines, NAFTA as a Symbol on the Border, 51 UCLA L. Rev. 143, 174 (2003).

                [77] Cynthia A. Williams, Corporate Social Responsibility in an Era of Economic Globalization, 35 U.C. Davis L. Rev. 705, 725 (2002).

                [78] Id.

                [79] Id. at 727-735.

                [80] John Perkins, Confessions of an Economic Hit Man (2004).

                [81] Id. at 15.

                [82] Perkins continues on to chronicle what happened to elected officials who refused to acquiesce to such corporate pressure—Perkins claims that Ecuadorian President Jaime Roldós and Panamanian President Omar Torrijos were both assassinated for refusing to allow multinational corporations to profit at the expense of their nations’ sovereignty.

                [83] Ron Gard, Bodies, Corporate and Corporeal: Understanding How the Forces of Globalization are Dematerializing Our Subjectivity (unpublished substantial paper, U. of Ariz. Fall 2005) (on file with Indigenous Peoples Law & Policy Program, U. of Ariz.).

                [84] Id. at 24.

                [85] Id. at 29.

                [86] Id. at 68.

                [87] Garrett Hardin, The Tragedy of Commons, 162 Science 1243-1248 (1968), available at

                [88] See

                [89] Mary Zepernick, The Impact of Corporations on the Commons, Address at the Harvard Divinity School’s Theological Opportunities Program, Oct. 21, 2004, available at

                [90] Id.

                [91] Id.

                [92] See

                [93] Chemical Industry Archives, The Inside Story:  18th Anniversary of Bhopal Disaster, Dec. 10, 2002, available at

                [94] Lawrence E. Mitchell, Corporate Irresponsibility: America’s Newest Export 22 (2001).

                [95] See The Centre for Corporate Accountability at, Corporate Accountability Project at, Corporate Accountability International at, Global Exchange at

                [96] E.g. Berkeley, CA, City Council, “Resolution on Corporate Constitutional Rights,”; Thomas Linzey & Anneke Campbell, Be the Change: How to Get What You Want in Your Community (2009).

                [97] William Finnegan, The Economics of Empire, Harper’s Mag., May 2003, at 41.

                [98] Curtis White, The Spirit of Disobedience: An Invitation to Resistance, Harper’s Mag., Apr. 2006, at 32.

                [99] See Paul Hawken, Remembering the Battle of Seattle, ODE 58, June 2007.

                [100] See Arnie Cooper, Everybody Wants To Rule The World, The Sun 5, September 2007 (Interview with David Korten).

                [101] Cf. Carleen Hawn, The Gospel According to Adam Smith, ODE 39, June 2008; William J. Baumol, Robert E. Litan, and Carl J. Schramm, Good Capitalism/Bad Capitalism and The Economics of Growth and Prosperity (2007).

                [102] Such international organizations are currently engaged in a variety of projects.  See, e.g., Ngaire Woods, The Globalizers: The IMF, The World Bank, And Their Borrowers (2006); Michael Blim, Equality and Economy: The Global Challenge 151 (2005) (discussing microlending); Michael Davenport: Investment Incentives in Commonwealth Developed Countries and the WTO (2003).

                [103] See Alan Greenspan, Globalization and Innovation, Speech at the Conference on Bank Structure and Competition, Chicago, IL (May 6, 2004) available at

                [104] Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse-Five 4 (1999).

                [105] Mary Kreiner Ramirez, The Science Fiction of Corporate Criminal Liability: Containing the Machine through the Corporate Death Penalty, 47 ARIZ. L. REV. 933, 942 (2005).

                [106] See

                [107] See Peter Barnes, Capitalism 3.0 (2006); Paul Hawken, Amory Lovins, & L. Hunter Lovins, Natural Capitalism:  Creating the Next Industrial Revolution (1999); Paul Hawken, The Ecology of Commerce:  A Declaration of Sustainability (1993); Paul Hawken, N30: Skeleton Woman in Seattle, Orion, Spring 2000.  See also Ernst Ulrich Weizsacker, Amory B. Lovins, L. Hunter Lovins, Factor Four:  Doubling Wealth, Halving Resource Use (1997); Stewart Brand, The Clock of the Long Now: Time and Responsibility (1999); Ethical Guidelines for the Norwegian Government Petroleum Fund,; The Most Sustainable Corporations in the World,; Mark B. Baker, Tightening the Toothless Vise: Codes of Conduct and the American Multinational Enterprise, 20 Wis. Int’l. L.J. 89 (2001); United Nations Corporate Social Responsibility,$30001.   See also Kalle Lasn, The Meme Machine, available at text at Conserve Communities/Solutions.

                [108] William McDonough, Designing the Future, Newsweek, May 16, 2005, available at

                [109] William McDonough & Michael Braungart, Cradle to Cradle:  Remaking the Way We Make Things (North Point Press 2002).

                [110] Wall Street (20th Century Fox 1987).

                [111] William McDonough & Michael Braungart, Cradle to Cradle:  Remaking the Way We Make Things (North Point Press 2002).

                [112] See Janine Benyus, Biomimicry:  Innovation Inspired by Nature (1997).

                [113] “Ecosystem Dynamics,”, (link is broken)

                [114]] David C. Korten, The Post-Corporate World 215 (Berrett-Koehler Publishers 1999).

                [115] Douglas Gantenbein, Back to the Drawing Board, Plenty, Apr.-May 2006, at 64.

                [116] Id. at 66.

                [117] William McDonough & Michael Braungart, Cradle to Cradle:  Remaking the Way We Make Things (North Point Press 2002).

                [118] Robin Pogrebin, How Green is My Tower?, N.Y. Times, Apr. 16, 2006, at 26.

                [119] See Green Business Guide (2008) (unpublished manual, available at