Volume , Number 0
Silja j.a. Talvi
Silja j.a. Talvi
Stephen R. Shalom
Nonviolence Versus Capitalism
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Trajectory of Change
Jan knippers Black
Eleanor J. Bader
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Apex Press, 2001; 336 pp.
Review by Tom Stephens
The members of POCLAD, the Program on Corporations, Law & Democracy, have compiled a superb book of essays from the late 1990s, entitled Defying Corporations, Defining Democracy, for people to read and for transnational corporations to suffer such consequences. The taboo subject of the book is what contributor Greg Coleridge succinctly describes as the illegitimate authority of corporations to govern, and the dangers this poses to democracy. For political activists in the service of social justice, labor rights, environmental quality, and peace, its a tremendous breath of fresh air.
If you read this book, youll learn from corporate anthropologist Jane Anne Morris that social justice activists too often follow the gambling addiction model, doing the same old thing over and over again and fooling ourselves that it might work next time, largely because our minds have been colonized by corporations. How much more comfortable, to respond to every e-mail petition sent your way, write your congressional representatives and local newspaper editors regularly, and send checks to NGOs, rather than reading and learning about the unsightly transnational 900- pound gorillas running our world into the ground.
Richard Grossman is a co-founder of POCLAD, and author or co-author of one-third of the 72 essays in the book. If you read this book, he may undermine most of what you thought you knew about regulatory and administrative laws (what he calls a stacked deck, granting corporations legal clout while disadvantaging peoples, communities and nature). Grossman also describes some of the broadest consequences, when activists toe the line of managerial prerogative and other claimed corporate property rights, which may fundamentally change the way you think about the nature of the society we live in and what should be done about it: Today corporations exercise governing roles as they direct massive amounts of capital, control jobs, production, trade, technology and property. They dominate our elections, write and pass our laws, educate our judges in jurisprudence, shape public policy debate.
The essays are grouped into eight parts, from Starting Point to Point of Departure. There is considerable overlap, and repeated discussion of a few controversial and interrelated concepts, such as corporate personhood under the Fourteenth Amendment, the judicial transformation of American law to favor property rights in the late 19th century, and the key relationship between regulating corporate behavior and defining corporations. Amid this flowering of history, theory, and the politics of law, the editor has tried to organize the diverse viewpoints and subject matter in a logical progression from abstract ideas to concrete actions.
This book contains over 300 pages of critical analysis regarding corporate history and ideology, a wealth of thought-provoking information, and the essential gist of the POCLAD program. Some of the most important essays include:
- Taking Care of Business; Citizenship and the Charter of Incorporation, by Richard L. Gross- man and Frank T. Adams, is an extended excerpt from the authors 1993 pamphlet of the same name
- Corporations and the Public Interest; The Development of Property Concepts in the U.S. Just Us System, by Karen Coulter, does an outstanding job of reframing concepts like property, which are usually taken for granted, although in reality their meaning and importance are fundamental, contested legal and political issues for generation after generation
- Revoking the Corporation, by Richard L. Grossman, sounds a call for citizen authority over the subordinate entity which is the modern, giant corporation.
- Asserting Democratic Control Over Corporations; A Call to Lawyers, by Richard L. Grossman and Ward Morehouse, runs down some of the prominent corporate legal doctrines that have enabled corporate domination of democracy, and calls on peoples lawyers to strategically resist corporate harm-doing in ways which begin to weaken all corporations
- Some Lessons Learned, by POCLAD, condenses their several years of education and agitation into seven broad points underlying all the essays in the book
The whole project stems from a sophisticated understanding of power, what it is, where it comes from, how to get, keep and use it, and how important it is, that is too often neglected by social justice activists and our organizations. It comes down to who has the effective power to define what is important, and therefore to decide what will be done, in an astonishingly broad array of cultural, economic, political, and legal contexts.