Bakan is an author, filmmaker and a professor of law at the University of British Columbia. His work examines the social, economic, and political dimensions of law.
Chomsky is an internationally renowned linguist, philosopher, cognitive scientist, historian, logician, social critic, and political activist. He is considered by some to be the “father of modern linguistics.”
Bakan’s work does not seek to vilify or analyze the people who run corporations or work for them. He critiques the institutional nature of the corporation as legally created, saying it is an invention that has been imbued with characteristics that, if observed in a human being, would swiftly be diagnosed as psychopathic.
This view initially seemed a little extreme to me, as I built my business around representing successful corporations and never saw anything remotely like this in the companies I worked with. But then Bakan outlined the characteristics of a psychopath: including callous unconcern for the feelings of others; incapacity to maintain enduring relationships; reckless disregard for the safety of others; deceitfulness, repeated lying and cheating people for profit; incapacity to experience guilt; failure to conform to social norms with respect to lawful behavior. Looking at this list in relation to the excesses on Wall Street, the guiles and machinations of big banks, the environmental record of oil and gas companies, the misinformation campaigns surrounding climate change and the lies and lack of guilt in the tobacco industry, I began to see Bakan’s point.
“Not only have we created an institution in the image of a psychopathic human being, but we’ve actually conferred personhood on it . . . and as a society we’ve given it immense power to govern every aspect of our lives,” Bakan said. Increasingly, corporations have limited legal obligation to be concerned about the environment but are compelled to do what’s best for their shareholders, whether that means investing to ensure a favorable scientific environment, favorable public opinion environment or favorable political environment so that they can lower production costs and increase profits.
That’s not a conspiracy, Bakan stressed. “That’s just the logical dynamic of a particular institution.”
Read the full excerpt on Alternet: Noam Chomsky and Joel Bakan on the Psychopathic Propaganda Machines We Call Corporations
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