"The Corporation" is a classic Canadian documentary exploring how we ended up with business entities that are legally bound to place "profits before people." How are we to assess a corporation's "personality"?
The documentary concentrates on North American corporations, particularly those from the United States.
The film was written by Joel Bakan and directed by Mark Achbar and Jennifer Abbott. It is critical look at the modern-day "limited liability" corporation, considering its legal status as a class of PERSON. And it evaluates its behavior towards our society and the world at large the way a psychiatrist examines a patient.
The exploration goes through specific examples. It has been shown worldwide -- on TV, DVD, file sharing, and free downloading. Bakan wrote a book, The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power, during the filming of this documentary.
They gained personhood as a result of an 1886 case in the US Supreme Court. Chief Justice Morrison R. Waite referred to corporations as "persons" having the same rights as human beings based on the 14th Amendment to the US Constitution. The film's assessment is effected via the diagnostic criteria in psychology's Bible (DSM-IV).
FBI consultant and professor of psychology Robert Hare, Univ. of British Columbia, compares the profile of the contemporary profitable business corporation to that of a clinically-diagnosed PSYCHOPATH.
The film is in vignettes examining and criticizing corporate business practices. It establishes parallels between the way corporations are systematically compelled to behave and the DSM-IV's symptoms of psychopathy, i.e. callous disregard for the feelings of other people, the incapacity to maintain human relationships, reckless disregard for the safety of others, deceitfulness (continual lying to deceive for profit), the incapacity to experience guilt, and the failure to conform to social norms and respect for the law.
The topics covered include:
- the Business Plot in 1933 where the popular Gen. Smedley Butler exposed a corporate plot against US Pres. Franklin Roosevelt
- the tragedy of the commons
- Pres. Dwight D. Eisenhower's warning people to beware of the rising "military-industrial complex"
- economic externalities
- suppression of an investigative news story about bovine growth hormone on a Fox News Channel affiliate TV station
- the invention of the soft drink Fanta by the Coca-Cola Company due to the trade embargo on Nazi Germany
- the alleged role of IBM in the Nazi holocaust (see IBM and the Holocaust)
- the Cochabamba protests of 2000 brought on by the privatization of Bolivia's municipal water supply by the Bechtel Corporation
- general themes of corporate social responsibility
- the notion of "limited liability"
- the corporation as a psychopath
- and the corporation as a person.