Anti-corporate activism

Anti-corporate activists (see activism) believe that the rise of large business corporations is posing a threat to the legitimate authority of nation states and the public sphere. These corporations, they believe, are invading people's privacy, manipulating politics and governments, and creating false needs in consumers. The sort of evidence that supports this belief includes invasive advertising (adware, spam, telemarketing, etc.), massive corporate campaign contributions in democratic elections, interference in the policies of sovereign nation states (see, for example, Ken Saro-Wiwa), and endless global news stories about corporate corruption (Martha Stewart and Enron, for example). Anti-corporate protesters would suggest that corporations answer only to shareholders, giving human rights and other issues almost no consideration. In practice, the management of a limited company do have primary responsibility to their shareholders, since any philanthropic activities that do not directly serve the business could be deemed to be a breach of trust. This sort of financial responsibility means that multi-national corporations will usually pursue strategies which intensify labour and attempt to reduce costs. For example, they will (either directly, or through subcontractors) attempt to find low wage economies with laws which are conveniently lenient on human rights, the environment, trade union organization and so on (see, for example, Nike, Inc.).

The defenders of corporations would argue that governments do legislate in ways that restrict the actions of corporations (see Sarbanes-Oxley Act) and that lawbreaking companies and executives are routinely caught and punished. In addition from the perspective of business ethics it might be argued that chief executives are not inherently more evil than anyone else and so are no more likely to attempt unethical or illegal activity than the general population. Nonetheless, the structures of ] and the financial imperatives of capitalism seem to result in forms of behaviour which are often damaging for local communities, employees and the environment.

Anti-corporate activists may often ally themselves with other activists, such as environmental activists or animal-rights activists in their condemnation of the practices of modern organizations such as the McDonald's Corporation (see McLibel).

In recent years, there have been an increasing number of books (Klein 2000 being the best example) and films (The Corporation ( which have (to a certain extent) 'sold' an anti-corporate politics. There has also been a certain confusion of anti-corporate politics with a more generalised anti-globalisation politics.

A well-known fictional anti-corporate activist is Larry Finkelstein on the TV show Dharma & Greg.



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