Douglas Rushkoff: Life, Inc. – The Logic of Corporatism Quote

Art by Mark Bryan

Corporatism didn’t evolve naturally. The landscape on which we are living—the operating system on which we are now running our social software—was invented by people, sold to us as a better way of life, supported by myths, and ultimately allowed to develop into a self-sustaining reality. It is a map that has replaced the territory.

Its basic laws were set in motion as far back as the Renaissance; it was accelerated by the Industrial Age; and it was sold to us as a better way of life by a determined generation of corporate leaders who believed they had our best interests at heart and who ultimately succeeded in their dream of controlling the masses from above. We have succumbed to an ideology that has the same intellectual underpinnings and assumptions about human nature as—dare we say it—mid-twentieth-century fascism. Given how the word has been misapplied to everyone from police officers to communists, we might best refrain from resorting to what has become a feature of cheap polemic. But in this case it’s accurate, and that we’re forced to dance around this “F word” today would certainly have pleased Goebbels greatly.

The current situation resembles the managed capitalism of Mussolini’s Italy, in particular. It shares a common intellectual heritage (in disappointed progressives who wanted to order society on a scientific understanding of human nature), the same political alliance (the collaboration of the state and the corporate sector), and some of the same techniques for securing consent (through public relations and propaganda). Above all, it shares with fascism the same deep suspicion of free humans.

And, as with any absolutist narrative, calling attention to the inherent injustice and destructiveness of the system is understood as an attempt to undermine our collective welfare. The whistle-blower is worse than just a spoilsport; he is an enemy of the people.

Unlike Europe’s fascist dictatorships, this state of affairs came about rather bloodlessly—at least on the domestic front. Indeed, the real lesson of the twentieth century is that the battle for total social control would be waged and won not through war and overt repression, but through culture and commerce. Instead of depending on a paternal dictator or nationalist ideology, today’s system of control depends on a society fastidiously cultivated to see the corporation and its logic as central to its welfare, value, and very identity.

That’s why it’s no longer Big Brother who should frighten us—however much corporate lobbies still seek to vilify anything to do with government beyond their own bailouts. Sure, democracy may be the quaint artifact of an earlier era, but what has taken its place? Suspension of habeas corpus, surveillance of citizens, and the occasional repression of voting notwithstanding, this mess is not the fault of a particular administration or political party, but of a culture, economy, and belief system that places market priorities above life itself. It’s not the fault of a government or a corporation, the news media or the entertainment industry, but the merging of all these entities into a single, highly centralized authority with the ability to write laws, issue money, and promote its expansion into our world.

Then, in a last cynical surrender to the logic of corporatism, we assume the posture and behaviors of corporations in the hope of restoring our lost agency and security. But the vehicles to which we gain access in this way are always just retail facsimiles of the real ones. Instead of becoming true landowners we become mortgage holders. Instead of guiding corporate activity we become shareholders. Instead of directing the shape of public discourse we pay to blog. We can’t compete against corporations on a playing field that was created for their benefit alone.1

1. Rushkoff, Douglas (2009-05-27). Life Inc.: How the World Became a Corporation and How to Take It Back (Kindle Locations 277-306). Random House Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

6 thoughts on “Douglas Rushkoff: Life, Inc. – The Logic of Corporatism Quote

  1. “Consider the matter of democracy. Power is shifting into the hands of huge transnational
    corporations. That means away from parliamentary institutions. Furthermore, there’s a structure
    of governance that’s coalescing around these transnational corporations. This is not unlike the
    developments of the last couple of hundred years, when national states more or less coalesced
    around growing national economies. Now you’ve got a transnational economy, you’re getting a
    transnational state, not surprisingly. The Financial Times described this as a de facto world
    government, including the World Bank and the IMF, and GATT, now the World Trade
    Organisation, the G7 Executive, and so on. Transnational bodies remove power from
    parliamentary institutions. It’s important to keep the technocrats insulated Ù that’s World Bank
    lingo; you want to make sure you have technocratic insulation. The Economist magazine
    describes how it’s important to keep policy insulated from politics.

    Power is drifting not only to corporations but into the structures around them all of them
    completely unaccountable. The corporation itself has got a stricter hierarchy than exists in any
    human institution. That’s a sure form of totalitarianism and unaccountability the economic
    equivalent of fascism which is exactly why corporations are so strongly opposed by classical
    -Chomsky. How free is the free market.

    Of course, Mussolini made much the same point himself when he insisted that fascism should properly be understood as Corporatism: the merging of corporation and state power.


    • What I hate about Chomsky is that he’s supposedly a radical libertarian leftist, but has situated himself in a very cushion MIT position for most of his life. What has he really done, truly? Even his idea of ‘Power’ in the above passage, as if power were some abstract commodity that could drift to corporations… power is and has always been in the workers, but we are unable or unwilling to take that power and channel it for our own ends and through laziness and propaganda allowed both State and Corporate ideology to persuade us otherwise…. we are already in a fascist world, we just don’t want to accept that truth, so we continue to live under the illusion of the mythology of freedom. We speak of ‘Control Society’ instead of fascism… why? Is not the U.S.A. today a fascist country that has convinced its citizens otherwise? Over the past two hundred years our government has gone from a Republic that was supposedly leaning toward democracy and into a centralized apparatus of bureaucratic and administrative idiocy with a Security and Military-Industrial Complex spread across the planet larger than the Roman Empire ever thought… what have we allowed our leaders here in the U.S.A. to do to us? And, why do we continue to allow it? Obama himself reneged on most of the major promises to the Left himself…. disillusioned? You bet I am…. we seem to be sleepwalking through an open warzone in this country. And all the while we have an Narco-Entertainment complex that pacifies us and keeps our minds off the real issues… controlled through sex and games, Reality TV, Sports, etc. – that’s how the apocalypse goes down here in America. Paranoia is our bread and butter, conspiracy theory for the masses, and academic bullshit artists for the supposed intellectual elites. Yes, we’re in fine shape! We even have hit cable series for Doomsters: a series that will teach you how to survive the next apocalypse! You name it we’ve got it… In the good old U.S. of A. Reality TV is a production system for fictional lives… American Idols: the next great Michael Jackson staged as a plugged text message democracy… Ghosts: the major series of late have been the discovery of ghosts in every home in America… the mighty dead have returned and they are pissed… yes, ladies and gentleman, welcome to the American Apocalypse where the Psychopathic Criminology of late night cable tv HBO, Cinemax, etc. enjoy more popularity than the Love Channels… we love our insanity…


      • I agree with your concerns on Chomsky. For the most part, as an academic who periodically makes speeches and announcements, he reminds me of people in the UK like Tony Benn and Tariq Ali: venerable figures that get wheeled out at rallies so the assembled can nod in agreement to some trite leftist phrases about freedom and equality. Again, I agree with his simplistic ideas about power and the need only to express the facts to people, as if facts could penetrate the constructed delusions of consensus. Of course, we ought to side with Frenchman in the Foucault-Chomsky debate.
        At the same time though, Chomsky does something that the majority of left intellectuals tend to forget to do: communicate beyond the academic discourse. He is also often alone among anarchists in admitting that an immediate abolition of the state, even if it was possible, is not desirable right now. What I like then is just his pragmatism, not his content so much.

        We’re not much different in the UK. We already ave much of the elements you point out, or are subsumed halfway between American and European aspects of it, whilst dismantling all elements of the social democratic post-war negotiated welfare (itself a recuperation of labour) and the emergence of a kind of soft gulag in the workfare programme.


  2. In fact the real problem with Chomsky is that while he has useful elements they are increasingly aligned to a liberal rather than radical project, witnessed in his calls for using the state as a bulwark against corporations.


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