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a film by Mark Achbar, Jennifer Abbott & Joel Bakan

The Corporation (Mark Achbar, Jennifer Abbott and Joel Bakan, 2004) is a Canadian docu-
mentary about the institution of the corporation. One hundred and fifty years ago, the corpo-
ration was a relatively insignificant entity. Today, it is a vivid, dramatic and pervasive presence
in all our lives. Like the Church, the Monarchy and the Communist Party in other times and
places, the Corporation is today’s dominant institution.

The film is a critical exposé of the corporation’s inner workings, history, controversial impacts
and possible future. Featuring a range of interviews with a variety of participants, The Cor-
poration charts the spectacular rise of the institution whose overriding mission is to make a

profit. However, the corporation’s profit-driven mission predisposes it toward characteristics

that, in a person, would be considered objectionable or even dangerous.

But in exploring and exposing the power and influence of the corporation this documentary
also seeks to provide positive messages of hope, and suggest ways that people can wrest
control of their lives from this institution.

Using The Film In Before Watching The Film of for-profit corporations or com-
The Classroom panies is that they provide their
The film is about ‘corporations’. What shareholders with a right to partici-
The Corporation is a is a corporation? pate in the profits (by dividends)
stimulating and challenging without any personal liability
documentary suitable for 1 Look at this definition and make because the company absorbs the
senior secondary students of: sure you understand each of the entire liability of the organization.
elements. 2 What does this mean for the own-
English • A corporation is: ers of a corporation if that corpora-
• a legal entity, tion causes harm to others?
Civics and Citizenship • • allowed by legislation in a 3 Some well-known examples of
state, corporations are Nike, National
Economics • • which permits a group of peo- Bank, McDonald’s and Virgin,
ple, as shareholders (for-profit although there are countless oth-
Legal Studies • companies) or members (non- ers. List some major corporations
profit companies), that have an influence on your life.

Politics • • to create an organization, Consider such things as what you

• which can then focus on pursu- eat, wear, read, watch or listen to,
Ethical, Moral and • ing set objectives, how you travel, etc. From this list
Religious Studies . • and exercise legal rights, which decide on the five corporations
are usually only reserved for that most influence your
Australian Studies • individuals, such as to sue and life.
be sued, own property, hire 4 What is your image of
Business Studies • employees or loan and borrow a corporation? Look at
money. your top five list and
Media Studies • A corporation is also known as a describe each in as
‘company’. The primary advantage few words as possible. 3
Do not say what they do (‘Nike • Those that are partisan and
............ 1
produces sports clothing and propagandist, seeking to have
equipment’, but rather your image you accept their point of view,
of what they are: ‘Nike to me rep- and selecting and manipulating
resents ...’) the nature and type of informa-
............. 2 Chances are you used human tion that is presented.
characteristics to describe them Is there anything wrong with mak-
(‘cool’, ‘fashionable’, ‘greedy’, ing partisan films? Must documen-
‘manipulative’, ‘caring for the taries always be fair and balanced?
............. 3 environment’, or whatever). This is Discuss your views.
actually a key point of The Corpo- 7 Read this quotation from one of
ration—that legally corporations the filmmakers, and decide into
are ‘persons’, and therefore we which of the above categories The
............. 4 need to ask: ‘What sort of per- Corporation best fits.
sons are they?’ Watch the film to When it comes to the fate of the
explore this question fully. Earth, I don’t believe in legitimiz-
5 The film you are about to watch is ing destructive forces by validating
a documentary. Define what you their perspective in a ‘balanced’
............. 5 think a documentary is. TV-style journalism format. But I
6 Documentaries can be placed into am interested in and, frankly, fasci-
three broad categories: nated by the advocates of eco-
• Those that inform by the pres- nomic globalization and corporate
............. 6 entation of facts in a neutral dominance. It is essential, in a pro-
way. gram of corporate literacy, to hear
• Those that seek to persuade from them, and to understand their
you to accept their point of view perspective. Reform comes from
............. 7 after a balanced and fair presen- within as well as without, which is
tation of all points of view. why The Corporation also tries to

............. 8

Who’s Who in the Film

............. 9 1: Jane Akre, Whistle-blowing uses deception to extract Convinced a bank, First USA,
Fox reporter tried to caution information from corporate to pay both their $40,000
public about synthetic hormone executives • 6: Elaine Bernard, tuitions • 11: Jonathon Ressler,
rBGH used in cows. Fired for Director, Labor Program, CEO, Big Fat Inc. Undercover
her efforts, she sued Fox, Harvard Business School. marketing specialist. Compares
........... 10 won, then lost on appeal Morals over markets. ‘We need people influenced by his
on a technicality • 2: Ray to determine certain things campaigns to ‘roaches’ taking
Anderson, CEO Interface, shouldn’t be bought and sold.’ the ‘brand bait’ and spreading it
world’s largest commercial • 7: Edwin Black, Author, IBM • 12: Jeremy Rifkin, President,
carpet manufacturer. Had an and the Holocaust. Contends Foundation on Economic
........... 11 environmental epiphany and IBM’s exclusive technology Trends. Author of 16 books
reorganized his 1.4 billion dollar accelerated the Holocaust on the impacts of technology.
company • 3: Joe Badaracco, with the knowledge of its CEO Culture is primary • 13: Anita
Prof. Of Business Ethics, and other employees • 8: Roddick, Founder, The Body

Harvard Business School. In all Carlton Brown, Commodities Shop. Pioneer of the ‘socially
........... 12 his years teaching business, Broker. Says gold traders responsible’ corporation
was never asked so pointedly had one thing on their minds [appears only in TV version] •
what a corporation is • 4: as the twin towers burned • 14: Dr Vandana Shiva, Physicist,
Maude Barlow, Chairperson, 9: Noam Chomksy, Institute ecologist, feminist and seed
Council of Canadians, Professor MIT. ‘When you look activist. ‘In every period of
........... 13 privatization critic. ‘We must at a corporation, just like when history ... eventually, when you
re-define our relationship you look at a slave owner, you call a bluff, the tables turn.’
to nature, corporations and want to distinguish between the
controlling institutions’ • institution and the individual.’
5: Mark Barry, Competitive • 10: Chris Barrett & Luke
........... 14 Intelligence Professional—i.e. McCabe, First ‘corporately-
4 a corporate spy. Without guilt, sponsored’ university students.
expose the institutional constraints of the corporation. It became a • The film also makes a point about
many good people working inside Rorschach Test for those individu- corporations and ‘externali-
big corporations struggle with. als; they would project their value ties’—that is, the unintended effect
Mark Achbar system onto their metaphor. The of actions by two parties on third,
CEOs use positive imagery of unconnected, parties. What is
8 In viewing this type of documen- football teams, families working to- that?
tary you need to be aware that gether, eagles soaring. The critics • Why is this a problem?
you are watching a film aimed to have Frankenstein, and many more • How is it connected to the nature
persuade. Discuss the ways in monsters! of the corporation as a ‘person’?
which a filmmaker can influence Mark Achbar
your response to and acceptance One of the features of The Corporation
of such a film. Does this change your impression is its imaginative use of visual material
of the person who used the eagle to promote its concerns in an inter-
Exploring And Responding To metaphor? esting and arresting way. Look at the
The Corporation 9 Why would the filmmakers have discussion in this section of the film of
chosen to present this person in ‘externalities’—the idea that the activi-
Introduction that way? ties of the corporation have effects
10 The last few metaphors are all neg- and impacts on innocent third parties.
This section introduces the audience ative ones. Why do you think the The image associated with this is a pie
to information about the origin of cor- filmmakers would have grouped fight.
porations and some images associ- these negative metaphors together
ated with them. and placed them last? • What message about externalities
is given by the use of such an im-
A key element in the opening scenes A Legal ‘Person’ age?
of the film is the use of the ‘bad apple’ • Why might this type of image have
metaphor. The film stresses that corporations been used at this point? Consider
have not always existed. They can be if it is connected to the comments
1 What does this metaphor usually dated back prior to the seventeenth of a corporation defender, Sir Mark
mean? century in Europe as not-for-profit Moody-Stuart, in this section.
2 Why do you think the filmmakers entities created to build institutions
have invoked it at the start? such as universities and hospitals Case Histories—the Pathology
3 Do you think that the constant for the public good. However, in the Of Commerce
stressing of this metaphor has seventeenth century making money
an effect on its usual mean- became a key focus. Their wealth was In this key section The Corporation
ing—changing it from referring to used to finance European colonial addresses its major argument and
the ‘bad apple’ as the exception to expansion—a good example is the associates the corporation with an
the ‘bad apple’ as all-pervasive or East India Company, which was set up anti-social personality. If the corpo-
even the norm? Discuss this idea. in 1600, and at the height of its power ration can be viewed legally as ‘a
4 We also see a number of people influenced over a fifth of the world’s person’ then why not socially? Actual
expressing their own metaphors population. internationally recognized diagnostic
for the corporation. List the differ- criteria are used to judge the behav-
ent metaphors used. The Corporation locates the begin- iour of corporations and the picture
5 What are some of the different ning of the industrial age as the origin that emerges is one of the corporation
points of view expressed through of the modern corporation. Originally as self-interested, inherently amoral,
these metaphors? a corporation existed as an associa- callous and deceitful; it breaches so-
6 The first five metaphors are all tion of people to carry out a specific cial and legal standards to get its way;
positive. Consider the metaphor of function as defined by the state that it does not suffer from guilt, yet it can

the eagle. The presenter creates a provided the charter, or authorization mimic the human qualities of empathy,
powerful, noble, positive and com- and set of limits, on that corporation. caring and altruism. Four case studies,
pelling image. What impression A key change was the decision in the drawn from a universe of corporate
does this create of the presenter? United States in 1886 that a corpora- activity, are used to demonstrate harm
How do the filmmakers undermine tion could be considered, in a legal to workers, human health,
that image? sense, as a person. animals and the biosphere.
7 Read this information about the
making of the film. • Why was this so significant? Workers
[W]hen we were doing the inter- • The film argues that the corpora-
views [w]e asked every CEO and tion has one overriding obligation, The film provides four
every critic for their metaphor what is it? examples of corporations 5
............ 1

............. 2

............. 3

............. 4
behaving badly towards workers. of others
Briefly summarize these examples: □ Deceitfulness: repeated lying and
conning others for profit
• Lay-offs □ Failure to conform to social norms
............. 5 • Union busting with respect to lawful behaviour
• Factory fires □ Incapacity to experience guilt
• Sweatshops □ Incapacity to maintain enduring
............. 6 1 What is the point being made □ Reckless disregard for the safety
about Kathy Lee Gifford? of others
2 The film presents the first item
on its ‘Personality Diagnostic Human health
............. 7 Checklists’. Which of the following
features or characteristics does 3 What examples does the film pro-
it claim are established by the vide to establish that the corpora-
corporation’s behaviour towards tion willingly engages in behaviour
workers? that is harmful to human health?
............. 8
□ Callous unconcern for the feelings 4 What element of personality in

............. 9 Who’s Who in the Film

1: Peter Drucker, The first Goodyear Tire, world’s largest tire to buy • 10: Ira Jackson,
management guru. Spoke corporation. Says corporations Director, Center for Business and
with IBM CEO Thomas J. today have more power than Government, Kennedy School at
........... 10 Watson several times about governments • 6: Richard Harvard. Author, Capitalism with
IBM’s business relationship Grossman, Founder, POCLAD, a Conscience • 11: Clay Timon,
with the Third Reich • 2: Dr. Program on Corporations, Law CEO Landor and Associates
Samuel Epstein, Prof. Emeritus, and Democracy. POCLAD initiates Global branding specialists
Occupational & Environmental dialogue on the authority of – Visa, Fedex, BP, etc. When
........... 11 Medicine, U of Illinois. One in corporations to govern • 7: Disney wants to market adult
every two men get cancer, Dr. Robert Hare, U. of British fare, they brand it Touchstone •
and one in every three women Columbia Psychology Professor 12: Michael Walker, President,
get cancer • 3: Andrea Finger, and FBI’s top consulting Fraser Institute. Sweatshops like

Spokesperson for Disney-built psychologist on psychopaths. The Nike’s factories help the world’s
........... 12 town of Celebration, population corporation is the prototypical poor get ‘plump and healthy’.
5000. ‘Disney brand speaks psychopath • 8: Gabriel Herbas, • 13: Robert Weissman, Editor,
of reassurance, it speaks of Professor of Economics in the Multinational Monitor. Corporate
tradition, it speaks of quality.’ State University, Bolivia. ‘Our crime specialist. Exposed the
• 4: Milton Friedman, Nobel governments, sadly, are just top 100 criminal corporations
........... 13 Prize-winning economist. puppets for these companies.’ of the last decade • 14: Steve
‘Asking a corporation to be • 9: Lucy Hughes, V. P. Initiative Wilson, Whistle-blowing, fired
socially responsible makes Media, world’s largest media- Fox reporter who tried to caution
no more sense than asking buying corporation. Created Nag public about synthetic hormone
a building to be.’ • 5: Sam Factor study to help corporations rBGH used in cows.
........... 14 Gibara, Chairman, former CEO, get kids to nag their parents
Acceptable Unacceptable

the list above is claimed for this they claim to despise—go without
behaviour? the comforts with which companies
provide them: including the pen and
Animals paper or computers with which they
wrote their letters to the editor, their
5 What is the point about the Posi- clothes, the roofs over their heads,
lac example used in the film? their furniture, jobs, books, planes,
6 What element of personality in trains, and automobiles. Let them
the list above is claimed for this live without coalitions of individuals
behaviour? ( producing from their ideas to the
7 What is the point about the Agent March/mar10b.htm) benefit of us all and ultimately, their
Orange example used in the film? B: Corporations are good things. own. Let’s see how much of their
8 What element of personality in They provide us with all the goods lives really are a benefit of capitalis-
the list above is claimed for this and services that we have begun tic enterprise.
behaviour? to depend on ... Let’s get one thing Aneel Lakhani
straight: Corporate America is not (
Biosphere bad. It provides about seventy view.php3?view=1886&part=1)
percent of jobs in America directly
9 What evidence or examples are and another seven percent in jobs Monstrous Obligations
used in the film to establish that that cater to corporations. Chances
corporations are guilty of harming are one of your family members is An important element of The Corpo-
the biosphere? employed by Corporate America. ration’s argument is presented in this
10 What element of personality in Furthermore ... corporations im- section. The film suggests that even if
the list above is claimed for this prove our quality of life constantly. the individuals who run corporations
behaviour? Pharmaceutical companies, compu- are saints, the qualities inherent to the
11 The film is presenting a very pow- ter corporations, and food industries corporation override their personal
erful attack on the nature of the are all mostly made up by corpora- qualities and enforces its own values
corporation. How might a support- tions. What would we do without of profit above all else.
er or defender of the corporation them? Corporations develop new
respond to this point? drugs and tools that make all of Look at the segment where Sir Mark
Here are three responses. How our lives more comfortable, so why Moody-Stuart recounts an exchange
effective do you think they are? target them for abuse? between himself (at the time Chairman
A: The Corporation is an entertain- Gabe Williams of Royal Dutch Shell), his wife and a
ing and provocative study but it group of Earth First activists who ar-
also presents an overly pessimistic cle_view.php3?view=1870&part=1 rived on the doorstep of their country
view of today’s corporate world. home. The protesters chanted and
But by concentrating on the ‘bad ap- C: Regarding the recent anti-corpo- stretched a banner over their roof that
ples’ and all but ignoring the growing ration diatribe, I’d like to say: Oh, read, ‘MURDERERS’. The response

revolution to transform business into please! Grow up. of the surprised couple was not to call
an agent of world benefit, The Corpo- It’s as ridiculous to call corpora- the police, but to engage their unin-
ration presents an unbalanced picture tions evil as it is to call black men vited guests in a civil dialogue, share
of business today. thieves, or blond women dumb, or concerns about human rights and the
There are many other corporations computer science majors unsocia- environment and eventu-
that have put social responsibility ble cave-dwellers. ally serve them tea on their
front and centre in their opera- But, if [critics] are making a case for front lawn.
tions, to be accountable not only something inherent in the nature of
to shareholders but to employees, the corporation, in principle, then 1 How does Sir Mark
consumers and society at large. they should have some integrity Moody-Stuart see him-
Editorial, Axiom newsletter and stop supporting the very things self—as an unfeeling, 7
............ 1

............. 2

............. 3

............. 4 antagonistic exploiter of resources, Financial Review, 5 June 2004.

or as caring, sympathetic and
concerned for the welfare of the
environment? 4 Would you agree with this as-
............. 5 2 How does the film undermine this sessment of the way that The
image? Corporation presents the views of
3 Why does the film present him in its opponents? In developing your
this way? One reviewer has said: answer you should draw on several
............. 6 The Corporation is polemical in examples from the film.
the best sense in that it gives time
to many views while purposefully
making its own cogent and com-
............. 7 pelling arguments. Mindset
The Corporation is not a one-sided
diatribe although the cumulative ef- • What is the ethical mindset of
fect is clear enough. There is a great corporate players? Should the
deal of contrary opinion presented. institution or the individuals within
............. 8 Peter Crayford, Australian it be held responsible for the cor-

............. 9

1: Charles Kernaghan, Director, factory • 6: Chris Komisarjevsky, for corporations, there’s no such
National Labor Committee. CEO Burson Marsteller Worldwide, thing as ‘enough’ • 11: Oscar
By exposing Walmart and the a leading global PR agency. Olivera, The Coalition in Defense
........... 10
Kathy Lee Gifford brand’s labor Helps big corporations ‘have a of Water and Life. Bolivian
practices, made the sweatshop voice’ and share ‘how they feel anti-water privatization activist.
abuses common knowledge • 2: about things.’ • 7: Dr. Susan Trusts in the people’s capacity for
Robert Keyes, President and CEO, Linn, Prof. Of Psychiatry, Baker ‘reflection, rage and rebellion.’
........... 11 Canadian Council for International Children’s Centre, Harvard. • 12: Irving Wladawsky-Berger,
Business. Lobbies for business Critic of the Nag Factor study Vice President IBM, Technology
interests on trade issues. Doesn’t and of exploiting children’s and Strategy in IBM Servers.
like to use the word ‘corporation’. developmental vulnerabilities Dismisses Edwin Black’s

• 3: Mark Kingwell, Philosopher, • 8: Robert Monks, CEO LENS; allegations against IBM as having
........... 12 cultural critic, author. The primary Founder, Institutional Shareholder been ‘discredited.’ • 13: Mary
question is: how do we make Services; pioneering shareholder Zepernick, Coordinator, POCLAD,
corporations democratically activist. • 9: Sir Mark Moody- Program on Corporations, Law
accountable? • 4: Naomi Klein, Stuart, Former Chairman, Royal and Democracy. POCLAD initiates
Author, No Logo and Fences and Dutch Shell. Presided over Shell dialogue on the authority of
........... 13 Windows. Branding aficionado. during the Brent Spar fiasco corporations to govern • 14:
Branding isn’t advertising; it’s the and the hanging of Ken Saro Howard Zinn, Historian, author,
new production • 5: Tom Kline Wiwa and eight other activists A People’s History of the United
V.P. Pfizer Inc., world’s largest • 10: Michael Moore, Academy States. Fascism rose in Europe
pharmaceutical corporation, on Award-winning documentary with the help of enormous
........... 14 a tour of Pfizer’s philanthropic filmmaker, best-selling author. corporations.
8 initiatives near its Brooklyn The problem is the profit motive:
poration’s actions? viewer, yet interact as though com- able, sacred or important to the public
• What are the points being made municating with a real person? (see interest, governments have, in the past,
during the interviews with Sam diagram on page 10) drawn protective boundaries against
Gibara, Ray Anderson and Carlton corporate exploitation. Today, govern-
Brown? The makers of The Corporation have a ments are inviting corporations into
• Ray Anderson describes corpora- solution to this. domains from which they were previ-
tions as ‘plunderers’. Explain what ously barred.
he means by this term. I knew I wanted people addressing The Corporation press kit
• He sets the criterion: ‘If any prod- the camera directly. There’s something
uct cannot be made sustainably, really engaging about that ... I devised a • What are these ‘boundary issues’?
it should not be made at all.’ What part-silvered mirror at forty-five degrees
does he mean by this? in front of the camera. The interviewee • What might be the effects of tak-
is speaking straight into the camera, but ing things from the public to the
Ray Anderson is a central figure in the they’re seeing my face superimposed private sphere?
film. Read this quote from the film’s over it, so they’re not conscious of the
press kit: lens. We could engage in eye contact Basic Training
and a lot of non-verbal communication
Ray Anderson blew me away. It’s a while the person was talking. The Initiative Corporation spends $22
personal story about his epiphany, his billion worldwide placing its clients’
paradigm shift. He comes across as one I find the results to be quite subtle. I advertising in every imaginable—and
of the stars of the film. Here’s a corpo- think the quality of the interviews are some unimaginable—media. One new
rate insider who realized that he had to really interesting. It’s intimate, relaxed medium: very young children. Their
become environmentally friendly ... and the subjects found it a lot easier ‘Nag Factor’ study dropped jaws in
to be speaking essentially face to face the world of child psychiatry. It was
In terms of structuring the film, it was with a person rather than speaking to designed not to help parents cope
important to me to find those stories a cold camera lens. Just me raising with their children’s nagging, but to
where the interview subjects revealed my eyebrows or tilting my head could help corporations design their ads
something, either about themselves prompt them, non-verbally, to continue and promotions so that children would
or about their experience, that had an or to clarify. You see their non-verbal nag for their products more effectively.
emotional impact. gestures—facial expressions—that Initiative Vice President Lucy Hughes
were directed at me are now directed elaborates: ‘You can manipulate
Jennifer Abbott to the viewer. There’s a texture that I consumers into wanting, and therefore
found very engaging and successful. buying your products. It’s a game.’
He’s a star in the film. His appeal was
filmic. His look, his eyes, his Jimmy Jennifer Abbott Today people can become brands.
Carter accent. When it’s just in text, it’s And brands can build cities. And
much easier to see through it. • Do you agree that this technique university students can pay for their
has added ‘life’ to the interview- educations by shilling on national tel-
Joel Bakan ees? Select several interviews evision for a credit card company. And
and see if you can identify ways in a corporation even owns the rights to
• Why would Anderson be presented which they do seem to be interact- the popular song ‘Happy Birthday’.
so prominently? ing with another human. Do you ever get the feeling it’s all a bit
• What is his message? much?
Boundary Issues
Part of the appeal of Anderson and Corporations have invested billions
many other interviewees lies in the In this section The Corporation con- to shape public and political opinion.
interview techniques employed by tinues its exploration of the impact of When they own everything, who will
the filmmakers. A problem with many privatization on people’s lives. stand for the public good?

documentaries is that the subject is

interviewed at an angle to the camera In the fifteenth century, the enclosure The Corporation press kit
lens so the subject is never speaking movement began to put fences around
directly to the audience. The alterna- public grazing lands so that they might • Lucy Hughes is asked if her
tive is to have the interviewee speak to be privately owned and exploited. research and its ap-
the camera, however this often results Today, every molecule on the planet plications are ethical.
in a wooden, unrealistic and imper- is up for grabs. In a bid to own it all, She answers that she
sonal image of the interviewee. corporations are patenting animals, ‘doesn’t know’. Do you
plants, even your DNA. think her work is ethi-
The problem is: how do you get the cal? Prepare a simple
interviewee to speak directly to the Around things too precious, vulner- table divided into two 9
backlight bluescreen backlight

Light for blue screen Light for blue screen

visual barrier

(sometimes a light)

part-silvered mirror eyeline

mirror has opaque black cloth velcroed around edge, at- small light on
tached to camera lens to prevent light spill interviewer so
sees inter-
viewer, not
camera lens
behind mirror

columns headed acceptable and act, and challenging the whole the- Unsettling Accounts
unacceptable. Is it ethical to do sis of the film that Corporations are
such research and use it to influ- only ruled by profit, are effectively This section of The Corporation looks
ence children’s desires and in turn answered? Are they effectively at three case studies: the censorship
their parents’ spending habits? undermined? of two investigative reporters, the pri-
(see table on page 7) vatization of water in a town in Brazil,
This list should enable you to A Private Celebration/Triumph and the role of IBM in supporting Nazi
answer the above question and Of The Shill Germany in the Second World War.
justify your answer.
These sections reveal a tactic of • What is the important point about
Perception Management corporations to engage in ‘undercover news and corporations that
marketing’. emerges from this case study? (For
This section deals with two ideas: more information on the case see
firstly, that the corporation is prepared • Is this a problem?
to do good things and help the com- • Does being aware that it is hap- • There is no case for Fox put by a
munities they are part of. Secondly, pening act as a protection against Fox spokesperson. Does this mat-
that it is fair and appropriate for the it? Explain your reasons. ter?
Corporation to have a voice in the • What is the main point being made
community and to present its views Advancing The Front about the privatization of water?
and arguments effectively. • Again, there is no spokesperson
The film focuses here on corporations’ for the Corporation involved. Does
• Look at the Chris Komisarjevsky attempts to control life itself. Their this matter?
interview. How do the filmmakers method of doing so, by use of patents, • What is the point that is being
challenge the speaker’s claim to means that huge changes are occur- made about IBM’s involvement
corporations’ right to present their ring without government involvement with Nazi Germany?

views? or public discussion. • In this case, IBM’s view is present-

• Is this approach effective? Is it ed. How does the film counter it?
fair? • Most people know little about such
• Look at the interview with Tom issues. How can we be expected Hostile Takeover
Klein of Pfizer. How do the film- to be involved?
makers undermine his position? • How could governments be This section provides a historic
• Is this approach effective? Is it involved? Should they be? Explain example of an attempt to replace the
fair? your reasons. President of the United States by Cor-
• Do you think the arguments of the porations. It failed. However, the point
two pro-Corporation interviewees, being made is that such a coup is no
10 in defence of how Corporations longer necessary, as transnational
and global corporations already exert • Look at the Ray Anderson exam- gesture towards exposing the destruc-
significant influence over nation states. ple. How is he presented as an tive nature of that institution. It is my
example of success in overcoming hope that the film will contribute to
• How does the film create the the power of the corporation? change made possible by ever-grow-
image of corporate power being ing awareness ...
anti-democratic? Here is a statement from the filmmak-
• Is this effective? ers about Ray Anderson. I think it will spark a lot of dialogue.
• Is enough evidence given in the That will be very gratifying ... our goal
film to support the claim about There are questions you can ask of An- is to get people to see the institution of
transnational power over govern- derson: what’s he doing with his work- the corporation in an entirely new light
ments? Does this matter? force? How did he get that $200 million ... [so that] people can’t walk down the
extra revenue without taking more out of street and look at corporate logos the
Democracy Ltd the earth? Did he lay off people? Did he same way any more ...
cut back wages? How is he with unions?
One of the main tenets of The Corpora- We don’t know any of that. We know One of my goals was for viewers to
tion is that corporations are motivated how he is on the environment, but we ask questions about this strange thing,
first and foremost by profit. Many don’t know about the other externalities. the corporation. I hope people walk
corporations today talk about ‘triple I’m not saying he’s bad or good; I don’t away empowered and motivated to do
bottom line accounting’—this is profit, know the answer to the question. He’s something ...
social impact, and ecological sustain- a wonderful man and entirely sincere,
ability. but he probably wonders if his decision A great social critic, Karl Marx, said
will work. Anderson’s solution is that his that understanding the world is the
• How does the film challenge this company should continue to own the first step toward changing it. We’ve
idea that corporations can act and carpets that it manufactures and effec- taken an institution that’s been reified
are acting in a more acceptable tively lease them to people. Then he, as and what we’ve done in this project
fashion? an owner, has an interest in maintaining is to say that’s not the case: it’s an
• Is it convincing? them, making sure they don’t wear out institution that we’ve created.
too soon. And that will be good for the
Psychotherapies / Prognosis environment. The Corporation Press Kit

These final sections look at ways of The Corporation Press Kit 1 Do you think the film has achieved
making corporations accountable. these aims?
One of the filmmakers has said, ‘We • Does this weaken the impact of Ray 2 Do you think it presents a powerful
don’t want people to emerge from this Anderson as a model for success? anti-corporation image?
film feeling only despair’. • Does The Corporation provide 3 Do you think it presents a strong
realistic and achievable ways of argument against the corporation?
• Look at the UNOCAL example. addressing the problem so that 4 Is it an effective documentary?
A chamber of commerce repre- people can leave the film with a 5 Is it effective propaganda?
sentative talks about the unfair sense of optimism? 6 Do you think the corporation ought
‘demonization’ of the company. Is to be defined more as a technology,
this what The Corporation does? Conclusion rather than a person? What impact
How does it counter the UNOCAL would that have on the corporation’s
position? Here are some statements by the rights and responsibilities?
• Look at the interview with Michael filmmakers about what they wanted to
Moore. What tactic do we see him achieve in their film. Further Reading
using against corporations? Is this
effective? My overriding objective in making - Joel Bakan, The Corporation: The
• What is his message about The Corporation was to challenge Pathological Pursuit of Profit and

ordinary people’s complicity and conventional wisdom about the role Power, Simon and Schuster, UK,
responsibility? of the corporation in society, to make 2004
• Look at the Arcata town meeting. the commonplace seem strange, to - Noam Chomsky, Hegemony or
It is presented as a symbol of hope alienate viewers from the normalcy Survival: America’s Quest for Glo-
that a town could challenge corpo- of the dominant culture allowing bal Dominance, Met-
rations. Is it successful? them to gain a critical distance on the ropolitan Books, New
• Look at the basmati rice example. corporations and the corporate culture York, 2003.
How was success achieved here? that envelop us all ... - Naomi Klein, No Logo,
• Look at the Cochabamba water Flamingo, UK, 2001.
supply example. How was victory The Corporation to me is many things, - Naomi Klein, Fences
achieved here? but it resonates most strongly as a and Windows, Flamin- 11
go, UK, 2002. workers walked into empty facto- Robert Lewis is a former teacher, now
- Michael Moore, Downsize This, ries and businesses and starting self-employed as a writer of curriculum
Perennial, UK, 2000. running them without their bosses. resources for schools.
- Ted Nace, Gangs of America: The - Roger and Me (Michael Moore,
Rise of Corporate Power and the 1989). Director Michael Moore pur- The Corporation is distributed in
Disabling of Democracy, UK, 2003 sues General Motors CEO Roger Australia by:
- New Internationalist, July 2002. Smith in an attempt to confront Gil Scrine Films, 44 Northcote
him about his massive downsizing Street, East Brisbane, QLD, 4169.
Further Viewing of the Flint, Michigan plant and its Tel: 07 3391 0124. Fax: 07 3391 0154
subsequent effect on the town. Email:
- Manufacturing Consent: Noam Web:
Chomsky and the Media (Achbar/
Wintanick, 1992). An exploration Web Sites This study guide was produced by
of the career and views of media ATOM. For more information about
critic Noam Chomsky, co-directed - is the ATOM study guides, The Speakers’
by The Corporation’s Mark Achbar. film’s official web site. The press Bureau or Screen Hub (the daily online
- The Yes Men (Dan Ollman and kit and other information can be film and television newsletter) visit our
Sarah Price, 2003) ‘Changing the accessed from this site. web site:
world one prank at a time’. Anti- - provides or email:
corporate activists go to confer- an alternative to the mainstream
ences and impersonate members media in the US. The Nation is a
of the World Trade Organisation, Washington-based newspaper that
giving satirical speeches and has been published since 1865.
proposing ludicrous ideas that are Naomi Klein, among others, is a
taken seriously. regular contributor.
- The Take (Avi Lewis and Naomi - is
Klein, 2004). Lewis and Klein docu- Michael Moore’s official web site
ment the phenomenon of ‘occu- for those interested in the maverick
pied businesses’ in Argentina after director and author’s views.
the economic collapse. Argentine