The Corporation

The Corporation

Infobox Film
name = The Corporation

image_size =
caption = Promotional poster for "The Corporation"
director = Mark Achbar
Jennifer Abbott
producer = Mark Achbar
Bart Simpson
writer = Joel Bakan Harold Crooks Mark Achbar
narrator = Mikela J. Mikael
music = Leonard J. Paul
cinematography = Mark Achbar Rolf Cutts Jeff Koffman Kirk Tougas
editing = Jennifer Abbott
distributor = Big Picture Media Corporation
released = flagicon|Canada September 9, 2003
flagicon|USA June 4, 2004
runtime = 145 min.
country = Canada
language = English
budget =
preceded_by =
followed_by =
website =
amg_id = 1:293083
imdb_id = 0379225

"The Corporation" is a 2003 Canadian documentary film critical of the modern-day corporation, considering it as a class of person and evaluating its behaviour towards society and the world at large as a psychologist might evaluate an ordinary person. This is explored through specific examples.


The film was written by Joel Bakan, and co-directed by Mark Achbar and Jennifer Abbott. The documentary has been displayed worldwide, on TV and is also available on DVD. Bakan wrote the book, "The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power" (ISBN 0-74324-744-2), during the filming of the documentary.


The film charts the development of the corporation as a legal entity from its origins as an institution chartered by governments to carry out specific public functions, to the rise of the vast modern institutions entitled to some of the legal rights of a person. One central theme of the documentary is an attempt to assess the "personality" of the corporate "person" by using diagnostic criteria from the DSM-IV; Robert Hare, a University of British Columbia Psychology Professor and FBI consultant, compares the profile of the modern, profit-driven corporation to that of a clinically-diagnosed psychopath. The film focuses mostly on corporations in North America, especially in the United States.

The film is composed of several vignettes examining and critiquing corporate practices, and drawing parallels between examples of corporate malfeasance and the DSM-IV's symptoms of psychopathy, i.e. callous unconcern for the feelings of others, incapacity to maintain enduring relationships, reckless disregard for the safety of others, deceitfulness (repeated lying to and deceiving of others for profit), incapacity to experience guilt, and failure to conform to the social norms with respect to lawful behaviors.

Topics addressed

Topics addressed include the Business Plot, where in 1933, the popular General Smedley Butler exposed a corporate plot against then U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt; the tragedy of the commons; 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 television station; the role of IBM in the Nazi holocaust; the Cochabamba protests of 2000 brought on by the privatization of Bolivia's municipal water supply by the Bechtel Corporation; and in general themes of corporate social responsibility, the notion of limited liability, the corporation as a psychopath, and the corporation as a person.


*Jane Akre, investigative reporter, fired by TV station WTVT
*Ray Anderson, CEO, Interface Inc., world’s largest commercial carpet manufacturer
*Joe Badaracco, Prof. of Business Ethics, Harvard Business School
*Maude Barlow, chairperson, Council of Canadians
*Mark Barry Competitive intelligence professional
*Elaine Bernard, director, Harvard Business School Labor Program
*Edwin Black, author, "IBM and the Holocaust"
*Carlton Brown, commodities broker
*Noam Chomsky, professor, M.I.T.
*Chris Barrett & Luke Mccabe, "Corporately-sponsored" students
*Peter Drucker, management guru
*Dr. Samuel Epstein, Emeritus Professor of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, U. of Illinois
*Andrea Finger, spokesperson, Disney-built town of Celebration
*Milton Friedman, Nobel Prize-winning economist
*Sam Gibara, chairman and former CEO, Goodyear Tire
*Richard Grossman, co-founder, Program on Corporations, Law and Democracy
*Dr. Robert Hare, Ph.D., psychologist and FBI psychopath consultant
*Lucy Hughes, vice president, Initiative Media
*Ira Jackson, director, Center for Business & Government, Kennedy School, Harvard
*Charles Kernaghan, director, National Labor Committee
*Robert Keyes, president and CEO, Canadian Council for International Business
*Mark Kingwell, philosopher, cultural critic, author
*Naomi Klein, author, "No Logo"
*Tom Kline, vice president, Pfizer Inc., world’s largest pharmaceutical corporation
*Chris Komisarjevsky, CEO, Burson Marsteller Worldwide
*Dr. Susan Linn, Prof. of Psychiatry, Baker Children’s Center, Harvard
*Robert Monks, corporate governance adviser and shareholder activist
*Sir Mark Moody-Stuart, former chairman, Royal Dutch Shell
*Michael Moore, author, filmmaker
*Oscar Olivera, leader, Coalition in Defense of Water and Life
*Jonathon Ressler, CEO, Big Fat Inc., undercover marketing specialist
*Jeremy Rifkin, president, Foundation on Economic Trends
*Dr. Vandana Shiva, physicist, ecologist, feminist and seed activist
*Clay Timon, CEO, Landor and Associates, global branding specialists
*Michael Walker, executive director, Fraser Institute
*Robert Weissman, editor, "Multinational Monitor"
*Steve Wilson, investigative reporter, fired by TV station WTVT
*Irving Wladawsky-Berger, vice president, Technology and Strategy, IBM Servers
*Mary Zepernick, coordinator, Program on Corporations, Law and Democracy
*Howard Zinn, historian and author, "A People's History of the United States"


The film also features interviews with prominent corporate critics such as Noam Chomsky, Naomi Klein, Michael Moore, Vandana Shiva, Charles Kernaghan, and Howard Zinn as well as opinions from company CEOs such as Ray Anderson (from the Interface carpet & fabric company), the capitalist viewpoints of Peter Drucker and Milton Friedman, and think tanks advocating free markets such as the Fraser Institute. Interviews also feature Dr. Samuel Epstein with his involvement in a lawsuit against Monsanto for promoting the use of Posilac, (Monsanto's trade name for recombinant Bovine Somatotropin) to induce more milk production in dairy cattle.

"The corporation is an externalizing machine (moving its operating costs to external organizations and people), in the same way that a shark is a killing machine." - Robert Monks, a corporate governance advisor in the film and former GOP (Republican) candidate for Senate from Maine


Film critics gave the film generally favorable reviews. The review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reported that 90% of critics gave the film positive reviews, based on 104 reviews. [cite web|url= |title=The Corporation - Movie Reviews, Trailers, Pictures - Rotten Tomatoes |accessdate=2008-02-05 |publisher=Rotten Tomatoes] Metacritic reported the film had an average score of 73 out of 100, based on 28 reviews. [cite web |url= |title=Corporation, The (2004): Reviews |accessdate=2008-02-05 |publisher=Metacritic]

"Variety" praised the film's "surprisingly cogent, entertaining, even rabble-rousing indictment of perhaps the most influential institutional model for our era" and its avoidance of "a sense of excessively partisan rhetoric" by deploying a wide range of interviewees and "a bold organizational scheme that lets focus jump around in interconnective, humorous, hit-and-run fashion." [ [ The Corporation] , review by Dennis Harvey in "Variety", October 1, 2003]

In the "Chicago Sun-Times", Roger Ebert described the film as "an impassioned polemic, filled with information sure to break up any dinner-table conversation." He felt that "at 145 minutes, it overstays its welcome. The wise documentarian should treat film stock as a non-renewable commodity." [ [ Corporation] , review by Roger Ebert in the "Chicago Sun-Times", July 16, 2004]

"The Economist" review suggests that the idea for an organization as a psychopathic entity originated with Max Weber, in regards to government bureaucracy. Also, the reviewer remarks that the film weighs heavily in favor of public ownership as a solution to the evils depicted, while failing to acknowledge the magnitude of evils committed by governments in the name of public ownership, such as those of the Communist Party in the former USSR. [ [ The lunatic you work for] , review in "The Economist", May 6, 2004]

The Maoist Internationalist Movement, in their review criticizes the film for the opposite: for depicting the communist party in an unfavourable light, while adopting an anarchist approach favoring direct democracy and worker's councils without emphasizing the need for a centralized bureaucracy. The film, in their view "offers no realistic alternative to imperialism." and "it shares some of the strengths and downfalls" of Mark Achbar's film "", which celebrates the life of anarcho-syndicalist, linguist, and activist Noam Chomsky. In their view, "corporate power for profit [is] not the same as megabureaucracy without profit." [cite web |url = |title = "The Corporation" offers no real world solutions or choices |accessdate = 2008-05-27 |publisher = Maoist Internationalist Movement]

The film was nominated for numerous awards, and won the at the Sundance Film Festival, 2004, along with a Special Jury Award at the Amsterdam International Documentary Film Festival in 2003 and 2004.

Topically related films

*"Why We Fight"
*"The American Ruling Class" (2005)

Books mentioned in the film

*"IBM and the Holocaust"
*"No Logo"
*"The Ecology of Commerce"


External links

* [ "The Corporation" official movie website]
* [ Interview with Joel Bakan]
* [ Interview with Bakan and Achbar]
*imdb title|id=0379225|title=The Corporation
*amg movie|id=1:293083|title=The Corporation
*rotten-tomatoes|id=corporation|title=The Corporation
*metacritic film|id=corporation|title=The Corporation
*mojo title|id=corporation|title=The Corporation
* [ "The Social Responsibility of Business is to Increase its Profits"] - famous article by Nobel economist Milton Friedman (this title appears as a phrase in an out of context quote in "The Corporation" movie)
* [ "Robert A.G. Monks"] - site of Robert A.G. Monks, shareholder activist and corporate governance advisor, interviewed in the film.


* [ Google video, part 1] and [ part 2]
* [ Internet Archive: movie and bonus interview in MPEG4, DivX, and streaming]
* [ The Filmmakers Official Download Edition] - A torrent, created by the filmmaker, containing the film.
* [ Soundtrack created by Leonard J. Paul] - Leonard J. Paul's entire score for the film is available for free download
* [ The Corporation] Direct download (.avi, 700 Mo)

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