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<nettime> Corporations as dominant species
Roberto Verzola on 20 Sep 2000 05:07:11 -0000


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<nettime> Corporations as dominant species


I'd like to reply to the two responses to my analysis of corporations
*as if* they were a separate species. My replies remain in the context
of such framework of analysis:

 >From: Michael Goldhaber <mgoldh {AT} well.com>
 >corporations, at various times, have more complex goals than profit
 >maximization. One important alternative goal these days is maximizing share
 >value, which is different in practice. (Amazon, e.g.,., for a while did quite

Share value (or even market share) may be seen as future profit, which
is what most dotcoms sell. This reflects the corporate Midas touch:
turning everything, including the future, into a commodity.

 >this new environment. Likewise, corporations have had to modify their
 >behavior as a result of other, more clearly political actions that arose
 >outside them. Thus  hope remains that  a sufficient change of environment,
 >effected by humans, might make corporations change so much they can no longer
 >be recognized, if not dying outright. In contemplating this, one ought at

When species emerge, they also tend to change their environment
towards one that is more conducive to their survival and existence.
While you hope that political actions, a change of environment, etc.
will force corporations to change, corporations themselves are shaping
the political and social environment to serve better their
profit-maximizing strategy. It seems clear who is winning out at the
moment.

 >From: "Robbins, Mark" <mrobbins {AT} lims.com>
 >Thank you for the perspective, however, there is a hole in your analogy
 >and your argument itself. The fruits of a mammoth were in its death (food,
 >clothing, etc..) whereas a corporation only bears fruit through its
 >continued existence.  So there really is no motivating factor for humans
 >to kill corporations;

Worldwide, human communities are engaged in all kinds of
anti-corporate struggles, mostly defending against corporate attacks
or fighting for local resources. It seems obvious to me that the
motivation is there, among undomesticated humans, at least. The
problem today is that human communities haven't really worked out a
highly successful, repeatable system of disabling or killing an
attacking corporation, as our prehistoric ancestors managed to do with
mammoths. What for are all our modern sciences (I'm even tempted to
ask, it is still *our* science, or is it now *their* science?) if we
don't even know how to disable or kill corporations?

 >especially when most humans have never really
 >cherished being a human being for a day in their lives (nor the human will
 >which coropations subdue), seeing themselves only as pleased and passified
 >animals, which corporations are quick to take advantage of.  If will and

You may speak for yourself, but obviously not for many others. The
community-corporate fights going on today in many parts of the world
speak for themselves.

 >the ability to manifest that will were as important to most citizens of
 >the United States as it is to (I think) people on this list, then
 >democracy would never have decayed in this country to the state that it is

As the home of the world's mammoth corporations, I can understand why
the U.S. would have a lot of domesticated H.sapiens.

 >this point, but the task remains necessary.  Humanity is at the whim of an
 >abstraction it created, and as abstractions go, corporations are rivaled
 >(if at all) only by the State, and by God.  I'm not a religous man, so my

Your comment above is a tacit recognition that corporations (which you
call abstractions, though they have a very real existence) have become
the dominant "life form" on this planet. I think by "God" you mean the
church. You think that the State can be used to reign in corporate
power. On the other hand, corporate power has also learn how to use
the State to maintain its dominance over H.sapiens and other life
forms.

 >Furthermore, corporations are treated as human beings not only because
 >people believe in them as such, but because they believe the acts of
 >corporations (namely buying, selling, growing and interacting) are also
 >what makes most human beings human.

All living and many non-living things grow and interact. "Buying and
selling" is what makes H.sapiens human? For me, this comment
illustrates perfectly how well the corporate species have domesticated
H.sapiens. I know some pets who think they're human too. Please don't
take my reply personally.

 >that whatever corporations are, they are because we allow them to be so,
 >and because we continue to believe that they are so.  Whatever form the
 >abstraction of the corporation takes in its interaction with us, it is
 >still an abstraction, and therefore, wholly dependant on us for its
 >continued existence.  A dependancy is always a potential source of power,

You are presuming H.sapiens are always in control of their creations.
Not so. When you create what turns out to be a life form, it then
takes a life of its own and develops independently though in
interaction with its environment, including its creators. Looking at
corporations *as if* it were a new species we created several hundred
years back, this is obviously what happened.

In fact, this is how corporations emerged:

Adam Smith said that an economic agent that pursues solely its own
self-interest, in competition with other similar economic agents, in
fact works for the good of the entire society. He pictured human
beings to be such economic agents. But in reality, H.sapiens do not
behave in this way consistently. Humans are a bundle of emotions and
motives, with competitive gain maximization, only one of their many
strategies for survival. Economic theory needed such an "ideal"
economic agent, so economists created it: the business firm - a legal
person with one single motivation: to maximize profits.

Once created, such "persons" underwent their own development and
started moulding their environment to facilitate their own survival
and growth. They demanded more rights ("liberalization"), less State
restrictions ("deregulation"), and control over State facilities
("privatization").

When humans want more rights, we speak not of liberalization but of
liberty and human rights. When humans want less State restrictions, we
speak of not of deregulation but of freedoms. When humans want more
control over State facilities, we speak not of privatization but of
democracy.

I do think a further analysis of corporations *as if* they were a
different species, using the analytical tools of ecology, will provide
new and fresh insights about the relationships between human beings
and corporations. Perhaps it might even show H.sapiens how to escape
domestication and eventually how to disable or kill these modern
mammoths.


Roberto Verzola
Philippine Greens

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