“It isn’t just about this crisis, it’s about a much bigger process,” [Douglas Rushkoff] says, when we meet in the back room of a San Francisco conference centre (he has just delivered a barnstorming talk on why the stock market is a dangerous beast to a room full of stock-obsessed internet executives). “It’s the process through which we internalised values and built a physical landscape where there are towns and roads that support this sort of corporatised, disconnected existence. It’s about why the Dow Jones is the metric we choose to measure our health.”
His thesis is that centuries of corporate influence have turned us into a world of isolated, individualistic people pitted against each other. It’s familiar territory for the followers of Naomi Klein or Joel Bakan, the author of The Corporation, a damning examination of modern business. But Rushkoff’s ideas are more complex.
He tracks back our economic system to the Renaissance, when the first corporations were born. Initially created as an attempt by the aristocracy to control – and profit from – the actions of the merchant class, corporations slowly became more powerful, setting up new codes that encouraged people to stop producing things and start buying.
* Life Inc.: How the World Became a Corporation and How to Take It Back (Hardcover) by Douglas Rushkoff