This is from Jerry Mander’s 1991 book, In The Absence of The Sacred: The Failure of Technology & the Survival of the Indian Nations (p. 128). I am really enjoying this book. To give you a taste of what Mander has to say, I will give the “rule” and a brief passage from his longer exposition. As corporations increasingly play a part in so much of our lives, it’s important for us to realize how they operate, and that the way they operate is inherent in the structure of the corporation itself.

Eleven Inherent Rules of Corporate Behavior

  1. The Profit Imperative: “… takes precedence of community well-being, worker health, public health, peace, environmental preservation, or national security.”
  2. The Growth Imperative: The effect of the the growth imperative, “… is now clearly visible, as the world’s few remaining pristine places are sacrificed to corporate production. The people who inhabit these resource-rich regions are similarly pressured to give up their traditional ways and climb on the wheel of production-consumption.”
  3. Competition and Aggression: “Corporate (or athletic) ideology holds that competition improves worker incentive and corporate performance, and therefore benefits society. Our society has accepted this premise utterly.”
  4. Amorality: “Corporate efforts that seem altruistic are really public relations ploys, or else are directly self-serving projects, such as providing schools with educational materials about nature. In other cases, apparent altruism is only ‘damage control,’ to offset public criticism… All apparent altruism is measured against possible public relations benefit. If the benefits do not accrue, the altruistic pose is dropped.”
  5. Hierarchy: “The effect on society from all organizations adopting hierarchical form is to make it seem natural that we have all been placed within a national pecking order… That effective, nonhierarchical modes of organization exist on the planet, and have been successful for millennia, is barely known by most Americans.”
  6. Quantification, Linearity, and Segmentation: “Corporations require that subjective information be translated into objective forms, i.e., numbers. This excludes from the decision-making process all values that do not so translate. The subjective or spiritual aspects of forests, for example, cannot be translated, and so do not enter corporate equations.”
  7. Dehumanization: “Corporations make a conscious effort to depersonalize… [In] the great majority of corporations [that is, besides the smallest businesses], employees are viewed as ciphers, as cogs in the wheel, replaceable by others or by machines.”
  8. Exploitation: “Profit is based on paying less than the actual value for the workers and resources. This is called exploitation.”
  9. Ephemerality: “Having no morality, no commitment to place, and no physical nature (a factory someplace, while being a physical entity, is not the corporation), a corporation can relocate all of its operations to another place at the first sign of inconvenience: demanding employees, too high taxes, restrictive environmental laws. The traditional ideal of community engagement is antithetical to corporate behavior.”
  10. Opposition to Nature: “[Some degree of] transformation of nature occurs in all societies where community manufacturing takes place. But in capitalist, corporate societies, the progress is accelerated because capitalistic societies and corporations must grow. Extracting resources from nature and reprocessing them at an ever-quickening pace is intrinsic to their existence. Meanwhile, the consumption end of the cycle is also accelerated – corporations have an intrinsic interest in convincing people that commodities bring satisfaction.”
  11. Homogenization: “As for native societies, which celebrate an utterly nonmaterial relationship to life, the planet, and the spirit, and which are at opposite poles to corporate ideology, they are regarded as inferior and unenlightened. Backward. We are told they envy the [product] choices we have. To the degree these societies continue to exist, they represent a threat to the homogenization of worldwide markets and culture.”
Mander concludes,
To ask corporate executives to behave in a morally defensible manner is absurd. Corporations, and the people within them, are not subject to moral behavior. They are following a system of logic that leads inexorably toward dominant behaviors. To ask corporations to behave otherwise is like asking an army to adopt pacifism. Form is content.
There was a time, however, when corporations did not exist… and that time will come again. Soon, hopefully.
Last night some friends and I watched a documentary called Gasland. I thought it strange that I had just read the “Corporations as Machines” chapter in Mander’s book, and then that very evening I happened to watch this film that perfectly illustrates these eleven rules in the context of the natural gas industry. I highly recommend it.
PS: See the previous post on Mander’s “Ten Recommended Attitudes about Technology.”

One thought on “Eleven Inherent Rules of Corporate Behavior

  1. Lyle,Simmons was in Charlottesville the next day at UVA. One wonders if the powres that be bother to listen to an investment banking consultant who knows his stuff. Maybe the oil companies aren’t willing to invest their billions in a doomed industry which is why no one is spending to find those conceptual reserves!!I thought he went off track when he mentioned nuclear power as a clean and necessary form of power, when in the next slide he talked about petroleum as being primarily a transportation fuel. I guess he was thinking that future transportation should be based on electric power; but it seems to be a common mistake to talk about electrical power generation in the same breath as petroleum when hardly any is used to fire a generator.I would also ask him to dig deeper into his solutions; good ideas but how much diesel fuel is actually consumed by the trucking fleet vis a vis gasoline consumed by passenger cars? I think gas makes up at least 60% of our petroleum use.My bet is that with ULSD coming down the pipeline and a cold winter we are going to see high diesel prices and more demand for biodiesel in the New Year.

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