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"The Corporation" by Mark Achbar, Jennifer Abbot

The 14th amendment to the US Constitution, a model- alone with the French Revolution- for institutionalized liberties for modern democracies, has become a guarantor of the right of businesses to be treated like people (though its intention was the protection of civil liberties for former slaves). The implications of this juridical detail on history, especially after 1945, are explained by this significant documentary.

This Canadian documentary, shot in 2003, documents the step taken by modern societies from the right to private property to the creation of the private enterprise- the entities with the most power in the world- and the importance of a legal detail that protects them: to have been recognized as legal people and to be able to act like any other person regarding the law, what permitted the owners of the big businesses to enjoy legal immunity regarding the problems they have caused.

The Corporation is a critical and well-documented look at the arrival of the corporations as the dominant international institution after World War II and their evolution as legal entities with a common denominator through history: the search for short-term benefits to please the authentic owners of the firms- the large shareholders and their constant demand for stock market dividends.

The filmmakers’ interviews with world-renowned scholars help to outline the main controversial aspects of large corporations: the difficulty to limit their power, their lack of control with some business activities that cause direct effects on human health and the environment or the dangers assumed by leaving businesses to regulate themselves, instead of tackling the main problems that they are causing through more current legislation critical of the current state in the world.

Among the contributors to the documentary, are Jeremy Rifkin, professor at Wharton Business School, advisor to various governments and author of books as influential as The End of WorkThe Economy of Hydrogen; Noam Chomsky, professor emeritus at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and influential author and theoretician in the fields of philosophy, semiotics and language; Naomi Klein, journalist and author of the book on the power of trademarks No Logo; the recently deceased Nobel Prize winner for Economics Milton Friedman; or Michael Moore -there’s no need to introduce Moore, thanks to love of self-promotion and to his entrance into popular culture with his documentaries.

The corporation, a legal entity under the law

The modern corporation, that owes its recognition as a legal entity to the Anglo-Saxon world, as well as its behavior in society during the last decades, is examined in detail in a documentary funded mostly by the Canadian government that has won dozens of awards, including the Sundance Film Festival audience award, been released theatrically in 20 countries, grossed over six million dollars at the box office, and sold more than 150,000 DVDs.

At 145 minutes (reduced from the 8 hours available on dvd), there is time to tackle in depth the corporate world plots against some American governments; the relation between large American and European businesses with the arrival of the fascism, the mishaps of the Third Reich and the Final Solution (the extermination of millions of human beings could be calculated in a precise way thanks to the calculation machines, predecessors of the present-day computers, sold by IBM to the Nazi government.), and the creation of Fanta by Coca-Cola to try to capture the taste of Nazi Germany, another great pearl forgot by history books.

Ford and Opel (owned, then and now, by General Motors) continued with their industrial activity during the entire war in Germany, something that shouldn’t be surprising given the personal friendship between Henry Ford and Adolf Hitler.

Another topic tackled by the documentary is the use of growth hormones on American cows despite endangering human health and that of the animals, which brought Canada and the EU to ban this Monsanto product, though has remained on the market in the United States.

A group of journalists from the television network Fox (controlled by the Australian, nationalized American, Rupert Murdoch, supporter of neoconservative doctrines) were pressured by Monsanto and the Fox advertising and legal teams to not air their investigative report on the damages produced by the use of this hormone on cows.

The Corporation has time to talk about the exploitation of workers in poor countries with weak, nonexistent or corrupt, labor laws, as well as of the benefits that the public denouncement of corporate activities has on the attitude of corporations.

Finally, they discuss so-called corporate social responsibility and the risks of it becoming a superficial PR campaign for large businesses, without legislation to protect consumers and workers worldwide, as well as the rights of animals and the environment.

The Corporation should become required viewing for high school students in wealthy countries and for their representatives, rulers and officials.


  • Title: The Corporation
  • Directors: Mark Achbar and Jennifer Abbott
  • Production Company: Big Picture Media Corporation
  • Genre: documentary
  • Duration: 145 minutes
  • Year: 2003