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Books About Corporations:
A Recommended List

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Books on Corporations and Corporate Power

The People's Business: Controlling Corporations and Restoring Democracy (2004) by Lee Drutman and Charlie Cray.

Gangs of America (2003) by Ted Nace traces the history of the growth of corporate power in America -- the specific legal changes that have allowed corporations to shed direct controls that once limited their size, scope and mobility, while releasing shareholders from direct liability, and steadily expanding their claim to constitutional rights.

Unequal Protection: The Rise of Corporate Dominance and the Theft of Human Rights by Thom Hartmann (2002) is an investigation into the illegitimate arguments and suspect court decision that established the doctrine of corporate "personhood." Then he looks at the implications of corporate claims to constitutional rights and proposals to reverse them. In 2004, Hartmann published We the People: A Call to Take Back America, a chilling political cartoon book that outlines the corporate threat to democracy.

The Corporation by Joel Bakan. This breezy, highly-accessible book was released along with the popular documentary, "The Corporation" in 2004. (Click here for movie listings and information about ordering a CD/Video.) Bakan addresses "corporate personhood" by using a trope: if corporations are persons, then surely they would be diagnosed as pathological, given their behavior and indifference.

An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution of the United States by Charles Beard describes the drafting of the U.S. Constitution as a process reflecting the Founding Fathers' self-interests.

When Corporations Rule the World (1995) by David Korten. Explains how corporations are at the center of the forces of globalization and why corporate power and ideology is a fundamental threat to democracy. Includes a strong debunking of libertarian illusions about competitive markets that still dominate economic policy debates.

The Big Business Reader (1983) by Mark Green (ed.) is a useful survey of most of the major issues related to corporate power by leading experts.

Regime Change Begins at Home (2004) by Charles Derber is the sequel to his previous books, People Before Profit: The New Globalization In An Age of Terror, Big Money, and Economic Crisis (2003); and Corporation Nation (2001). By "regime change" Derber refers not only to the Bush administration, but the governing political paradigm.

Power and Accountability (1994) by Robert Monks and Nell Minow. A provocative exploration of the failures of the corporate governance system from the perspective of outside shareholders and how it insulates top management and members of corporate boards from accountability. Monks is a leader in the shareholder activist movement. Minow is the director of The Corporate Library

The Tyranny of the Bottom Line: Why Corporations Make Good People Do Bad Things (1996) by Ralph Estes explores how the "bottom line" approach to measuring corporate performance harms employees, customers, and other stakeholders. Strong emphasis is placed on increased disclosure requirements. Estes has further elaborated how through The Stakeholder Alliance and the Corporate Sunshine Working Group.

Taming the Giant Corporation (1976) by Ralph Nader, Mark Green and Joel Seligman. Five years in the making, this book explores how the system of state chartering of corporations has become a farce. It weighs the pros and cons of federal chartering as an alternative, and how that has been debated at different times in American history. A classic.

Defying Corporations, Defining Democracy: A Book of History and Strategy by Dean Ritz, ed. A collection of essays by Richard Grossman, Ward Morehouse and other leaders of the Program on Corporations, Law and Democracy (POCLAD), a network of activists that challenge judicial doctrines central to corporate power. As Grossman points out, "challenging the legitimacy of the corporation and organizing to limit its rights and powers under law are not regarded as obvious or logical. Such ideas are often dismissed as unrealistic, utopian, and counter-productive." So it is that many of POCLAD's ideas, such as petitions to revoke corporate charters, have yet to be gain mainstream acceptance. Nevertheless, the first stage of any struggle is an educational process, and POCLAD is at the vanguard of such efforts.

Challenging Corporate Rule: The Petition to Revoke Unocal's Charter(1999) by Robert Benson is available here. Information about charter revocation is also available from CELDF.

The Power Elite (1957) by C. Wright Mills.

Corporateering: How Corporate Power Steals Your Personal Freedom And What You Can Do About It (2003) by Jamie Court. Drawing from his experience battling for consumer rights in California, Court has written a useful dissection of the means by which corporations have come to dominate our culture. For more information go here.

The Divine Right of Capital (2003) by Marjorie Kelly explores how the mandate to maximize profits for shareholders in large public corporations is as illegitimate a doctrine propped up by faith as was the divine right of kings in feudal times. Useful in understanding how colonized our mindset is by corporations today. For more information go here.

Perfectly Legal (2003) by David Cay Johnston. The ace New York Times reporter's exploration of U.S. tax policy is a brilliant and entertaining read. The best book on tax policy written in well over a decade. Johnston uncovered numerous corporate tax scams including various forms of offshore haven abuse.

The Transformation of American Law (2 vols., 1977) by Morton Horwitz has been described as "a flagship work of the Critical Legal Studies movement which was born and bred in American law schools in the aftermath of the civil rights struggle, the Vietnam War, and Watergate." Revealing how instrumental the law has been to economic history, Horwitz explores how, decision by decision, judges transformed the nature of property rights, contract, commerce and other parts of the law to favor business. The result was a change in legal ideology that enabled commercial groups to win a disproportionate amount of wealth and power in American society.

Corporations by John P. Davis traces the early history of the corporate form from the middle ages to the early 20th Century. It covers ecclesiastical corporations; feudalism and corporations; municipalities; gilds; educational and eleemosynary corporations; joint-stock companies and more.

The Company (2003) by John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge of the Economist explores the long history of business institutions and how the joint stock company emerged after centuries of experimentation with other business forms. This book is for generalists, and the authors are largely uncritical in their description of corporations as the instruments of economic prosperity.

The Modern Corporation and Private Property (1932) by Berle and Means is a groundbreaking treatise in the debate over the control of corporations. Berle and Means make the convincing argument that "shareholder democracy" is a myth when it comes to large corporations. "Entrenched" managers make up a self-reproducing oligarchy that chooses its own successors and even its own overseers (the board). As such, they administer the corporation in their own interest--not in the interest of shareholder profitability or economic efficiency. Enron and the other fiascos of recent years suggest not much has changed.

Big Business and Presidential Power (1982) by Kim McQuaid is a history of how leading U.S. corporations coordinated their interests to effect corporate-friendly national policies through trade associations and organizations such as the Business Roundtable.

The Elite Consensus by George Draffan is a snapshot-style inventory of the major institutions of the corporate establishment. Draffan also maintains the Public Information Network.

The Bigness Complex: Industry, Labor, and Government in the American Economy (2d edition, 2004) by Walter Adams and James W. Brock destroys the myth that organizational giantism leads to economic efficiency and shared prosperity. Explores why and how antitrust policies are a failure and how the blind push for deregulation exacerbates economic problems. You can preview the book by reading an article by James Brock in Multinational Monitor.

Captive State: The Corporate Takeover of Britain (2000) by George Monbiot describes how corporations threaten democracy in England.

Corporate Irresponsibility by Lawrence Mitchell describes certain fiscal and tax policies that might be used to mitigate against the legal and structural constraints that make it difficult for managers to make moral judgments and be held accountable for their actions.

The Transformation of Wall Street by Joel Seligman is the definitive history of the relationship between Wall Street, the SEC and corporate securities law.

The Challenge to Power: Money, Investing and Democracy (2005) by John Harrington is an insightful analysis by one of the leading independent shareholder activists in the country.

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