Angry Robot

Life, Inc.


I wanted very much to like this book. I wanted to agree with everything in it. The general thesis is that the corporation’s influence has been so great that our entire society, our culture, our minds are now corporatized – we think like corporations without realizing there are other ways. The hook is almost irresistible, too: Rushkoff was robbed outside his apartment in Brooklyn, and when he posted about it on a neighbourhood mailing list, people wanted him to shut up about it lest he bring their property values down.

The book has many fascinating sections, especially the parts about the origins of corporations, the origin of branding (with Louis XIV’s minister Colbert, although some internetting has me questioning that passage), post-WWII home ownership and racism, and the bias inherent in central currency, to name a few. Unfortunately, all of these are awash in a sea of stream-of-consciousness ranting that makes it hard to discern the overall point at any given time. Certain ideas that need more room to kick their legs,like the bias of currency, simply drown.

Most disappointingly, Rushkoff reserves only a few pages at the end for suggestions of how to counteract corporatism. There’s only one real idea, about establishing local currencies, but as the problem with central currencies was so poorly argued earlier, it fails to impress. Likewise, it’s hard to tell whether his theory of corporatism is at all sound, since Rushkoff’s ranting distracts him from the legwork required to establish the theory’s subcomponents.