cj#289> Mander: Eleven Rules Corporate Behavior


Richard Moore

Date:         Mon, 23 Oct 1995 21:53:13 -0400
Sender:       Progressive News & Views List <•••@••.•••>
From:         PNEWS <•••@••.•••>
Subject:      Eleven Inherent Rules of Corporate Behavior

From: Jay Hanson <•••@••.•••>

Eleven Inherent Rules of Corporate Behavior -- by Jerry Mander

The following list is an attempt to articulate the obligatory
rules by which corporations operate.  Some of the rules
overlap, but taken together they help reveal why corporations
behave as they do and how they have come to dominate their
environment and the human beings within it.

1. The Profit Imperative: Profit is the ultimate measure of
all corporate decisions.  It takes precedence over community
well-being, worker health, public health, peace,
environmental preservation or national security.
Corporations will even find ways to trade with national
"enemies "Libya, Iran, the former Soviet Union, Cuba -- when
public policy abhors it. The profit imperative and the growth
imperative are the most fundamental corporate drives; together
they represent the corporation's instinct to "live."

2.The Growth Imperative:  Corporations live or die by whether
they can sustain growth.  On this depends relationships to
investors, to the stock market, to banks and to public
perception.  The growth imperative also fuels the corporate
desire to find and develop scarce resources in obscure parts
of the world.

This effect is now clearly visible, as the world's few
remaining pristine places are sacrificed to corporate
production.  The peoples who inhabit these resource-rich
regions are similarly pressured to give up their traditional
ways and climb on the wheel of production-consumption.
Corporate planners consciously attempt to bring "less
developed societies into the modem world" to create
infrastructures for development, as well as new workers and
new consumers.  Corporations claim that they do this for
altruistic reasons to raise the living standard -- but
corporations have no altruism.

Theoretically, privately held corporations -- those owned by
individuals or families -- do not have the imperative to
expand.  In practice, however, their behavior is the same.
Such privately held giants as Bechtel Corporation have shown
no propensity to moderate growth.

3. Competition and Aggression:  Corporations place every
person in management in fierce competition with each other.
Anyone interested in a corporate career must hone his or her
ability to seize the moment.  This applies to gaining an edge
over another company or over a colleague within the company.
As an employee, you are expected to be part of the "team," but
you also must be ready to climb over your own colleagues.

Corporate ideology holds that competition improves worker
incentive and corporate performances and therefore benefits
society.  Our society has accepted this premise utterly.
Unfortunately, however, it also surfaces in personal
relationships.  Living by standards of competition and
aggression on the job, human beings have few avenues to
express softer, more personal feelings.  (In politics,
non-aggressive behavior is interpreted as weakness.)

4. Amorality:  Not being human, corporations do not have
morals or altruistic goals.  So decisions that maybe
antithetical to community goals or environmental health are
made without misgivings.  In fact, corporate executives praise
"non-emotionality" as a basis for "objective"

Corporations, however, seek to hide their amorality and
attempt to act as if they were altruistic.  Lately, there has
been a concerted effort by American industry to appear
concerned with environmental cleanup, community arts or drug
programs.  Corporate efforts that seem altruistic are really
Public relations ploys or directly self-serving projects.

There has recently been a spurt of corporate advertising about
how corporations work to clean the environment.  A company
that installs offshore oil rigs will run ads about how fish
are thriving under the rigs.  Logging companies known for
their clearcutting practices will run millions of dollars'
worth of ads about their "tree farms."

It is a fair rule of thumb that corporations tend to advertise
the very qualities they do not have in order to allay negative
public perceptions.  When corporations say "we care," it is
almost always in response to the widespread perception that
they do not have feelings or morals.

If the benefits do not accrue, the altruistic pose is dropped.
When Exxon realized that its cleanup of Alaskan shores was not
easing the public rage about the oil spill, it simply dropped
all pretense of altruism and ceased working.

5. Hierarchy:  Corporate laws require that corporations be
structured into classes of superiors and subordinated within a
centralized pyramidal structure: chairman, directors, chief
executive officer, vice presidents, division managers and so
on.  The efficiency of this hierarchical form (which also
characterizes the military, the government and most
institutions in our society) is rarely questioned.

The effect on society from adopting the hierarchical form is
to make it seem natural that we have all been placed within a
national pecking order.  Some jobs are better than others,
some lifestyles are better than others, some neighborhoods,
some races, some kinds of knowledge.  Men over women.
Westerners over non-Westerners.  Humans over nature.

That effective, non-hierarchical modes of organization exist
on the planet, and have been successful for millennia, is
barely known by most Americans.

6. Quantification, Linearity, Segmentation: Corporations
require that subjective information be translated into
objective form, i.e. numbers.  The subjective or spiritual
aspects of forests, for example, cannot be translated, and so
do not enter corporate equations.  Forests are evaluated only
as "board feet."

When corporations are asked to clean up their smokestack
emissions, they lobby to relax the new standards in order to
contain costs.  The result is that a predictable number of
people are expected to become sick and die.

The operative corporate standard is not "as safe as humanly
possible," but rather, "as safe as possible commensurate with
maintaining acceptable profit."

7. Dehumanization:  In the great majority of corporations,
employees are viewed as ciphers, as non-managerial cogs in
the wheel, replaceable by others or by machines.

As for management employees, not subject to quite the same
indignities, they nonetheless must practice a style of
decision making that "does not let feelings get in the way."
This applies as much to firing employees as it does to
dealing with the consequences of corporate behavior in the
environment or the community.

8. Exploitation:  All corporate profit is obtained by a
simple formula: Profit equals the difference between the
amount paid to an employee and the economic value of the
employee's output, and/or the difference between the amount
paid for raw materials used in production (including costs of
processing), and the ultimate sales price of processed raw
materials.  Karl Marx was right: a worker is not compensated
for full value of his or her labor -- neither is the raw
material supplier.  The owners of capital skim off part of
the value as profit.  Profit is based on underpayment.

Capitalists argue that this is a fair deal, since both workers
and the people who mine or farm the resources (usually in
Third World environments) get paid.  But this arrangement is
inherently imbalanced.  The owner of the capital -- the
corporation or the bank always obtains additional benefit.
While the worker makes a wage, the owner of capital gets the
benefit of the worker's labor, plus the surplus profit the
worker produces, which is then reinvested to produce yet more

9. Ephemerality:  Corporations exist beyond time and space:
they are legal creations that only exist on paper.  They do
not die a natural death; they outlive their own creators.
They have no commitment to locale, employees or neighbors.
Having no morality, no commitment to place and no physical
nature (a factory, while being a physical entity, is not the
corporation).  A corporation can relocate all of its
operations at the first sign of inconvenience -- demanding
employees, high taxes and restrictive environmental laws.
The traditional ideal of community engagement is antithetical
to corporation behavior.

10. Opposition to Nature:  Though individuals who work for
corporations may personally love nature, corporations
themselves, and corporate societies, are intrinsically
committed to intervening in, altering and transforming nature.
For corporations engaged in commodity manufacturing, profit
comes from transmogrifying raw materials into saleable forms.
Metals from the ground are converted into cars.

Trees are converted into boards, houses, furniture and paper
products. Oil is converted into energy.  In all such energy, a
piece of nature is taken from where it belongs and processed
into a new form.  All manufacturing depends upon intervention
and reorganization of nature. After natural resources are used
up in one part of the globe, the corporation moves on to
another part.

This transformation of nature occurs in all societies where
manufacturing takes place.  But in capitalist, corporate
societies, the process is accelerated because capitalist
societies and corporations must grow by extracting resources
from nature and reprocessing them at an ever-quickening pace.
Meanwhile, the consumption end of the cycle is also
accelerated by corporations that have an interest in
convincing people that commodities bring material
satisfaction.  Inner satisfaction, self-sufficiency,
contentment in nature or a lack of a desire to acquire wealth
are subversive to corporate goals.

Banks finance the conversion of nature insurance companies
help reduce the financial risks involved.  On a finite planet,
the process cannot continue indefinitely.

11. Homogenization:  American rhetoric claims that commodity
society delivers greater choice and diversity than other
societies. "Choice" in this context means product choice in
the marketplace: many brands to choose from and diverse
features on otherwise identical products. Actually,
corporations have a stake in all of us living our lives in a
similar manner, achieving our pleasures from things that we
buy in a world where each family lives isolated in a single
family home and has the same machines as every other family on
the block.  The "singles" phenomenon has proved even more
productive than the nuclear family, since each person
duplicates the consumption patterns of every other person.

Lifestyles and economic systems that emphasize sharing
commodities and work, that do not encourage commodity
accumulation or that celebrate non-material values, are not
good for business.  People living collectively, sharing such
"hard" goods as washing machines, cars and appliances (or
worse, getting along without them) are outrageous to corporate
commodity society.

Native societies -- which celebrate an utterly non-material
relationship to life, the planet and the spirit -- are
regarded as backward, inferior and  unenlightened.  We are
told that they envy the choices we have.  To the  degree these
societies continue to exist, they represent a threat to the
homogenization of worldwide markets and culture.  Corporate
society works hard to retrain such people in attitudes and
values appropriate to corporate goals.

In undeveloped parts of the world, satellite communication
introduces Western television and advertising, while
improvements in the technical infrastructure speed up the pace
of development.  Most of this activity is funded by the World
Bank and the International Monetary Fund, as well as agencies
such as the US Agency for International Development, the
Inter-American Bank and the Asian-American Bank, all of which
serve multinational corporate enterprise.

The ultimate goal of corporate multinationals was expressed
in a revealing quote by the president of Nabisco Corporation:
"One world of homogeneous consumption. . . [I am] looking
forward to the day when Arabs and Americans, Latinos and
Scandinavians, will be munching Ritz crackers as
enthusiastically as they already drink Coke or brush their
teeth with Colgate." Page 31

In the book, Trilateralism, editor Holly Sklar wrote:
"Corporations not only advertise products, they promote
lifestyles rooted in consumption, patterned largely after the
United States.... [They] look forward to a post-national age
in which [Western] social, economic and political values are
transformed into universal values... a world economy in which
all national economies beat to the rhythm of transnational
corporate capitalism....  The Western way is the good way;
national culture is inferior."

Form Is Content Corporations are inherently bold, aggressive
and competitive.  Though they exist in a society that claims
to operate by moral principles, they are structurally amoral.
It is inevitable that they will dehumanize people who work
for them and the overall society as well. They are disloyal
to workers, including their own managers. Corporations can be
disloyal to the communities they have been part of for many
years.  Corporations do not care about nations; they live
beyond boundaries.  They are intrinsically committed to
destroying nature.  And they have an inexorable, unabatable,
voracious need to grow and to expand.  In dominating other
cultures, in digging up the Earth, corporations blindly
follow the codes that have been built into them as if they
were genes.

We must abandon the idea that corporations can reform
themselves.  To ask corporate executives to behave in a
morally defensible manner is absurd.  Corporations, and the
people within them, 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.

Corporation: n.  An ingenious device for obtaining individual
profit without individual responsibility.
                               -- Ambrose Bierce, 1984-1914.

Excerpted from:
In The Absence of the Sacred: The Failure of
Technology and the Survival of the Indian Nations
(Sierra Club Books, 730 Polk St.. San Francisco, CA 94109).


 Posted by      Richard K. Moore <•••@••.•••>
                Wexford, Ireland (USA citizen)
                Editor: The Cyberjournal (@CPSR.ORG)

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