There are many possibilities for reining in corporations. But perhaps simply banning corporations beyond a certain size would be best.
The neoliberal ideology of unrestrained markets has led to a global crisis. Humanity now faces an existential threat as the result of global dominance by corporations, whose ultimate goal is at odds with human flourishing.
Corporations have stepped beyond lobbying governments. They are integrating in policy-making at the national and international levels.
One of the central points Whyte makes is this interplay between corporation and state allows investors to destroy the environment and even commit genocide, only to walk away without having to face the consequences.
Having studied, written on and engaged in public discussion about transnational corporations (TNCs), I have reached the conclusion that we are not collectively equipped to think about the kind of power that they represent, the silent way they exercise their specific form of sovereignty and the numerous mechanisms that allow them to circumvent the law wherever they operate.
The future is uncertain. Attempts to impose Lex Mercatoria will continue but there will also be social victories along the way, along with the increasingly widespread conviction that we are facing a profound and epoch-making alternative: ‘democracy or markets’.
It’s time to make the profit-maximising, shareholder-controlled corporation obsolete. In the perilous moment we face, with the crises of the climate emergency and spiralling inequality, the time is up on corporations acting as though serving financial shareholders is their highest duty.
We need to see ourselves as political actors, citizens, obliged to take part in and contribute to creating good and just societies. We need to accept that democratic governance is messy and uncertain, that it’s as much about the process of participation as it is about the resulting policies, and that it can only flourish in social conditions that nurture empathy and solidarity among citizens.
Transnational corporations, the engines of global capitalism, have become the target of efforts to create an economic system both socially just and environmentally sustainable. The unprecedented power and impact of these leviathans on society and ecology raises critical questions: What is corporate purpose? To whom should corporations be held accountable? And how, in fact, can that be accomplished?
There are more possibilities than a marginally less-bad business-as-usual future. Effectively and justly achieving deep emissions cuts requires fundamentally changing the system, not merely modifying it or slapping its beneficiaries’ wrists. Real change requires state programs and regulations as well as trying out new forms of ownership and governance.
Reimagining how the corporation operates requires us to go beyond the policy tools of a regulatory or redistributive state into rearranging the distribution and nature of property, governance and control rights that shape its behaviour.
There is, of course, a caution for our species in Pig #6707. When an organism grows beyond its design, nature will determine it to fail — a fact of life, in the strictest sense. Nowhere in evolutionary theory is hypertrophic growth posited as the key to success. What is key is optimum size, what we’d more accurately call right size.