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Life Inc.: How the World Became a Corporation and How to Take It Back (2009)

par Douglas Rushkoff

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374751,244 (3.67)2
Cultural theorist Rushkoff reveals how corporations have come to dominate all aspects of life--including our inner lives--and what to do about it. In tracing the roots of corporatism from the Renaissance to today, Rushkoff reveals the way it supplanted social interaction and local commerce and came to be regarded as a pre-existing condition of our world.… (plus d'informations)
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Affichage de 1-5 de 7 (suivant | tout afficher)
Factual inaccuracies aside, how can a person be this one sided? Of course there's a lot of scamming and bullshit in general in the modern world but when you support your arguments with farcical claims like how people were better off in the 10th century without any caveats do not expect anyone to take you seriously. You are blinded by your hatred. At one point the author claims corporations were the cause of witch burnings and the plague. A lot of mental gymnastics, all so as to avoid any responsibility for your actions. For shame. ( )
  TeaTimeCoder | Dec 23, 2020 |
This book was a severe disappointment. I heard Rushkoff interviewed on radio and was intrigued by his talk. Like most people interested in the book and Rushkoff's views, I am strongly opposed to the US corporate culture and economy and I thought I would be reading a well-researched, historical/economic analysis of that system. The book however turned out to be a dilettante's screed.

Let's start with the style. As some have noted the book is poorly edited, does not have a coherent structure and tends to repeat itself. One get the feeling there is quite a bit of padding to make what could have been a long article into a full length book. Worse yet nearly every chapter starts with a first-name anecdote, a common tactic of the self-help books Rushkoff viciously attacks. The purpose of these anecdotes is to humanize the ideas and make them more palatable. But it is quite obvious that while these anecdotes might be based on real events Rushkoff might have experienced or read about, they are made up stories not factual accounts of actual events. This type of writing, besides being patronizing, is essentially a form of propaganda and not intelligent analysis.

Which leads me to the main criticism - Rushkoff's thesis is based on inaccuracies and untruths. He has an argument he wants to make and he fits the facts to match his argument, not the other way around. There are multiple example in nearly every chapter. Let's start with a minor inaccuracy early on, where he confuses debits and credits with assets and liabilities. All "debit" means is the left side of the ledger and "credit" means the right side. The whole point of double-entry accounting is that debits must always equal credits, and if they don't there was an error in entry. This is purely a technical aid in ensuring accurate accounts. Profitable businesses want income to exceed expenses and assets to exceed liabilities, not credit to exceed debit (which latter makes no sense). This criticism may sound pedantic. While accounting terms are complex, if you are going to make major arguments about how double-entry accounting moved us into the world of corporate dominance, at least make sure you are using terms properly!!

Things move downhill from there. The book is riddled with propagandistic arguments. His discussion about Nash and game theory is a good example. Rushkoff can be paraphased as follows: "Nash was crazy, so his rabid support of selfishness is an expression of some lunatic schizophrenia and since game theory selfishness is used to justify the free market, it just proves free market ideology is crazy. Isn't it ironic that Reagan shut down looney bins as part of his cost cutting of big government?" There are ten different logical fallacies in his arguments made in just a few paragraphs (including ad hominem) but it also doesn't match the facts in the real world. Yes it is true that the prisoner's dilemma was first raised at the Rand Corporation and Nash did contribute some math regarding this. But the prisoner's dilemma does not equal game theory (Rushkoff uses the two almost interchangeably). The prisoner's dilemma is not at all relevant to free markets since it is a model where there is zero communication between the competitors and in Smith's classic free market all players have access to all information. In any case propagandists for the free market like Reagan didn't appeal to game theory to justify their arguments. Monetarism and its critique of Keynes is the main idea used in Reagonomics. Finally, most modern researchers agree that the optimal solution of the prisoner's dilemma involves some sort of co-operation strategy and in fact the benefits of altruism in biological and political systems is often modeled via the prisoners dilemma and other game theory models. Rushkoff presentation of this topic is the kind of argument one expects to find in a Rush Limbaugh or Glenn Beck kind of book, i.e. a propaganda text, not a serious analysis of the topic.

Throughout the books it seems Rushkoff makes stuff up just to prove his point. For example when he talks about coins in the Roman empire he claims money was centralized and the empire fell becaue of debased coinage. Both points are factually wrong. The emperor controlled gold coinage but local currencies were used all over the empire. Debasement of currency was actually the way several emperors propped up the empire in times of economic crisis (and if Greece could do it today it would go a long way to helping them out). The fall of the Roman empire was a quite complex process and to blame it all on centralized currency and its debasement is ridiculous.

Which bring us to this: Rushkoff's arguments are based on gross over simplifications and his totally ignoring facts and events that don't fit or contradict his thesis. Sure the late Middle Ages prior to the plague was a time of prosperity. But it was also a time when trade opened up with the East and the Crusaders' plundered the Muslims in the Holy Land. These two most likely are far more relevant to this period's prosperity as opposed to local currencies. Oh and did I mention the Crusades? To talk of this period as some sort of pastoral utopia is utter nonsense.

I kept on reading the book because I was hoping to find some semi-intelligent discussion of alternatives to corporate culture. Instead, Rushkoff insults and demeans anyone who does things differently than he would like. For example, people who work at non-profits are losers according to Rushkoff because obviously anyone who is talented and "energetic" will go work for a higher paying corporation. The idea that someone might actually take less pay to achieve something important for society just doesn't compute in Rushkoff's mental "operating system." According to him, political action is worthless because government is obviously in the pocket of corporations. Well yes, our government was equally or even deeper in the pockets of corporate elites prior and during the depression of the thirties. Yet FDR somehow managed to make changes which in fact helped millions of people and saved our collective butts in this latest crisis, depite 70 years of concerted effort to roll back all his reforms.

Of course Rushkoff is correct in stating that it's important to be involved in your local community economically, socially and politically. However, that point is so obvious that it is ridiculous someone feels the need to write a book to make it. And it has nothing to do with your attitudes towards corporate control. No matter what your political perspective, you should be out there working to make your local community, school, whatever a better place for you and your family and neighbors.

Rushkoff spends 98% of his book whining about how bad things are (even though in the second to last chapter he says himself that whining is a waste of time). He blames his own failure to fight the "system" (including publishing his book with a big corporation and his bad parenting practices), in other words he blames his own moral and intellectual laziness, on the overwhelming power of corporations to rule our lives. He totally ignores or demeans his (and our) ability to choose alternatives to how we live and act. He also totally ignores how throughout history and geography, most people never had more control than we do over the big things in life. If after all his whining in this poorly argued, poorly thought out book, Rushkoff's best advice is his idea about "Comfort dollars," then one-star doesn't begin to describe how much this books sucks. ( )
4 voter aront | Jul 25, 2017 |
Too overwraught to get four stars, but close ( )
  Baku-X | Jan 10, 2017 |
This book won't solve all the world's problems, but it quite usefully reframes issues for people living in the U.S.A. and similar societies. It's an informative read that tells stories of history, society, and economy without devolving into name-calling or sensationalism. ( )
  Brian.Gunderson | Dec 6, 2013 |
Too overwraught to get four stars, but close ( )
  BakuDreamer | Sep 7, 2013 |
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Cultural theorist Rushkoff reveals how corporations have come to dominate all aspects of life--including our inner lives--and what to do about it. In tracing the roots of corporatism from the Renaissance to today, Rushkoff reveals the way it supplanted social interaction and local commerce and came to be regarded as a pre-existing condition of our world.

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