Manufacturing Discontent: The Trap of Individualism in Corporate Society

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9780745324067: Manufacturing Discontent: The Trap of Individualism in Corporate Society
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Most economic theory assumes a pure capitalism of perfect competition. US economist Michael Perelman offers a refreshing deconstruction of the pervading prejudices of corporate responsibility and shines a light on some of the workings of corporate power. Perelman describes the manufacure of unhappiness and the complex techniques corporations employ to avoid responsibility and accountability to their workers, consumers and the environment. He argues against 'economists who, believing in the harmonious functioning of the market, construct beautiful theories to show how the economy works to maximise happiness and human welfare'. He points out that 'corporations serve as a vehicle to accumulate wealth in an ever smaller number of hands. Those who enjoy the greatest wealth within this system raise the income aspirations for others. Corporations play a substantial role in fuelling higher expectations. (Simon Basketter, Socialist Review)

Perelman describes how the distorted ideological perception of society within the US has facilitated the construction of a corporate society in which corporate power grows at the expense of individuals. The leaders of corporate society; he argues, want Americans to see themselves as a multitude of individuals satisfying their needs through the alchemy of a market that they rule through the exercise of individual choice. This he sees as a danger not just to the US but to the entire world through both the military power of the corporate driven US, and the spread of the poison ideology to other countries. He concludes that only by joining together in social groups that tap into individual strengths can people successfully challenge corporate power. (Reference & Research Book News)

This critique of corporate power focuses on the ideology of individualism and its effects on society. Perelman (California State Univ., Chico; author of several books, including The Perverse Economy, CH, May'04, 41-5408) starts with the conventional wisdom that individual consumers are sovereign in the market economy and demonstrates that in fact corporations are the dominant social actors. Ironically, both real persons and large corporate entities enjoy the legal status of "individuals." People, however, are obliged to provide labor to corporations and consume corporate products. The ideology of corporate legitimacy is that businesses earn profits by creating new value, but realistically, they often amass wealth through monopolistic practices and shifting the costs of their activity to others. For example, Wal-Mart's low prices depend on public subsidies in the form of food stamps for workers, tax rebates, and similar economic benefits. While entrepreneurs are theoretically rewarded for taking risks, established corporations can force individual workers to accept the risk of layoffs and retirement insecurity, and force individual members of society to accept such risks as environmental degradation and poor health. Altogether, the book is a lively, informative polemic about power relations in the consumer society. Summing Up: Recommended. General readers; students, lower-division undergraduate and up; researchers (R. L. Hogler, Colorado State University)

Reseña del editor:

Corporate power has a huge impact on the rights and privileges of individuals -– as workers, consumers, and citizens. This book explores how the myth of individualism reinforces corporate power by making people perceive themselves as having choices, when in fact most peoples' options are very limited.

Perelman describes the manufacture of unhappiness - the continual generation of dissatisfaction with products people are encouraged to purchase and quickly discard - and the complex techniques corporations employ to avoid responsibility and accountability to their workers, consumers and the environment. He outlines ways in which individuals can surpass individualism and instead work together to check the growing power of corporations.

While other books have surveyed the corporate landscape, or decried modern consumerism, Perelman, a professor of economics, places these ideas within a proper economic and historical context. He explores the limits of corporate accountability and responsibility, and investigates the relation between a wide range of phenomena such as food, fear and terrorism.

Highly readable, Manufacturing Discontent will appeal to anyone with an interest in the way society works - and what really determines the rights of individuals in a corporate society.

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Michael Perelman
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Perelman, Michael
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Perelman, Michael
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