Wealth and power are synonymous. In recent decades the power of wealth has become increasingly concentrated among an elite few, and the disparity between the wealthy-powerful and the poor-powerless is increasing at an accelerating rate.
The primary mechanism driving the increasing disparity in wealth and power is a legally sanctioned embodiment of greed, an act of economic legerdemain called the private corporation. Corporations were originally created as organizational structures that would allow for the pooling of economic resources to accomplish large-scale tasks, building a bridge or a stretch of railway, for example, tasks that were beyond the economic scope of single individuals. Their state charters were limited to specific purposes, and they were dissolved as soon as those purposes were accomplished—or beforehand if they were not operating according to the chartered agreement. Thus a corporation’s power may have been substantial, but its reach was tightly focused, and its existence was temporary.
Things have changed.
Today’s corporations are different creatures entirely. They are open-ended both in terms of their specific tasks and their duration. And their potential for power is virtually limitless. The modern transnational corporation is a machine whose sole purpose is the concentration of wealth. Think of a giant planet eating robot from a 1950’s era science fiction movie, only instead of metal, imagine its body is composed of laws and legal procedures, and instead of a network of servos and massive hydraulic pistons, its movements are controlled by a hierarchical arrangement of corporate executives and administrators. The corporation’s brain is its board of directors who act on behalf of the interest of distant shareholders in much the same way that a mindless planet eating sci-fi robot acts out the will of the malevolent aliens who created it and sent it to Earth. People, human individuals, play only two roles in the corporate scheme: as resources to exploit in the quest for ever increasing wealth, power, and control, or as occupants of supportive positions within the structure of the corporation itself, literal cogs in the corporate machine. Frequently the distinction between these two roles is blurred—especially at the lower reaches of the corporate hierarchy, the hourly wage-earner.
It is not hyperbole to say that our global civilization is an organization of and for corporations, and that human beings participate in civilization only in proportion to their ability to participate in roles designed for them by these corporate entities. You are either a consumer of corporate products and services, or you are involved in providing those products and services for consumption by others and you are a consumer of corporate products and services. Most of us fall into the latter category. Most multinational corporations are incorporations of corporations, that is, they are corporate organizations of multiple corporations, many of which are in turn composed of smaller corporations. Always at the bottom of the hierarchy, though, are individual people, human beings, consuming or otherwise facilitating the corporate agenda. Thus the power wielded by any corporation ultimately depends on the active participation of actual people. This is a potential frailty, a potentially exploitable weakness in the corporate machine, a focal point of attack for those who would liberate us from corporate control, from civilization’s death star.
It is also this weakness that powers the corporate drive to dehumanize. The more that people think of themselves in terms of their corporate role, as consumers for instance, rather than in terms of their humanity, the less likely anyone will think to exploit this weakness.