In a unique exploration of how corporations appropriate the rights and identities of people, Richard Hardack unearths the unexpected consequences of corporate America’s quest to dominate every aspect of our culture.
Not only do corporations govern our economy, but corporate personas define our identities and shape our relationships with people and the world around us. In a timely and wide-ranging study, Hardack recontextualizes the inordinate influence of corporations and corporate advertising as a legal, political, psychological, and sociological phenomenon. He connects a surprising array of topics, including advertising, pop culture, representations of nature, science fiction, legal history, the history of colonization and slavery, and the longing to transcend individuality, to show how the principles of corporate personhood—the idea that corporation are people—allow corporations to impersonate and displace actual people. Throughout, Hardack also provides a novel reassessment of the pernicious role and effect of advertising in our daily lives.
The book makes accessible a complex topic and integrates many pressing issues in the U.S., including the privatization of the public sphere; the escalating polarization of wealth and rights; unchecked corporate power, influence and monopoly; and the descent of political debate and policy into the language of advertising, branding, and entertainment. Hardack treats the assumptions that foster corporate personhood as both cause and effect, driver and symptom, of a series of transformations in U.S. society. Awakened to this foundational way corporations infiltrate most human activities and interactions, readers can better understand and safeguard themselves against systemic changes to the American economy, culture, and politics.
Richard Hardack, who holds a Ph.D. and JD from UC Berkeley, has applied his love of history, law, and literature to projects such as his book, Not Altogether Human: Pantheism and the Dark Nature of the American Renaissance; NASA’s History of the Juno Mission to Jupiter; and the courses he’s taught at Berkeley and Haverford and Bryn Mawr Colleges.
1. A Conceptual Overview
2. The Zero-Sum Game of Corporate Personhood
3. You’re Soaking in It
4. He Can’t Be a Man ‘Cause He Doesn’t Smoke the Same Detergent Pack as Me
5. The Nature of Corporations
6. Pumpkins and Sugarplums
7. The Animated Corporation
8. Truth and Soul
9. Your Call is Very Important to Us
10. There’s No Their There
11. You Can’t See the Corporation for the CEOs
13. Buy with Confidence
14. Habeas Corporation
15. Paranoid Desires
16. The Gap Between Signifier and Signified
17. It’s All Theater
19. Corporate Exceptionalism
20. Anonymous Autonomy
21. When Texas Executes One
22. Immortality and Impersonation
23. Corporations Have No Souls
24. Extremely Hostile Takeovers
25. A Little Less Than Kin
26. And Now the Words from Our Sponsor
27. New and Improved: The Zero-Sum Game of Corporate Personhood
28. The Whole World is An America, A New World
29. The Transcendental Franchise
30. Advertising Makes the World Uniform: The New World as the Whole World
31. Warning Signs
32. Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Trust and Spam
33. Advertising Creep: The End of Public Space
34. The Age of Advertisements: What’s Your Sign?
35. Sponsored Language
36. I’m Not an Actor, But I Play One on TV
37. Pretty Lies, Unclean Hands
38. The Rise of the Impersonation State
39. I Have Met the Alien
40. Corporations Cannot Speak
41. A Marketplace of Rights
42. Commercial Personhood
43. Advertisements Against Myself
44. The Self as Ad
45. Schadenfreudian Slips: Ad Copy and the Culture of Envy
46. Pop Ups and Pin Ups: Advertising Sex and Violence
47. The Art of Lying
48. Needs and Wants
49. Farewell Welfare
50. Ask Your Advertiser if Advertising is Right for You
51. Living Outside the Market?
52. How Soon is Nowhere?: Advertising Academia
54. Imagine a World Without Advertising
Richard Hardack approaches the topic of corporate personhood through a unique perspective that focuses on the primary means by which corporations attempt to capture our attention—their use of advertising. His lucid and nuanced discussion ranges across history, law, literature, philosophy, and popular culture to provide a novel analysis of this timely subject.