Of pots and kettles

Time is almost up for those who relish the 'society-vs-business' catfight, writes Tanmoy Goswami, managing editor, The Smart Manager

Tanmoy GoswamiIn the much-acclaimed 2003 documentary The Corporation, written by Joel Bakan and directed by March Achbar and Jennifer Abbott, the modern corporation is pronounced a certified psychopath, following a relentless examination of its footprints in the last century.

Anyone who watches the film will be completely convinced by the end of it that this is not a flawed generalisation, but that Monsanto and Coke and IBM are thoroughly representative of the deep dark machinations that businesses have always been blamed of breeding. Surely, this has to be seen as at least a little ironical notwithstanding the brilliance of the film itself, given that the jury in this trial of the corporation - we - are also the biggest benefactors of some of its machinations.

It also appears commonsensical to assume that a 'psychopathic' entity of this scale could not have freely spread havoc for such a long time without help from some 'normal' allies; yet, the fact is that society - comprising us - has often found it easy to extrapolate the idea of the corporation from its overall context - including and often created by us - and then whiplash it for being mean and naughty of its own accord.

It is a bit like the 'chicken or egg?' problem. Are corporations responsible for converting us into a band of blind, destructive consumers through guerilla advertising?

It is a tribute to social conditioning that this now appears to be a perfectly, even the only, acceptable theory. But a few of us will also remember another tenet from a chapter called 'Demand and supply' in secondary-school economics textbooks: ''Human wants are insatiable''. Is it not equally valid then that the corporation is the bastard child of our almost genetic lust for more?

In the high-handed world of theoretical interpretation, these will be viewed as elementary questions that have no novelty. But these are really the only questions worth asking, maybe a thousand times over. Quite like the only question worth asking in the terrorism debate is whether terror really is an illogical, independent phenomenon or a product of social repression.