Posted by: Richard Chennault | December 10, 2006

Democratic Corporate Tyranny

I’ve been writing of late to understand the role of the private person within the sphere of public. I’ve also been cogitating about the role of the private corporation in the sphere of public. Placing the two together, that is the role of the private person within the corporation within the public sphere, is a developing theme of my past writings. In the next series of post I wish to work through the concede of rights by the private person to a corporation. Particularly in joining a corporation do we give up our natural and social rights to participate in the public dialogue and thus self-disenfranchise ourselves from both natural law and social law?

To what extent does a private person have rights of communication as an individual participant in the public sphere while employed by the corporation? Does the corporation subsume the rights of the private person whilst they are on super-capitalist grounds? Where do the concerns of the private individual end and that of the corporation begin? I will be attempting to argue through these conundrums.

A place to start is examining the meaning of corporation from Lord Haldane,

My Lords, a corporation is an abstraction. It has no mind of its own any more than it has a body of its own; its active and directing will must consequently be sought in the person of somebody who is really the directing mind and will of the corporation, the very ego and centre of the personality of the corporation.

Lord Haldane’s definition of the corporation is quite common and has rooting in common law. In modern western cultures the corporation enjoys many rights and privileges of that of its citizenry. Indeed the corporation, whilst not franchised to vote, has perhaps unequal privilege above the citizenry exemplified in the corporations’ ability to form public opinion and thus influence the state in enacting laws. In a sense the corporation becomes a de facto legislator for the state when the ability of the corporation to interact with the state becomes greater than that of the elected and the electors.

If as Lord Haldane suggests that the corporation is nothing more than an abstraction of an individual then I name that individual super-capitalist and it is he that has exigency above that of his fellow citizenry. All endeavors of the corporation are then to succor the egotism of the super-capitalist. A fundamental truth must therefore be learned from this which is that the corporation is at its basest the actionable endeavors of the tyrant.

It may seem inflammatory to liken the CEO, board of directors or other oligarchs of a corporation to that of the symbolism associated with tyranny. However comparing the attributes of the tyrant to that of the super-capitalist one finds similarities that are undeniable. If we peer back into the mist of history we learn that a tyrant is created through the willing complicity of those who are in thralldom. What is the modern corporation other than the aggregation of the willing to apply their energies towards the production of the object of the corporation? The super-capitalist is the transformation of the tyrant from pre-modernity society to a capitalist society that is driven by consumerism. The corporation is embodied by the ‘free’ association of the individual with the corporation. In this transformation are the mantles of tyranny equally bequeathed to the super-capitalist?

My intent is not to define the corporation as having the pathos of tyranny as some believe[1] but I do mean to point out that there exist a level of subservience and fealty given to the corporation and thereby to the super-capitalist. Thus the super-capitalist, like the tyrant, has the power of the corporation and all of its minions to wage war against that which stands in the way of the hegemony of the super-capitalist controlled corporation. Like the tyrant and his army the super-capitalist has his corporation in which to sally forth his banner and marshal the resources of the corporation to do upon man the evil or good so imagined in the mind of the super-capitalist. Thus the right of the private citizen within the corporation to move in a direction different from that of the CEO is hemmed by the forces of the corporation. No word, act or communication from the individual is without consent from the corporation. If true discourse separate from the strategy of the super-capitalist is present then the potential alterations of the path of tyranny are only made malleable through the upward communication action exercised through rankism or more commonly is dismissed and punished by the management bureaucracy that wields the sword of the tyrant.

In order to bring concreteness to the abstraction I draw upon my own experience. The CEO of the corpooration enjoying the privilege of his station and the power of his corporation is proselytizing the AHIP plan to which he helped craft. Neither as a private citizen nor as a corporate employee have I had the opportunity to review or discourse about this plan. The existence, propagation and promotion of the plan is in part enabled by the endeavours of all those who are under the fealty of the corporation; specifically its constituent members but indirectly associated corporations that are linked to the success and failure of the corporation.

This is not a criticism of the plan for how could I fairly criticize something I’ve not seen. Nor is it an indictment of CEO as a tyrant as he is only playing the part of the bourgeois whose ability to discourse in a weak public sphere is enabled through the production capacity of the private corporation. CEO is the patriarch of the corporate family and thus has all rights and privileges associated therein as did the bourgeois. Thus I’m forced by loyalty not to publicly critique the efforts of the provider of my livelihood and thus am relegated to being a member of the domestic private life of CEO. Be that as it may however it may be acceptable to critique through the corporations in general as an example of the disproportionate influence the super-capitalist has on public opinion, the general will and the public sphere.

The production of any object produced by super-capitalist as a means to occlude the rational discourse of the public sphere by setting communicative action forth in the public sphere by non-bracketed participants may have deleterious consequence on the lifehood of the private citizen. For if the AHIP is successful in representing their interest as public will to the state and subvert the public opinion then the result may be very well be further intrusion of state sovereignty into the private citizen lifehood. Even if the AHIP plan is unsuccessful in altering the discourse of the public sphere it has succeeded in setting the agenda of the debate even if the actual object of their position is not accepted as the public opinion. Thus multiple issues arise with the allowance of non-bracketed participants in the public sphere such as the AHIP. First they are able to set the agenda of the debate and thereby coerce the dialogue and second they may appear to the state to be a legitimate opinion based on the ationality of their argument. However all this is in direct contrast to the public good of the rightful participants of the public sphere not because the plan is without merit but because the plan was not discoursed by bracketed participants. Furthermore the plan is not representative of any opinion other than the collected super-capitalists who developed the plan. The plan, no matter the details, is the egotistical extension of the super-capitalist opinion concerning what is right for the public good.

This begs the question of course what are appropriate sphere of discourse to which ideas may be proffered for the general debate of the public? Is the AHIP a legitimate weak public sphere[2] or is it the aggregation of super-capitalist interest? I would say that the exclusivity of the members indicates its legitimacy as an ideal public sphere.

Now to the point: are the rights of speech curtailed by the private citizen because he is in the employ of the corporation? For if the private were to strike up discourse contrary to the mass communication of the corporation it is reasonable as evidence by past occurrence that the individual would be excised from the corporate. Furthermore the individual will more than likely become the enemy of the tyrant and thus become further disempowered as he no longer has the resources of the tyranny.

The ideal would be that the individual could enjoy freedom of speech within the public sphere even if it is counter to the super-capitalist goals. However the improbability of that arrangement when given the tyrants penchant for control over the state and the media is more the reality than the ideal. But there must be some point to which we as an egalitarian society made up of pluralist cultures can free ourselves from the self-enclosed shackles of the super-capitalist and raise up our voice so that the true public good can be affirmed through the discourse of the rational.

I know I didn’t get to where I wanted to go but I think eventually I’ll have a satisfactory postulate to introduce for the general discernment of the community. My next reads are Kant, Rousseau and possibly Locke.

[1] Joel Bakan:

[2] Nancy Fraser :


  1. Halvorson & co. want California to be an AHIP test case:

  2. Very good article. I almost had the feeling that I was being drawn back into the Dark Ages with the lord of he manor and the peasants. Kaiser Senior was a super-capitalist having as his business to be a governmental entrepeneur. And Sydney Garfield, MD, “The Founder,” of Permanente also found a way to answer the government’s need not the patient’s need. In fact, the competing ethic in medicine is the “group ethic” as seen to be the wind in the Permanente Medicine Map versus the Hippocratic Oath in which the individual is supreme.

    Charles Phillips, MD, FACEP –
    former Kaiser doc

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