Douglas Rushkoff - Life Inc: How the World Became a Corporation and How to Take it Back (4 stars)

Douglas Rushkoff - Life Inc: How the World Became a Corporation and How to Take it Back

(Bodley Head)


Wake up Neo: the matrix has you. For social commentator Douglas Rushkoff, the current perilous economic landscape is only one of various possible versions that could have developed, and the economy’s greatest self-perpetuating myth is to make it all appear so seamless. We are operating inside a closed system, reckons Rushkoff, with marketing, consumerism, mass media and even our notion of individuality all working to convince us that the free market is a natural phenomenon. So far, so conspiracy theorist. But if you take the red pill, Rushkoff has some compelling arguments. He cites the jumping off point as the Renaissance, not seeing it as a time of unparalleled growth for the good of humanity, but rather as the watershed moment when those in power set up a system of rules to maintain their wealth and secure it through the creation of corporations.

These rules govern the way we do business and interact today and are rigged so that the house always wins. Whether the economy looks healthy or, like now, is in dire straits, the corporate machine trundles on and works to protect itself while capitalist competition keeps people disconnected from control, communities and each other. Countercultural writer Rushkoff offers a sweeping pass at the last 1000 years of the Western world, relaying his history in an accessible, anecdotal way and pointing towards an alternative route while stopping short of all-out didacticism. More coffee table politics than an academic text, Life Inc is a good starting point for the lay reader and does what a good wake-up call should: inspires further enquiry.

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