I see a lot of people complaining about corporate greed, as if a legal charter given to a group of people somehow acquires the very human attribute of greed. Corporations don’t have greed. They can’t. As Sir Edward Coke, sitting as the King’s Bench, put it in the Sutton Hospital Case of 1612:
“They may not commit treason, nor be outlawed, nor excommunicate, for they have no souls, neither can they appear in person, but by Attorney.”
Corporations do not have greed. People have greed, which is often more successful when hidden behind a for-profit corporation. Using the phrase “corporate greed” buys into the very denial of the I-thou relationship that the greedy people have. Calling it “corporate greed” aids and abets the glamorie that the owners of the corporation use the corporation for: there’s no people here, it’s just a corporation, it’s freedom, what’s your problem anyway? With a corporation, an individual human can only have an I-it relationship, eliminating any chance of dialogue and real change.
In order to break down the walls in society against I-thou relationships, people opposed to massive accumulation of wealth by individual persons need to initiate such connections, instead of attacking the phantom of “corporate greed”. One philosophical song that I see as addressing the desire to attack the greedy as opposed to the need to first make an I-thou connection with a particular person in hopes of establishing a resonance is T. Thorn Coyle’s “Hey Mister” (from her Give Us a Kiss! CD):
“Hey mister,it’s really not my place to put you down
Hey mister, it’s not in my theology.
Hey mister, I shouldn’t run your name into the ground
But I seem to do it anyway!
Hey mister, I know that I should see the God within
Hey mister, but in your eyes she doesn’t seem to play;
Hey mister, I suppose I ought to listen not defend
Hey mister, but I just don’t see the world your way.
All I see are your big cars,
And the way my neighborhood has changed;
It makes me want to shout you out:
And pull my hair like I’m deranged!
I want to bring salvation back;
I really want us to evolve –
But I don’t know how to see a thing
The money, opposition and false power.”
“Hey mister”: it’s a phrase one-to-one. It derecognizes the phony personhood of the corporation and tries to initiate a conversation with an individual, human, person who wields money and power behind the corporate glamorie.
Attacking “corporate greed” has gotten practically nowhere. Perhaps it’s time to look at another strategy; a humanistic strategy; a strategy of finding connections to those hiding behind “corporations”. Perhaps it’s time to try to see the world the way corporate owners (not managers unless they are also major stockholders) see it; it’s the only way to establish a slow resonance in dialogue to ultimately change the frequency.
Corporations have no souls, no greed, no lust, no passion. Attacking corporate greed is a symbolic action so divorced from the actual people who wield power and money, and an action so divorced from humanistic and social justice I-thou traditions, that it wastes energy that could be better used in addressing the actual people of power and money.