Let 'em Eat Cake (Part III)
The Irresistible Advent of Corpocracy
by Gilles d'Aymery
October 24, 1999
Part I - Part II
Revlon chairman Ronald Perelman and his former wife, Patricia Duff, exemplify our American plutocracy. Ms. Duff, a multi-millionaire in her own right, is battling her billionaire ex in New York State Supreme Court over child support. How much does their 4-year old daughter need from Mr. Perelman's $40 million annual income to live with the standard of a "moderately luxurious" Manhattan Upper-East side family? Just $1.6 million a year, which comes out to the modest amount of $4,400 a day, not including housing costs!
Even more telling than the $30,000 a month budgeted for the girl's domestic employees, or the $21 million settlement Ms. Duff received, as well as $1.2 million in annual alimony after the two-year old marriage ended in divorce, is that Ms. Duff is a big-time Democratic fundraiser.
Ms. Duff lives in a caste system and raises money within this system, money that helps elect U.S. Representatives and Senators who in turn vote the laws that serve the best interests of this caste. In other words, it very much looks like government by the few for the benefit of the few. This conclusion is fully supported by the figures published in Part I of this essay. Both Democrats and Republicans in office serve the interests of a tiny minority of the people. The facts are loud and clear.
Nonetheless, the U.S.A. is not a true oligarchy--even though it does look like one--for the obvious reason that the country's elected officers are just that, elected officers. They are not elected by the elite. They are elected by the American people or about half of it, that is, the 50% of the people who vote. The Gores, Bradleys and Bushes are financed by the plutocrats and voted in office by the people. That's not the definition of an oligarchy.
Neither is it the definition of participatory democracy.
Political systems, like any living and complex system, are not frozen in time like a Rodin sculpture. They evolve over time, influenced by ideas and events. With the demise of the Soviet Union, the end of the Cold War and the remarkable acceleration of business and financial globalization in the past decade, thanks in no small measure to impressive technological advances, we have moved from participatory democracy to what is now called free-market democracy. Everything is driven by the market, this mythical balancing act between the forces of supply and demand. And "everything" means absolutely everything, from the market of ideas to the food in one's refrigerator.
So, whoever controls the free-market controls the system. The forces in play are immense. Even nations have had to adjust to those forces; at times they simply abdicate their responsibilities before such onslaught of raw market-driven power, backed, when necessary, by overwhelming military superiority (like in Kosovo).
Welcome to the age of the worldwide rule by corporations. Welcome to Corpocracy!
Corpocracy entails the convergence of the democratic process--one person, one vote--and the full control of the state apparatus by a tiny minority of plutocrats that commands the ideology as well as its dissemination.
Our media and advertising agencies --the disseminators of the ideology--have been gobbled up by corporate giants. Universities and think tanks--the makers of the ideology--are fully supported and financed by the same corporations and their obscenely wealthy executives. The people, working ever longer hours to make ends meet, have little time or inclination to read, or share their opinions and experiences, or think; but they are immersed, almost drowned in that ideology. Their "representatives," to get and keep their jobs, depend on the largesse of the few to broadcast their positions (or non-positions) during electoral campaigns and are indebted to those few and to their interests. In other words, we are witnessing the melding of the Constitution and of Goebbels.
Corpocracy is the first crusading battle of the coming millennium. So we better get used to this new word.
Note from the Editor (10/31/99): It appears that Charles Derber, a Boston College sociology professor, has used the word "corpocracy" in his book, Corporation Nation: How Corporations Are Taking Over Our Lives and What We Can Do About It, St. Martin's Press. Jan Baughman found about the earlier usage of the word in a book review by Neal Lipschutz, the managing editor of Dow Jones News Service, and posted last January on the site IntellectualCapital.com. I stand corrected. I'd be interested to learn about Mr. Derber's own definition of corpocracy. If anyone of you has read the book, would you let me know.
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