American Corporation

Global stocket markets plummet and nations all over the world ride an economic roller coaster. Americans are waking up to a new reality. The economic boom seems almost an illusion, and the prospects for global economic prosperity and social health are fading, whether in Russia, Japan, Latin America or the US itself.

This course examines the relation between America's economy, the world economy, and our social and moral problems as a nation. Our emerging economic system, built around a small number of huge multinational corporations, is closely linked to the development of a domestic and global social crisis involving violence, poverty and the breakdown of community. This course analyzes the roots of these problems in our "free market" capitalism, with a focus on global corporations and their power.  It looks at whatís wrong with the current way of thinking about economic problems and suggests a new socially oriented approach that can solve our social problems while increasing the health of American business.

The vast power of rising global corporate empires—from Citicorp to General Electric to Microsoft - poses new threats to American democracy and the wellbeing of all citizens. While American corporations are trumpeted as a model of efficiency for the whole world, their vast size, singleminded profit seeking, and lack of public acountability create problems of corporate sovereignty similar to those a hundred years ago during the age of the Robber Barons. While the economy as a whole grows rapidly and dramatic technological change revolutionizes our lives, the poor multiply, wages stagnate, corporate profit and power grow, and job security is vanishing. Big business increasingly sets the agenda for both political parties. We worship money as our highest value.

The course offers students literacy in political economy, the theory of the corporation, the practice of business, and the making of social change. It provides a new perspective on current affairs and American society, and should help students interpret the news about the economy and American social problems in a more critical and informed way. It does not require prior background in political economy or economics, and uses texts that are written for the general reader.

Requirements and Basis For Grading

  • Midterm
  • Final
  • Group Reports


(In bookstore and on library reserve)

  • *Barlow and Clarke, MAI
  • Barnet and Cavanaugh, Global Dreams
  • *Brecher and Costello, Global Village or Global Pillage
  • Bluestone and Bluestone, Negotiating the Future
  • Kuttner, The Economic Illusion
  • *Reich, The Work of Nations
  • *Derber, Corporation Nation
  • *Derber, The Wilding of America
  • Makower, Beyond the Bottom Line
  • Vogel, Japan as Number One
  • Thurow, Head to Head

*Recommended for Purchase

Course Readings

  1. Who Runs the World? Corporate Sovereignty and The New Global Economy
    1. Global Corporations and the Future of Democracy [session 1]
      • Thurow, Head to Head, Chapters 2,5 (optional)
    2. Globalization:Race to the Top or Race to the Bottom? [session 2]
      • Reich, The Work of Nations, Chapters 10-12
      • Brecher and Costello, Global Village or Global Pillage? Chaps 1-3
    3. Working the Globe: The Rise of the Multinational Corporations and Global Governance by the IMF; WTO, and MAI  [session 3]
      • Barnet and Cavanaugh, Global Dreams, Intro, pp. 310-338
      • Barlow and Clarke, MAI, Chaps. 1-6
  2. The American Dream at Risk: Corporate Rule and The Threat to Democracy
    1. New Robber Barons?: Corporate Sovereignty[session 4]
      • Derber, Corporation Nation. Intro, Chaps 1-4
    2. The Corporate Mystique [session 5]
      • Derber, Corporation Nation, Chaps. 6-9
    3. Inequality and Poverty: Corporate Rule, the New Social
      Contract and the End of the American Dream  [session 6]
      • Reich, Work of Nations, Chapters 14, 17, 24
      • Derber, Corporation Nation, Chap. 5
    4. Social Disintegration: The Ungluing of America [session 7]
      • Derber, The Wilding of America. Chaps. 1-7
  3. Justice and Community as Economic Strategies: Toward A Social (Moral) Market
    1. Justice and Prosperity: The Western European Strategy
      [session 8]
      • Kuttner, The Economic Illusion, Chapters 4,6
    2. Community and Prosperity: The Japanese Corporate Strategy [session 9]
      • Vogel, Japan as Number One, Chaps. 4,5,6,7,8 (optional)
      • Thurow, Head to Head, Chaps. 2, 4
  4. Positive Populism: Toward Economic Democracy
    1. Toward A New US Economic Model: Postive Populism and The Accountable Corporation [session 10]
      • Derber, Corporation Nation, Chapters 9-11; 13,14
    2. Economic Democracy:Worker Participation/Employee Ownership/Corporate Social Responsibility[session 11]
      • Bluestone and Bluestone, Negotiating the Future, Chaps. 1,8
      • Makower,  Beyond the Bottom Line , Chaps 1, 8
      • Derber, Corporation Nation, Chapter 12
    3. What Can You Do? [session 12]
      • Derber, Corporation Nation, Chapters 15, 16, Epilogue