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Publisher's Summary

A captivating book that reveals how corporations have come to dominate all aspects of life - including our inner lives - and what to do about it.

Something has gone terribly wrong. Unquestionably, but seemingly inexplicably, we now live in a world where the market has infiltrated every area of our lives.

In Life Inc., brilliant and charismatic cultural theorist Douglas Rushkoff argues that we no longer know who we are, or what we want. Everything, especially authenticity, is branded. Real community and real intimacy have broken down, replaced by market-tested cures for everything from weight, to conception, to poverty, to food, to finding a mate. The market, and its operating system, Corporatism, is no longer something people build and control. Rather, it builds and controls us.

Rushkoff, in tracing the roots of corporatism from the Renaissance to today, reveals the way it supplanted social interaction and local commerce and came to be regarded as a preexisting condition of our world, from the history of public relations to the relentless gentrification of America's urban neighborhoods. And he shows us how to fight back: how to de-corporatize ourselves, disengage from branded expectations, think locally, and return to the real world of human activity. As Rushkoff puts it, "Micro-decisions are what matter."

©2009 Douglas Rushkoff; (P)2009 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

"This is a provocative and controversial look at the dark side of corporatist effects on our economy. Douglas Rushkoff explores the various ways, some you may never have considered, that innovation and commerce can be stunted by corporations. Whether or not you agree, you will find this book challenges some of our basic assumptions about how our economy works." (Walter Isaacson, author of Einstein: His Life and Universe)
"There are few more important subjects in the West today than the corporatization of public and personal space and few writers as well-suited to the subject as the always insightful and provocative Doug Rushkoff. A terrific contribution to an urgent debate." (Naomi Wolf)

What members say

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  • Overall

Accessible Indictment of the Lost American Dream

Other reviewers who accuse Rushkoff of whining and calling everything fascist/nazi are disingenuous or haven't read beyond the first chapter. The author acknowledges the perils of a fascist diagnosis of America, and only makes the connection once, and he's no whiner. In fact, he admirably proposes plausible positive action to take to change the situation, and the situation is dire, as the author outlines in a brief history of the development of the corporation from the colonial era to the present. I agree with other reviewers who find him too pessimistic about the internet. In this part of the book, Rushkoff seems to too strongly delineate between profit and human meaning/value, unable to see how the internet might be both. But in general, this book is excellent, critiquing the commodification of human values and the loss of community in ways similar to academic critical theorists, but in a much more accessible way. Loved it.

8 of 9 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • David
  • Oregon, WI, USA
  • 07-23-09

Challenging assumptions

Douglas Rushkoff has written a wonderfully challenging work about how our everyday lives are affected by the foundational reality of corporations and corporatism. Some will dismiss it as the ravings of a elitist liberal whatever. It is instead the considered reflections of a human being trying to understand the bizarre results of a very undemocratic economic theory.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Thomas
  • Plano, TX, USA
  • 07-17-09

Some Redeeming Qualities

I started listening to this book and thought at first he was an extreme liberal. Then I realized he is not. He is not Conservative either. He is challenging many of the basic assumptions in the world. This is the interesting part of this book. While I don't agree with much of what he says, I did find it fascinating to listen to. He touches on so many different topics. The book is very broad. The author does have this intense fear of authority. While Conservatives would prefer business to control, and Liberals would like the Government to control, Rushkoff doesn't want anything or anybody to have control. His perfect world is the small communities of the middle ages or Brooklyn in the 40s. I think the book is definitely worth listening to. It also presents some interesting information regarding how some companies do business.

7 of 8 people found this review helpful

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  • B
  • Seattle, WA, USA
  • 02-06-10

Needs more "how to take it back."

Rushkoff does an excellent job of elaborating the history of corporatism, but misses a field goal with the last chapter. He's problematized our corporate environment but offered too few solutions.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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An unenlightening, oversimplified rant.

I had high hopes for this book. I'm politically sympathetic to the author's positions, it was reviewed well, and I was interested in the subject, particularly the "how to take it back" portion.

My hopes were dashed when I discovered an endless rant blaming every social, economic and political ill that the world knows on corpratisim. The views were comically one sided, not even bothering to present counterarguments in order to refute them, and the world is depicted in large, simplistic strokes using the sort of black and white morality favored by children.

The book is an enumeration of what Rushkoff doesn't like about the world (including but not limited to the banking crisises, worker exploitation, stagnent wages, new age spiritualism, and isolation) and how each of these things can be blamed on the corporate structure.

There were a few juicy historical tidbits scattered here and their and one interesting argument regarding the nature of centralized fiat currency, but they were rare gems in an otherwise dull slog of a book.

Most disappointing of all was the extremely light "what you can do about it" chapter, tacked on to the end as an afterthought. It can be summed up as "volenter rather than donate"

Skip this book.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Susan
  • Irvine, CA, United States
  • 03-28-11

Great content, annoying narration

Have you ever wondered why every "tourist attraction" has a gift shop? Have you wondered why gift shops, stores where you buy useless meaningless trinkets for other people, exist at all? Wonder no more. The answer, according to this book, is the corporatization of every aspect of our lives.

I totally bought into the message of the book-- that corporations are unnatural constructs that have injected themselves into our lives in unhealthy ways. Consequently, they turned us into input/output units, rather than persons who are loving-breathing-running-jumping human beings.

My one big complaint is the narrator. He has a breathless, gasping style with a sense of astonishment that gives the impression that everything is awful and the world is about to end. Other than that, this is a great listen.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • WP
  • 06-08-15

Must read!

Mr. Rushkoff put into words the processes that I have observed that are slowly robbing us of our humanity. Brilliant and remarkable.

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For a particular kind of reader

What’s the most interesting tidbit you’ve picked up from this book?

The history of corporatization is laid out rather well.

Any additional comments?

I love Douglas Rushkoff's style. A lot of his books are very much products of their time but this one holds up quite well. I'm sure a Life Inc 2014 would have a different take than the original but the ideas here are still sound. I suggest reading it to help articulate and define your own view rather to read just to read something that shares your own worldview.

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I should've taken the blue pill

What did you love best about Life Inc.?

Here I thought I was living my mundane existence, a productive member of early 21st century society and then, just like that, it becomes apparent I've been something of an acquiescent lab rat in an enormous and complex version of the Skinner Box. I just want you to know Doug, I'm writing this at work when I should be working. Each journey starts with a turn of the wheel.

What was the most compelling aspect of this narrative?

Douglas Rushkoff delivers the entire narrative of his book without sounding above it all. I feels like it did when my 3rd grade teacher Mrs Queen wrote in the margins of my report card that I wasn't working to my potential. Judgmental but enthusiastic about the possibilities.

  • Overall
  • Shannon
  • honolulu, HI, USA
  • 10-26-09

I very much appreciated this book

This is such a great book.

I appreciate the author's passionate point of view that corporatism has come to dominate our modern lives. It is slightly depressing...okay...VERY depressing. But the book is wonderfully written, thought provoking, and inspires change (even if just in my own little life).

I like that the author was the narrator, he adds a lot of zest in the telling of the saga of corporatism.

I highly recommend this!