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This didn’t just happen. In Life Inc., award-winning writer, documentary filmmaker, and scholar Douglas Rushkoff traces how corporations went from a. Now includes “The Life Inc. Guide to Reclaiming the Value You Create” In Life Inc , award-winning writer Douglas Rushkoff traces how corporations. Life Inc. is as fluent and well-researched as any of his books – but its target is too large, and too badly constructed to help us much. In a heaving.

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Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read. Want to Read saving…. Want to Read Currently Reading Read. Refresh and try again. Open Preview See a Problem? Thanks for telling us about the problem. Return to Book Page. Preview — Life Inc. This fascinating journey, from the late Middle Ages to today, reveals the roots of our debacle. From the founding of the first chartered monopoly to the branding of the self; from the invention of central currency to the privatization of banking; from the birth of the modern, self-interested individual to his exploitation through the false ideal of the single-family home; from the Victorian Great Exhibition to the solipsism of MySpace—the corporation has infiltrated all aspects of our daily lives.

Most of all, Life Inc. The landscape on which we are living—the operating system on which we are now running our social software—was invented by people, sold to us as a better way of life, supported by myths, and ultimately allowed to develop into a self-sustaining reality.

A world gone mad

It is a map that has replaced the territory. As the speculative economy collapses under its own weight, Life Inc. Hardcoverpages. Published June 2nd by Random House first published To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

To ask other readers questions about Life Inc. Lists with This Book. Mar 06, Aron rated it did not like it. This book was a severe disappointment. I heard Rushkoff interviewed on radio and was intrigued by his talk. The book however turned out to be a dilettante’s screed. Let’s start with the style. As some have noted the book is poorly edited, does not have a coherent structure and te This book was a severe disappointment. As some have noted the book is poorly edited, does not have a coherent structure and tends to repeat itself.

One get the feeling there is quite a bit of padding to make what could have been a long article into a full length book. Worse yet nearly every chapter starts with a first-name anecdote, a common tactic of the self-help books Rushkoff viciously attacks.

The purpose of these anecdotes is to humanize the ideas and make them more palatable. But it is quite obvious that while these anecdotes might be based on real events Rushkoff might have experienced or read about, they are made up stories not factual accounts of actual events. This type of writing, besides being patronizing, is essentially a form of propaganda and not intelligent analysis. Which leads me to the main criticism – Rushkoff’s thesis is based on inaccuracies and untruths.

He has an argument he wants to make and he fits the facts to match his argument, not the other way around. There are multiple example in nearly every chapter.

Book review: Life Inc.

Let’s start with a minor inaccuracy early on, where he confuses debits and credits with assets and liabilities. All “debit” means is the left side of the ledger and “credit” means the right side.

The whole ic of double-entry accounting is that debits must always equal credits, and if they don’t there was an error in entry. This is purely a technical aid in ensuring accurate accounts. Profitable businesses want income to exceed expenses and assets to exceed liabilities, not credit to exceed debit which latter makes no sense.


This criticism may sound pedantic. While accounting terms are complex, if you are going to make major arguments about how double-entry accounting moved us into the world of corporate dominance, at least make sure you are using terms properly!!

Things move downhill from there. The book is riddled with propagandistic arguments. His discussion about Nash and game theory is a good example. Rushkoff can be paraphased as follows: Isn’t it ironic that Reagan shut down looney bins as part of his cost cutting of big government?

Yes it is true that the prisoner’s dilemma was first raised at the Rand Corporation and Nash did contribute some math regarding this. But the prisoner’s dilemma does not equal game theory Rushkoff uses the two almost interchangeably.

The prisoner’s dilemma is not at all relevant to free markets since it is a model where there is zero communication between the competitors and in Smith’s classic free market all players have access to all information. In any case propagandists for the free market like Reagan didn’t appeal to game theory to justify their arguments. Monetarism and its critique of Keynes is the main idea used in Reagonomics. Finally, most modern researchers agree that the optimal solution of the prisoner’s dilemma involves some sort of co-operation strategy and in fact the benefits of altruism in biological and political systems is often modeled via the prisoners dilemma and other game theory models.

Rushkoff presentation of this topic is the kind of argument one expects to find in a Rush Limbaugh or Glenn Beck kind of book, i. Throughout the books it seems Rushkoff makes stuff up just to prove his point. For example when he talks about coins in the Roman empire he claims money was centralized and the empire fell becaue of debased coinage. Both points are factually wrong. The emperor controlled gold coinage but local currencies were used all over the empire.

Debasement of currency was actually the way several emperors propped up the empire in times of economic crisis and if Greece could do it today it would go a long way to helping them out. The fall of the Roman empire was a quite complex process and to blame it all on centralized currency and its debasement is ridiculous.

Which bring us to this: Rushkoff’s arguments are based on gross over simplifications and his totally ignoring facts and events that don’t fit or contradict his thesis. Sure the rusnkoff Middle Ages prior to the plague was a time of prosperity. But it was also a time when trade opened up with the East and the Crusaders’ plundered the Muslims in the Holy Land.

These two most likely are far more relevant to this period’s prosperity as opposed to local currencies. Oh and did I mention the Crusades? To talk of this period as some dluglas of pastoral utopia is utter nonsense. I kept on reading the book because I was hoping to find some semi-intelligent discussion of alternatives to corporate culture.

Instead, Rushkoff insults and demeans anyone who does douglss differently than he would like. For example, people who work at non-profits are losers according to Rushkoff because obviously anyone who is talented and “energetic” will go work for a higher paying corporation. The idea that someone might actually take less pay to achieve something important for society just doesn’t compute in Rushkoff’s mental “operating system. Well yes, our government was equally or even deeper in the pockets of corporate elites prior and during the depression of the thirties.

Yet FDR somehow managed to make changes which in fact helped millions of people and saved our collective butts in this latest crisis, depite 70 years of concerted effort to roll back all his reforms. Of course Rushkoff is correct in stating that it’s important to be involved in your local community economically, socially and politically. However, that point is so obvious that it is ridiculous someone feels the need to write a book to make it. And it has nothing to do with your attitudes towards corporate control.


No matter what your political perspective, you should be out there working to make your local community, school, whatever a better place for you and your family and neighbors. He blames his own failure to fight the “system” including publishing his book with a big corporation and his bad parenting practicesin other words he blames his own moral and intellectual laziness, on the overwhelming power of corporations to rule our lives. He totally ignores or demeans his and our ability to choose alternatives to how we live and act.

He also totally ignores how throughout history and geography, most people never had more control than we do over the big things in life. If after all his whining in this poorly argued, poorly thought out book, Rushkoff’s best advice is his idea about “Comfort dollars,” then one-star doesn’t begin to describe how much this books sucks. View all 4 comments. Jan 04, Rebecca McNutt rated it really liked it Shelves: As I type this on my Microsoft Asus laptop, looking at the screen through my vouglas Converse reading glasses, drinking Bigalow earl gray tea and listening to a CTV News broadcast in the background, I feel like sort of a hypocrite.

How many corporations do you rely on daily without even realizing it? Mar 20, Matthew Boulton rated it liked it Shelves: I borrowed this book from the library, and towards the end I found no fewer than three abandoned book marks.

Ind led me to believe that many people found this book hard to finish and in many ways I sympathise. rusbkoff

The subtitle implies that this book will be a history lesson followed by advice on how to overthrow our inhuman corporate overlords. The former is definitely present; Rushkoff charts the history of the corporation back to the Renaissance.

He explains how the corporation became a way for m I borrowed this book from the library, and towards the end I found no fewer than three abandoned book marks.

He explains how the corporation became a way for monarchies to rein in the new merchant class and maintain some semblance of centralised control over the new rich.

Book review: Life Inc.

By way of homage, you will find that this long-winded review catalogues some of the interesting parts of Life Inc. If you read Life Inc. The trick is to keep reading after the despair phase and I think that is where my three predecessors failed. If you do move past despair, then eerily or perhaps not-at-all-coincidentallyyou will experience the self-preservation phase shortly before reading about it.

The history is fascinating, particularly when Rushkoff takes us back to the Age of Cathedrals.

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

He conjures up images of an idyllic period of European history before the Renaissance, the plague and the rise of the corporation. A time where the working classes enjoyed four days of work, over a hundred public holidays and arguably enjoyed better standards of health and well-being than we do today. There was no reason or sense in hoarding lkfe currency, so businesses invested heavily in their people and physical assets.