“If ‘business organizations are a creature of the law’ (Tomkins, Victor & Adler, 1992, p. 537), after all, psychologists can help determine what kind of creature the law has created and empirically identify its most dangerous traits. These research efforts are necessary if we are to tame the corporate creature.”
-Dennis R. Fox (1996)
In discussing the issue of the corporation as an individual, with individual rights, the issue of the harm that corporations do comes up. This harm is rarely subject to the civil, medical and criminal responses that the human individual is subjected to, and there have been many studies of the psychology and the organizational behavior that is enacted by corporate entities.
In 1992, Thompkins, Victor and Adler called for study of organizational and corporate behavior in terms of identifying the dangerous traits of organizations, including risk taking behavior and whether the assumptions of human behavior could be applied to the corporation.
There is a legal and social psychological framework that corporations operate within, but there has not been so much examination or vigorous challenge to either the assumptions or the framework.
Three aspects of the corporation: size, hierarchy, concentration of power, and profit orientation need to be viewed in terms of the psychology of the law. The conflict between meeting human needs and amassing private profits has risen to the level of capitulation: that the corporate entity has amassed so much size and power that the excesses of corporate behavior are here to stay.
The identification of the corporation as a person has been so selectively treated that, while corporations have the same fictional rights as human individuals, the realities are that the corporations are collectives of individuals with a profit motive and are nothing like humans. The treatment of the individual responsibilities and rights are so selective in application to the corporation that the corporation has actually been demonstrating many psychological and mental disorders!
In 2004, Joel Balkan published “The Corporation: A Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power”, which described the psychopathic disorders of the corporation. The film, “The Corporation”was based on the book. This was a major look at corporations as a psychiatrist would evaluate an individual, with specific disorders identified and supported by factual evidence. The actual DSM-IV was used to identify the specific disorders that were identified. The major impact of the film is that it established the possibility of examining corporate entities as psychological entities with clearly defined disorders as classified and described in the DSM-IV.
Examining the psychology and psychopathy of the corporation should be done as much and as agressively as possible, as the corporation has none of the human individual’s obligations except for pursuing profit. Thus, the corporations can cause death, damage to the environment, violate the laws of humanity, and commit other acts of illegality without consequence in far too many cases.
The relentless and inhuman pursuit of profit leads to such thought processes as allowing paying customers to be dropped from insurance rolls as soon as they get sick; organizing bank transactions in order to create, then maximize charges for overdrafts; and denying responsibility or covering up for dangerous flaws in automobile acceleration, as with the Toyota Corporation in 2009 and 2010.
In the case of many corporations, the needs of the human workers, not to mention their rights are increasingly not even considered, as unions and collectives are not given the rights of corporations. There is a definite potential and exhibition of psychopathic nature that is devoid of empathy, guilt, shame or remorse, not only in the corporation as an entity, but in the thinking of the specific human individuals who collectively contribute to the organized thought of the corporations.
In this sense, it will take the expertise of legal as well as sociological, anthropological and psychiatric scientists to go much further than serving as servants of corporate entities, and to examine the entities objectively and without influence and bias, as if they were human individuals who have caused harm to others and to society.
The pathology of humans is built in to the corporations as they are based in human thought, motivations, dysfunctions, disorders and desires. But the elevation of the corporation as both an individual but also as above individuals in standing and in rights has created a serious threat to national stability, economic stability and social justice.
Dennis R. Fox, “The Law Says Corporations are Persons, but Psychology Knows Better”, 1996, Behavioral Sciences and the Law, 14, 339-359