Joel Bakan is an author, filmmaker and a professor of law at the University of British Columbia. His work examines the social, economic, and political dimensions of law, and he has published in leading legal and social science journals as well as in the popular press. Bakan has won numerous awards for his scholarship and teaching, worked on landmark legal cases and government policy, and served frequently as a media commentator.
A former Rhodes Scholar and law clerk to Chief Justice Brian Dickson of the Supreme Court of Canada, he has law degrees from Oxford, Dalhousie, and Harvard. His critically acclaimed international hit, The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power (Free Press, 2004), electrified readers around the world (it was published in over 20 languages), and became a bestseller in several countries. It is the basis of THE CORPORATION, on which he is co-creator (with Mark Achbar), associate producer, and writer.
His latest book, Childhood Under Siege: How Big Business Targets Children, was released in August 2011 (for sale on the Hello Cool World webstore in USA & Canada). Bakan’s highly regarded scholarly work includes Just Words: Constitutional Rights and Social Wrongs (University of Toronto Press, 1997), as well as textbooks, edited collections, and numerous articles in leading legal and social science journals.
A frequent recipient of awards for both his writing and teaching, Bakan has worked on landmark legal cases and government policy, and served regularly as a media commentator, appearing on national television and radio. He is a popular and accomplished public speaker who has, over the last few years, addressed business, government, academic, and activist audiences in the United States and abroad. Bakan, who is also a professional jazz guitarist, grew up in East Lansing, Michigan and now lives in Vancouver, Canada with his wife, Rebecca Jenkins, and their two children, Myim and Sadie.
My main interest as a legal scholar is in how the law shapes and is shaped by social and economic forces. The Corporation is a project that came out of this interest. In 1997 I published Just Word in which I argued that constitutional rights were becoming increasingly ineffective in protecting the ideals they embodied, such as freedom, equality and justice. One reason for this, I suggested, was that constitutions apply only to governments; they do not apply to the key institution of market capitalism—the corporation.
The problem was especially pressing because, with economic globalization in full swing, corporations were emerging as global governing institutions, dominating societies and governments throughout the world. At the same time, most people had, and have, very little understanding of their true institutional nature. So it made sense to ask: what is the nature of this new governing institution? And what are the consequences of its growing hold on society? I developed the idea that the corporation, deemed by the law to be a person, had a psychopathic personality, and that there was something quite bizarre, and dangerous, in such an institution wielding so much power.
It was around this time that I met Mark Achbar, coincidentally, at a social event. He told me he was thinking about making a documentary film about globalization. We realized that we had a lot of shared interests and concerns and soon decided to collaborate on making a film about the corporation, as I wrote the book. Jennifer Abbott joined the two of us three-and-a-half years later, and, after three more years, The Corporation was made.
-- Joel Bakan