POWER, INC.: The Epic Rivalry Between Big Business and Government — and the Reckoning that Lies Ahead. By David Rothkopf. Farrar, Straus. 448 pages. $30.
David Rothkopf asserts in “Power, Inc.” that “the balance between public and private power is the defining political issue” in the United States.
To his credit, he upholds his claim, providing a rich perspective for interpreting current events.
He uses the oldest existing corporation, Stora Enso Oyj, to illustrate the rise of the corporation in relation to the evolution of the modern state.
By tracing its history from a copper mine in Sweden, the author reveals its role in that country’s rise to Europe’s center stage.
He presents the earlier church-state conflict as a precursor to the current tension between state and corporation, punctuating this by presenting the Kyoto Protocols as proof that Sweden can still capture the international stage — until booted off by Exxon.
The author turns to the U.S. for the legal evolution of the corporation, reviewing the cases that gave them personhood, immortality, independence and rights. Alongside, he presents salient moments in U.S. history, from the corporate role in the American Revolution to the stock market crash of 1929.
From the British East India Company to Goldman Sachs, corporations have often determined the fate of na- tions.
The author offers a convincing narrative rich in history that is complemented with generous portions of compelling statistics and informative anecdotes.
Lord Ashley Cooper makes an appearance alongside John Locke, who had a hand in the constitution of the Carolinas, part of the author’s considering the debates about ideas.
With this third element, the intellectual history, the author avoids hard-set predictions, instead, presenting four current models of capitalist organization, positing that the new road map will come from here.
For the reality is that the consensus about the ability of markets to self-correct and resolve societal problems is history.
Reviewer Carlos Salinas, a writer based in Washington, D.C.