Friday, April 29, 2011

Mailer on the Corporation

Chris Hedges, in books like Empire of Illusion and The Death of the Liberal Class, and in articles on, warns of the tyranny of the corporation. In his view, we have undergone "a coup d'etat in slow motion" and we are now, as a nation, in the grip of the soulless and merciless claw of the Corporate State.

Chris Hedges' Feet, March 19, 2011
One would be excused for thinking this idea of the corporation as tyrannical entity was a recent development, an analysis and perception emerging in the last ten years or so on the Left. But that would be a mistake. Allen Ginsberg, for one, in The Fall of America: Poems of These States 1965-1971, raised the alarm by merely pointing out, in any number of poems within, the omnipresence of the corporation in American culture and daily life. Ralph Nader has raised righteous hew and cry against corporations for decades.

Another longstanding and prescient anti-corporatist was none other than Norman Mailer. Mailer, too often derided by those with limited knowledge or familiarity with his work, was a principled intellectual, a ferocious defender of the art of writing ("the spooky art"), and an acutely insightful observer of America. Consider these comments from an interview on the Charlie Rose show in 1996.

The topic of the conversation was Bill Clinton and his second term. Mailer took exception with Clinton's avowal to move the country to a "vital dynamic center", complaining that he (Clinton) hijacked the Democratic party ("My party is now the party of Nelson Rockefeller!") and that "... he does not have a vision that will move out of the center."

Norman Mailer circa 1996
Rose: You don't think leadership can be found in the center, you have to have some kind of vision of where you want to take the country and it's not to the center if you'e gonna' change things?

Mailer: I know it can't be found in the center and for a very simple reason - the center is the U.S. corporation and the U.S. corporation is in my modest opinion wrecking America. They're wrecking America aesthetically. They're putting up the ugliest buildings in the history of Christendom. The ugliest buildings in the last 2,000 years have been put up in America since the 1950s and now it's all over the world."

Mailer adds, after some interim comments: But let me go back to the point. I'm saying the "vital center" cannot solve anything in America because that's the corporation and the corporation is the root of our evils at this point. You know we have, eh... the discrepancy between the wealthy and the poor in America is now the greatest of the 15 major nations in the world. That's something to be ashamed of.

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