the power of corporations is the power of the people

I've been thinking of writing up something for Jesus Radicals, and started it today. Probably called, "The Power of Corporations is the Power of the People." Here's the beginning:

“I learned, at that time, a very important lesson,
that one should never underestimate the power of the people.”
(from The Corporation)

In the news recently there have been images of large crowds of people, shouting at the financial towers that line Wall Street. The people, “the 99%,” have showed up to demand an end of the overwhelming influence of corporations in our political system, and the vast majority of wealth being controlled by the few at the top. It reminded me of the excellent documentary The Corporation, based on a book by the same name by Joel Bakan. It offers an in-depth analysis of the rising power of the corporation, and the nature of the beast (a legal “person,” yet with “no soul to save and no body to incarcerate”). But the movie concludes with a strong message of hope, perhaps the same message often heard among the Occupy protesters in cities across the country: “The people, united, will never be defeated.”

As the movie's theme music fades, however, and the shouts recede, I ask myself what is this “power of the people”? The power of united people, organized people, many hands working together, combining their resources and their ideas and their labor? But isn't that the same power that the corporations wield?

Aren't corporations basically large numbers of people, organized around a common purpose to produce impressive results, demonstrating the considerable power of “the people, united”?

Certainly, many of the means used by corporations to organize people and effectively utilize their resources and labor are far from fair or democratic. Workers are lured by needed wages, customers are convinced to give their money through the appeal of low prices (often at the expense of quality), and both are made more dependent on corporations by the intentional elimination of better alternatives. According to capitalist theory, corporate suppliers are supposed to be driven by the demands of the market, the demand of free consumers. But in our modern society, too often powerful corporations can manufacture demand for the product they want to sell, and influence economic forces to keep workers too dependent to make any demands. This power, when used in this way to dominate, is clearly seen to be an evil power. Yet is it not still the power of many hands working together, organized, the “power of the people”?