The Rise of the “Corpocracy”

Book Notes

Volume CIV, No. 10October, 2004

“Regime Change Begins at Home,” by Charles Derber (Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2004).

In “Regime Change Begins at Home,” Boston College sociology professor Charles Derber analyzes the changes in America’s political climate since Civil War days with emphasis on the present era’s shift of sovereignty from citizens to corporations and the increasing rewards fat-cats enjoy at the expense of the less fortunate.

Professor Derber points out that such “corpocracy” is nothing new.

The so-called “robber barons” created a similar situation during the “Gilded Age” that followed the Civil War, he writes, and Big Business again controlled the government back in the “Roaring Twenties,” during the Harding and Hoover administrations.

Each of those regimes contained the seeds of their own destruction and were supplanted first by the Progressive movement, led by trust-buster Teddy Roosevelt in the first two decades of the 20th century, and then by FDR’s New Deal beginning in the 1930’s.

Today’s “third corporate regime” began in 1980 with the Reagan presidency.

Though infinitely larger and more powerful than its predecessors, Derber says, it, too, may soon crumble due to growing internal weaknesses.

Written in an engaging, easy-to-read style, Derber’s book intersperses quotations from America’s Founding Fathers and more recent notables with brief portraits of several victims of the present corpocracy.

A “thumbnail history of credibility crises” makes it clear that the “politics of bad faith” is not a recent phenomenon but has signaled the decline of several past regimes.

The author explains that as contradictions intensify “the explanations and remedies offered by leaders become less honest and create a regime crisis of credibility.”

As might be inferred from its title (borrowed from a bumper sticker opposing a recent U.S. foreign adventure), “Regime Change” is not merely a scholarly treatise; it’s a polemic that urges Americans to fight to regain their constitutional rights by opposing the Bush administration.

Subtitled “Freeing America from Corporate Rule,” this book offers bold, creative strategies to bring about regime change yet again. It describes the social movements — including the labor movement — now working toward this goal and shows, step by step, how ordinary Americans can help.

A useful appendix lists Internet addresses for more than 30 organizations involved in this struggle, a resource that activists might consider in itself worth the price of the book.

“Regime Change Begins at Home” is available at most book stores, from the publisher at and from Local 802’s library.

–John Glasel

John Glasel was president of Local 802 from 1983 to 1992.