Non-Profit Corporate Power: Sheep in Wolf’s Clothing?

November 16, 2010

Ceasefire Magazine

by Michael Barker

Why do corporations give billions of dollars to charitable foundations every year? Does it make their profit-making activities less exploitative? In the first of a monthly series of columns investigating corporate power, Michael Barker looks at non-profit foundations.

Massive corporations wield immense power, and their ability to crush lives is commensurate with their insatiable demands for profit: profit that is derived from, and necessitates, exploitation. Therefore, working to end such anti-social activities should be a top priority for humankind. But if in some bizarre act of humanity a small proportion of the profits derived from capitalism are churned back to the very people who suffer worst from the necessary ill effects of corporate power, what then? Does such charity mean that the institutionalized exploitation of the bulk of human life is not so bad after all?

I would argue that the answer is ‘no’; corporate profit gained at the expense of humans can never be justified by such philanthropic gestures. No doubt such noblesse oblige is allocated by some elites with noble intentions; but if the price for such charity is for its recipients to ignore economic exploitation, then it is hardly distributed with altruistic intentions. Instead it is given with economic intent to profit more handsomely from a workforce, in a manner that assuages each individual capitalist’s desire to feel (and advertise) their own neglected humanity.