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Anti-corporate activism refers to the idea of activism that is directed against the private sector. It stems from the idea that big business needs to be held to account for its activities and impacts that may be to the detriment to the public good and democratic processes.
Activists[who?] argue that corporate globalization has caused a displacement in the shift from an industrial economy to one where international trade and globalization has spurred financial deregulation. As an increasing number of economies have embraced a free-market approach, regulation has been rolled back and corporations have grown in power and autonomy. Opponents of corporate globalization believe that the government needs greater powers to control the market, that income inequality is rising, and that corporations have gained too much power. Typically coming from the political left, activists against corporate power and influence advocate for a reduced income gap and improved economical equity.
Large multinational corporations also attempt to erode governmental regulations through in-house or contracted lobbyists who work closely with legislators around the world. So, activists argue, as corporate laws continue to lean in their favor, corporate members have improved avenues to drive up company profits.
The defenders of corporations such as Ron Arnold highlight that governments do legislate in ways that restrict the actions of corporations (see Sarbanes-Oxley Act) and that lawbreaking companies and executives are routinely caught and punished, usually in the form of monetary fines. Governments, if democratically elected, may be the most legitimate mechanism by which to guide and control corporate activities.
In addition, from the perspective of business ethics it is argued[by whom?] that chief executives are not inherently more evil than anyone else and so are no more likely to attempt unethical or illegal activity than the general population.
Anti-corporate activists often ally themselves with other activists, such as environmental activists or animal-rights activists in their condemnation of the practices of organizations such as the McDonald's Corporation (see McLibel) and forestry company Gunns Limited (see Gunns 20).
In recent years, the number of books (Naomi Klein's 2000 No Logo being a well-known example) and films on the subject has increased such as The Corporation which have to a certain extent supported anti-corporate politics.
An artist critical of sociopolitical agendas in business is conceptualist Hans Haacke.
In June 2008, Condé Nast Publications released an article entitled "The Secret Seven" which listed the top seven anti-corporate web sites. These included: WikiLeaks, Mini-Microsoft, Wal-Mart Watch, HomeOwners for Better Building, Brenda Priddy and Company (automotive spy photos) and finally Apple Rumor Sites AppleInsider and MacRumors. In 2020, a group called "Save our Elders from Corporate Abuse" was formed on Facebook. The page was designed to report and expose banks, trust companies, brokerage firms, and other businesses that contractually obligate or otherwise trap senior citizens, particularly those over the age of 80, into predatory loans, perpetual billing for products, or other schemes intended to get money from them without their knowledge or consent.
Media and digital networking have become important features of modern anti-corporate movements. The speed, flexibility, and ability to reach a massive potential audience has provided a technological foundation for a contemporary network social movement structure. As a result, communities and interpersonal connections have transformed - meaning that corporations can be challenged in novel ways. The internet supports and strengthens local ties, but also facilitates new patterns for political activity. Activists have used this medium to operate between both the online and offline political spectrum.
Email lists, web pages, and open editing software have allowed for changes within an organization. Social media allows activism to be coordinated and scaled in previously unimaginable ways. Now, actions are planned, information is shared, documents are produced by multiple people, and all of this can be done despite differences in distance. This has led to increased growth in digital collaboration. Activists can presently build ties between diverse topics, open the distribution of information, decentralize and increase collaboration, and self-direct networks.
Close to fifty thousand people protested the WTO meetings in Seattle on November 30, 1999. Labor, economic, and environmental activists succeeded in disrupting and closing the meetings due to their disapproval of corporate globalization. This event became a symbol as anti-globalization networks emerged and became strengthened. The experiences from the protests were distributed throughout the internet via emails and websites. Anti-corporate globalization movements have also expanded through the organization of mass mobilizations, including the anti-WTO protests, which were remarkably successful. In the United States, these movements reemerged after less attention was given to the war in Iraq, resulting in an increase in mass mobilizations.