Megacorporation

weyland yutani

Tyrell corporation

Megacorporation is a term popularized by science fiction author William Gibson. It has become a term popularly used in cyberpunk literature, referring to a corporation that is a massive conglomerate, holding monopolistic or near-monopolistic control over multiple markets (thus exhibiting both a horizontal and a vertical monopoly). Megacorps are so powerful that they can ignore the law, possess their own heavily-armed (often military-sized) private armies, hold ‘sovereign’ territory, and possibly even act as outright governments. They often exercise a large degree of control over their employees, taking the idea of ‘corporate culture’ to an extreme.

Such organizations are a staple of science fiction long predating cyberpunk, appearing in the works of writers such as Philip K. Dick (‘Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?’), Thea von Harbou (‘Metropolis’), and Robert Heinlein (‘Citizen of the Galaxy’).

Almost all depictions of a megacorporation show them as amoral (unconcerned with using ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ in their decision-making process) operating purely out of a desire to achieve productivity, profit and efficiency as a machine would. Although the term itself arose out of science fiction, certain real-life corporations have approached megacorporation status in various ways. The Dutch East India Company was the first multinational corporation in the world to issue stock. It was also arguably the world’s first megacorporation, possessing quasi-governmental powers, including the ability to wage war, negotiate treaties, coin money, and establish colonies.

Disney is one of the few multinational corporations to achieve a large degree of self-governmental control, in the Florida region known as the Reedy Creek Improvement District. Within this district, the Disney corporation has the legal authority to establish its own building codes, power plants, and utilities, fire departments, and to seize land outside the district under eminent domain. The corporation protects itself from outside interference by permitting only Disney employees to own land within the district, keeping voting power to elect district managers (also Disney employees) within company control, and thereby preventing restriction on company actions and projects within the district.

The Hudson’s Bay Company once owned most of the British colonies in Canada, where they were the only law enforcement agency and the main contact between the First Nations and British civilization. The East India Company played the role of a megacorporation in India, raising its own army and administering large portions of the Indian subcontinent for 250 years, before being absorbed into the British Raj. The United Fruit Company had major influences on the structure of Central American governments in the early 20th century. They owned land and were in charge of the land and had an army to fight and guard it, along with the United States Armed Forces.

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