Earliest sci fi story lines featuring corporate domination.
October 27, 2008 11:05 AM   Subscribe

A friend is searching for early references in science fiction literature (a genre that I am not very well read in) where a corporation runs the world. I thought of Philip K. Dick's 1968 novel, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Are there earlier references?
posted by stephenfrancoeur to Media & Arts (13 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
You might get some good leads from these lists of "megacorporations" in various sources.
posted by pracowity at 11:20 AM on October 27, 2008

Haldeman's MindBridge isn't about corporations running the world, but that's part of the story (they also run the major religions). However, I now see it was written in 1976. Gonna plug it anyway. Great book.
posted by nax at 11:24 AM on October 27, 2008

The Demolished Man, from 1953, is considered one of the first sci-fi novels to have that cyberpunk "megacorps run everything" flavor.
posted by johngoren at 11:25 AM on October 27, 2008

By no means the earliest, I'm sure, but Pohl and Kornbluth's 1953 The Space Merchants might qualify despite, as I recall, having a syndicate of corporations running the world:

In a vastly overpopulated world, businesses have taken the place of governments and now hold all political power. States exist merely to ensure the survival of huge trans-national corporations.
posted by jamjam at 11:26 AM on October 27, 2008

Metropolis (1927).
posted by madmethods at 11:29 AM on October 27, 2008

The Sleeper Awakes, H.G. Wells, 1910.

The story follows the fortunes of a late nineteenth century Englishman identified only as Graham. After a struggle with a highly unusual case of insomnia, Graham falls into a strange coma referred to by Wells as a "trance." He awakens two hundred years later to find that he has inherited sizeable wealth. During that time, his money was put into a trust which managed Graham's money in his name. Over the years, the members of that trust used Graham's unprecedented wealth to establish a vast political and economic order that spans the entire world.
posted by Fuzzy Monster at 11:30 AM on October 27, 2008

Snow Crash. Not one corporation, but many big ones.
posted by ewkpates at 12:22 PM on October 27, 2008

Fuzzy Monster is on the right track, but it's worth pointing out that in a lot of the forefathers of science fiction--late-19th/early-20th century authors--it isn't that easy to tell whether the author is talking about a government or a corporation. Details weren't necessarily delved into to the extent that would permit one to make such a distinction.

A good example is E. M. Forester's "The Machine Stops". It's not clear from the story whether The Machine is run by a world-state or a megacorp, but it doesn't really matter for the purposes of the story.
posted by valkyryn at 12:46 PM on October 27, 2008

Jack London wrote a futuristic, dystopian novel called The Iron Heel in 1908 describing a socialist revolution against an oligarchy who derives its power from monopoly trusts.
posted by nanojath at 1:15 PM on October 27, 2008

Robert Sheckley's Immortality Incorporated (1959). An excellent, very funny and thought-provoking read...
posted by Chairboy at 1:29 PM on October 27, 2008

Pohl and Kornbluth were also on the case in Gladiator-at-Law in '54. Various Sheckley short stories like "Cost of Living", 1952. Heinlein's "Logic of Empire", 1941. It was a commonplace theme in the fifties.
posted by Zed_Lopez at 10:34 AM on October 28, 2008

The Machine Stops featutures a single monolithic machine that takes care of all humanities needs and which humanity lives in.
posted by Artw at 12:16 PM on October 28, 2008

(That's probbaly more of a Socialist vision, being a response to HG Wells, but I'm sure it informed the corporatre visions of 50s SF)
posted by Artw at 12:17 PM on October 28, 2008

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