Massy Reads: On Ethics, Rights and Democracy

Massy Reads: On Ethics, Rights and Democracy 

A Public Humanities Hub Conversation with UBC Authors Joel Bakan (Law) and Kimberley Brownlee (Philosophy)

A book launch series co-hosted by UBC Public Humanities and Massy Arts Society.

Please see below for details on how to purchase books through Massy Books and more. This event is free and open to the public.

Tuesday, September 22, 2020
12 – 1:30 PM (Pacific Time)
Online: register here


Prof. Joel Bakan
Professor of Law, UBC Vancouver

Dr. Kimberley Brownlee
Professor of Philosophy, UBC Vancouver


Dr. Heidi Tworek
Associate Professor of History, UBC Vancouver

This event is being broadcast from the unceded territories of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh Nations.

Books & Bios

The New Corporation: How “Good” Corporations Are Bad for Democracy

By Joel Bakan 

From the author of The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power comes this deeply informed and unflinching look at the way corporations have slyly rebranded themselves as socially conscious entities ready to tackle society’s problems, while CEO compensation soars, income inequality is at all-time highs, and democracy sits in a precarious situation. 

Over the last decade and a half, business leaders, Silicon Valley executives, and the Davos elite have been calling for a new kind of capitalism. The writing was on the wall. With income inequality soaring, wages stagnating, and a climate crisis escalating, it was no longer viable to justify harming the environment and ducking taxes in the name of shareholder value. Business leaders realized that to get out in front of these problems, they had to make social and environmental values the very core of their messaging. Their essential pitch was: Who could be better suited to address major societal issues than efficiently run corporations? There is just one small problem with their doing well by doing good pitch. Corporations are still, ultimately, answerable to their shareholders, and doing well always comes first. 

This essential truth lies at the heart of Joel Bakan’s argument. In lucid and engaging prose, Bakan lays bare a litany of immoral corporate actions and documents corporate power grabs dressed up as social initiatives. He makes clear the urgency of the problem of the corporatization of society itself and shows how people are fighting back and making gains on a grassroots level.

Purchase a copy from Massy Books before the event, and receive a signed copy.

Joel Bakan writes and researches in the areas of Constitutional Law, socio-legal studies, legal theory and economic law at the Peter A. Allard School of Law. He has law degrees from Oxford, Dalhousie, and Harvard. He studied at Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar and served as Law Clerk in 1985 for Chief Justice Brian Dickson of the Supreme Court of Canada  He joined the Law Faculty in 1990 as Associate Professor after a year’s visit from Osgoode Hall Law School, where he had been Assistant Professor since 1987.  Professor Bakan teaches Constitutional Law, Contracts, socio-legal courses and the graduate seminar. 

Professor Bakan’s scholarly work includes Just Words: Constitutional Rights and Social Wrongs (University of Toronto Press, 1997), as well as textbooks, edited collections, and numerous articles in leading legal and social science journals. In 2003, he published The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power, which received critical acclaim, was widely translated, and became a bestseller in several countries. The book inspired a feature documentary film, written by Professor Bakan and co-created with Mark Achbar. The film, also widely translated, won numerous awards, including best foreign documentary at the Sundance Film Festival. In 2011, Professor Bakan published Childhood Under Siege: How Big Business Targets Children, which also was widely translated and won awards.  

In addition to awards for his books and film, Professor Bakan is a two-time winner of the Faculty of Law’s Teaching Excellence Award, a recipient of a UBC Killam Research Prize, and, in 2004, received the honour of being named British Columbia’s Academic of the Year, a province-wide award for which academics in all disciplines are eligible.

Being Sure of Each Other: An Essay on Social Rights and Freedoms

By Kimberley Brownlee

We are deeply social creatures. Our core social needs–for meaningful social inclusion–are more important than our civil and political needs and our economic welfare needs, and we won’t secure those other things if our core social needs go unmet. Our core social needs ground a human right against social deprivation as well as a human right to have the resources to sustain other people. Kimberley Brownlee defends this fundamental but largely neglected human right; having defined social deprivation as a persistent lack of minimally adequate access to decent human contact, she then discusses situations such as solitary confinement and incidental isolation. Fleshing out what it means to belong, Brownlee considers why loneliness and weak social connections are not just moral tragedies, but often injustices, and argues that we endure social contribution injustice when we are denied the means to sustain others. Our core social needs can clash with our interests in interactive and associative freedom, and when they do, social needs take priority. We have a duty to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to satisfy their social needs. As Brownlee asserts, we violate this duty if we classify some people as inescapably socially threatening, either through using reductive, essentialist language that reduces people to certain acts or traits–‘criminal’, ‘rapist’, ‘paedophile’, ‘foreigner’–or in the ways we physically segregate such people and fail to help people to reintegrate after segregation.

Click here to purchase.

Kimberley Brownlee is a Professor of Philosophy at the University of British Columbia. She holds degrees from McGill University, Cambridge University, where she studied as a Commonwealth Scholar, and Oxford University, where she studied as a Rhodes Scholar. Her current work focuses on loneliness, belonging, social human rights, and freedom of association. Her past work focused on civil disobedience, punishment, and restorative justice. She is the author of Being Sure of Each Other (Oxford University Press, 2020) and Conscience and Conviction: The Case for Civil Disobedience (Oxford University Press, 2012). She is the co-editor of several volumes including The Blackwell Companion to Applied Philosophy (Wiley 2016). Prior to her appointment at UBC, she was a Professor of Philosophy at the University of Warwick. She has held numerous visiting positions including a Visiting Fellowship at All Souls College, Oxford (2019-20); a Visiting Fellowship at the Australian National University (2019), a Fulbright Visiting Research Chair at Vanderbilt University (2008); an HLA Hart Visiting Research Fellowship at University College, Oxford (2009); a CEPPA Visiting Research Fellowship at St Andrews University (2009); and a Warwick-Monash Visiting Fellowship at Monash University (2015). She is the recipient of a Philip Leverhulme Prize (2012). She has served on the executive committees of the Aristotelian Society (2014-2017), the Philosophical Association (2012-2016), and the Society for Applied Philosophy (2007-2013). 


Heidi Tworek is Associate Professor of International History and Public Policy at UBC Vancouver. She is the author of the multi-award-winning News from Germany: The Competition to Control World Communications, 1900-1945 (Harvard University Press, 2019). She has co-edited two books and written many articles on the history and public policy around communications and media. She is a non-resident fellow at the German Marshall Fund of the United States and the Canadian Global Affairs Institute.