Following on from my previous question, where we brainstormed the events that might lead up to such a hellish world, I've been thinking over what the social structures and divisions of power might be like here. What are the implications of living in a society where profit-maximising organisations write the laws and print the money?
The fundamental principle I want to start from is a world where 'employee' and 'citizen' are synonymous. Corporations don't just hold land, they rule it independently of any oversight. They have their own military forces and intelligence agencies. You don't just work for a corporation – you live in it. The corporation provides your accommodation, your utilities, your food, your entertainment, your news. The corporation pays you (of course, in currency that you can only spend with the same corporation). Perhaps the divisions between corporations are so entrenched that they have different accents or dialects – replacing the languages that exist today across geographical nation-state borders. You don't just leave your job – you defect, becoming a stateless traitor who exists outside the jurisdiction of the (corporation's) law, and no longer has any legal rights.
At first I thought it would be interesting if the boundaries on the world map were redrawn, not around nations, but around huge regions corporate control. Big coloured blocks that say things like “Maxicorp” and “Worldnet Telecoms” and “Rainbow PLC”, because that's a compelling mental image and it would be fun to run with the equivalence for a while. But I became less sure about it after going over the implications. If huge mega-corporations who own land on a national level are supposed to provide for all their citizens, they would have to have many subsidiaries that provide those services. Worldnet News, Worldnet Energy, Worldnet Hydroponics (for instance).
It would be more interesting if all the subsidiaries had their own brand identities and personalities – and perhaps even if they weren't monopolies, but competed with each other, all under the umbrella of the e.g. Worldnet parent corporation. In my head, this looks kind of like a feudal system, with minor firms fighting and out-competing and spying on each other all under a single mega-corporation that keeps them in line. But this is getting a little strange, and sort of undermines the central conceit a little.
Maybe, because of the internet, geographical borders are no longer important, as all corporations operate globally and monopolise different parts of human society (but this limits the potential for competition and delicious industrial espionage plotlines). Or, maybe each corporation-state not only has its own geographical borders, but has its own internet, making it easier to control the news from their perspective and maintain public opinion and brand loyalty.
Basically, I guess I want to write a story set in a world where the horrors of corporate profit-seeking are combined with the powers that come with being an established government, but I'm unsure whether those horrors should come from corporation-governments as monopolies (which is chilling), ruling entire country-like entities on the map, or from corporation-governments as competitors (which is also chilling, but in a different way), ruling different aspects of society but independently of geographical boders. Are those two themes compatible within the same story set in the same society? Or am I overthinking it?