Skip to main content
×
Home
    • Aa
    • Aa

Beyond Public and Private: Toward a Political Theory of the Corporation

  • DAVID CIEPLEY (a1)
Abstract

This article challenges the liberal, contractual theory of the corporation and argues for replacing it with a political theory of the corporation. Corporations are government-like in their powers, and government grants them both their external “personhood” and their internal governing authority. They are thus not simply private. Yet they are privately organized and financed and therefore not simply public. Corporations transgress all the basic dichotomies that structure liberal treatments of law, economics, and politics: public/private, government/market, privilege/equality, and status/contract. They are “franchise governments” that cannot be satisfactorily assimilated to liberalism. The liberal effort to assimilate them, treating them as contractually constituted associations of private property owners, endows them with rights they ought not have, exacerbates their irresponsibility, and compromises their principal public benefit of generating long-term growth. Instead, corporations need to be placed in a distinct category—neither public nor private, but “corporate”—to be regulated by distinct rules and norms.

Copyright
Corresponding author
David Ciepley is a Fellow of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and Assistant Professor of Political Science, University of Denver, Sturm Hall 468, 2000 E. Asbury Avenue, Denver, CO 80208 (davidciepley@gmail.com).
References
Hide All
AdamsHenry Carter. 1886. “Economics and Jurisprudence.” Science 8 (178): 1519.
AdamsJulia. 2005. The Familial State: Ruling Families and Merchant Capitalism in Early Modern Europe. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.
American Law Institute. 2006. Restatement of the Law (3d) of Agency. Philadephia: American Law Institute.
ArendtHannah. 1998. The Human Condition. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Aristotle. 1988. Politics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Armour Packing Co. v. U.S. 209 U.S. 56 (1908).
Aspen Institute. 2009. “Overcoming Short-termism: A Call for a More Responsible Approach to Investment and Business Management.” http://www.Aspeninstitute.org/sites/default/files/content/docs/pubs/overcome_short_state0909_0.Pdf (Accessed May 9, 2012).
BaloghBrian. 2009. A Government out of Sight: The Mystery of National Authority in Nineteenth-century America. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
BealEdwin F. 1955. “Origins of Codetermination.” Industrial and Labor Relations Review 8 (4): 483–98.
BerleAdolf A. 1954. The 20th Century Capitalist Revolution. New York: Harcourt, Brace.
BerleAdolf A. and Means Gardiner. 1932. The Modern Corporation and Private Property. New York: Macmillan Company.
BiberEric. 2004. “The Price of Admission: Causes, Effects, and Patterns of Conditions Imposed on States Entering the Union.” American Journal of Legal History 46 (2): 119208.
BilderMary Sarah. 2006. “The Corporate Origins of Judicial Review.” Yale Law Journal 116: 502–66.
BlackstoneWilliam. [1753] 1893. Commentaries on the Laws of England in Four Books. In Two Volumes. Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott.
BlairMargaret. 2003. “Locking in Capital: What Corporate Law Achieved for Business Organizers in the Nineteenth Century.” UCLA Law Review 51: 387456.
BlairMargaret M., and Stout Lynn A.. 1999. “A Team Production Theory of Corporate Law.” Virginia Law Review 85 (2): 247328.
Bluman v. FEC, 565 U.S. No. 11–275 (2012).
BlumbergPhillip I. 1971. “Corporate Social Responsibility and the Employee's Duty of Loyalty and Obedience: A Preliminary Inquiry.” Oklahoma Law Review 24 (3): 279318.
BorstNicholas. 2011. “How Should We Measure Investment in China?” Peterson Institute for International Economics, China Economic Watch. http://www.Piie.com/blogs/china/?p=188. (Accessed May 11, 2012).
BovensMark. 1998. The Quest for Responsibility: Accountability and Citizenship in Complex Organizations. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
ChandlerAlfred D. 1977. The Visible Hand: The Managerial Revolution in American Business. Cambridge: Belknap Press.
ChhotrayVasudha, and Stoker Gerry. 2009. Governance Theory and Practice: A Cross-disciplinary Approach. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan.
CiepleyDavid. 2004. “Authority in the Firm (and the Attempt to Theorize it Away).” Critical Review 16 (1): 81115.
CiepleyDavid. 2006. Liberalism in the Shadow of Totalitarianism. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, 130 S. Ct. 876 (2010).
CohenMorris R. 1927. “Property and Sovereignty.” Cornell Law Quarterly 13 (1): 830.
Corporate Laws Committee. 2005. Model Business Corporation Act. Chicago: American Bar Association.
CraneAndrew, and Matten Dick. 2010. Business Ethics: Managing Corporate Citizenship and Sustainability in the Age of Globalization. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
CrolyHerbert. 1914. Progressive Democracy. New York: Macmillan.
DahlRobert A. 1959. “Business and Politics: A Critical Appraisal of Political Science.” American Political Science Review 53 (1): 134.
DahlRobert A. 1977. “On Removing Certain Impediments to Democracy in the United States.” Political Science Quarterly 92 (1): 1.
DahlRobert A. 1985. A Preface to Economic Democracy. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Dartmouth College v. Woodward, 17 U.S. 510 (1819).
DarwallStephen. 2010. “Authority and Reasons: Exclusionary and Second-personal.” Ethics 120 (January): 257–78.
DavisJohn Patterson. 1905. Corporations: A Study of the Origin and Development of Great Business Combinations and of their Relation to the Authority of the State. New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons.
DeweyJohn. 1926. “The Historic Background of Corporate Legal Personality.” Yale Law Journal 35 (6): 655–73.
DoddEdwin Merrick. 1954. American Business Corporations until 1860, with Special Reference to Massachusetts. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
EasterbrookFrank, and Fischel Daniel. 1985. “Limited Liability and the Corporation.” University of Chicago Law Review 52 (1): 89117.
EasterbrookFrank, and Fischel Daniel. 1989. “The Corporate Contract.” Columbia Law Review 89: 1416–48.
EisenachEldon J. 1994. The Lost Promise of Progressivism. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas.
ElizabethQ. [1600] 1887. “Charter Granted by Queen Elizabeth to the Governor and Company of Merchants of London, Trading into the East-Indies.” In Charters Relating to the East India Company, 1600–1761, ed. Shaw J.. Madras, India: R. Hill, 116.
First National Bank of Boston v. Bellotti, 435 U.S. 765 (1978).
FriedmanMilton. 1970. “The Social Responsibility of Business is to Increase its Profits.” New York Times Magazine, September 13. http://query.nytimes.com/mem/archive/pdf?res=F10F11FB3E5810718EDDAA0994D1405B808BF1D3 (Accessed May 11, 2012).
FrugGerald E. 1980. “The City as a Legal Concept.” Harvard Law Review 93 (6): 10571154.
GarrigaElisabet, and Mele Domenec. 2004. “Corporate Social Responsibility Theories: Mapping the Territory.” Journal of Business Ethics 53 (1/2): 5171.
GourevitchPeter Alexis, and Shinn James J.. 2005. Political Power and Corporate Control: The New Global Politics of Corporate Governance. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
GreenfieldKent. 2006. The Failure of Corporate Law. Chicago: University of Chicago.
HabermasJürgen. 1984. The Theory of Communicative Action. Boston: Beacon Press.
Hale v. Henkel, 201 U.S. 43 (1906).
HansmannHenry, and Kraakman Reinier. 1991. “Toward Unlimited Shareholder Liability for Corporate Torts.” Yale Law Journal 100: 18791934.
HansmannHenry, and Kraakman Reinier. 2000. “The Essential Role of Organizational Law.” Yale Law Journal 110 (3): 387440.
HansmannHenry, Kraakman Reinier, and Squire Richard. 2006. “Law and the Rise of the Firm.” Harvard Law Review 119 (5): 1333–403.
HobbesThomas. [1651] 1994. Leviathan. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing.
HorwitzMorton. 1992. The Transformation of American Law , 18701960 : The Crisis of Legal Orthodoxy. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
JacobsJack B. 2011. “‘Patient Capital’: Can Delaware Corporate Law Help Revive It?Washington and Lee Law Review 68 (4): 1645–64.
JacobsJack B. 2012. “Remarks at “Corporate Governance and Long-Term, ‘Patient’ Capital” Panel.” Brookings Institution, Washington, DC, March 14.
JeffersonT. 1825. “Thomas Jefferson to William B. Giles, December 26, 1825.” In The Thomas Jefferson Papers, Series 1, General Correspondence, 1651–1827. http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.mss/mtj.mtjbib025610 (Accessed May 12, 2012).
JensenMichael, and Meckling William. 1976. “Theory of the Firm: Managerial Behavior, Agency Costs and Ownership Structure.” Journal of Financial Economics (3): 305–60. http://www.sfu.ca/~wainwrig/Econ400/jensen-meckling.pdf (Accessed May 12, 2012).
KantorowiczErnst H. 1957. The King's Two Bodies: A Study in Mediaeval Political Theology. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
KnightFrank H. 1923. “The Ethics of Competition.” Quarterly Journal of Economics 37 (4): 579624.
LieberFrancis. 1830. Encyclopaedia Americana. Philadelphia: Carey and Lea.
LowiTheodore J. 1969. The End of Liberalism: Ideology, Policy, and the Crisis of Public Authority. New York: W. W. Norton.
LutzDonald S. 1998. Colonial Origins of the American Constitution: A Documentary History. Indianapolis: Liberty Fund.
MaierPauline. 1993. “The Revolutionary Origins of the American Corporation.”William and Mary Quarterly 50 (1): 5184.
MaineHenry Sumner. [1861] 1873. Ancient Law: Its Connection with the Early History of Society and its Relation to Modern Ideas. New York: Trow's.
MaitlandF.W. 1900. “Introduction.” In von Gierke O.F., Political Theories of the Middle Age. Cambridge: University Press, viixlvi.
MarxKarl, and Engels Friedrich. [1848] 1933. Manifesto of the Communist Party. New York: Arrow Editions.
McCurdyCharles. 1975. “Justice Field and the Jurisprudence of Government-Business Relations: Some Parameters of Lassez-Faire Constitutionalism, 1863–1897.”Journal of American History 61 (4): 9701005.
McDonnellBrett H. 2008. “Employee Primacy, or Economics Meets Civil Republicanism at Work.” Stanford Journal of Law, Business & Finance 13 (2): 334–83.
Minneapolis and St. Louis Railroad v. Beckwith, 129 U.S. 26 (1889).
MirowskiPhilip, and Van Horn Rob. 2009. “The Rise of the Chicago School of Economics and the Birth of Neoliberalism.” In The Road from Mont Pelerin: The Making of the Neoliberal Thought Collective, eds. Mirowski Philip and Plehwe Dieter. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 139–78.
MitchellLawrence. 2001. Corporate Irresponsibility: America's Newest Export. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
MitchellLawrence. 2007. The Speculation Economy: How Finance Triumphed over Industry. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler.
MorawetzVictor. 1882. A Treatise on the Law of Private Corporations Other than Charitable. Boston: Little, Brown.
MoyoDambisa. 2011. How the West Was Lost: Fifty Years of Economic Folly—and the Stark Choices Ahead. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
MuthuchidambaramS. 1979. “A Proposal for Reconsideration of Employees’ Duty of Loyalty, Confidentiality, and Obedience.” Indian Journal of Industrial Relations 15 (1): 103.
Noble v. Union River Logging R. Co. 147 U.S. 165 (1893).
OrrenKaren. 1991. Belated Feudalism: Labor, the Law, and Liberal Development in the United States. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
PatemanCarol. 1975. Participation and Democratic Theory. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Pennsylvania Coal Co. v. Mahon, 260 U.S. 393 (1922).
Plessy v. Ferguson, 163 U.S. 537 (1896).
PodsakoffPhilip M., MacKenzie Scott B., Paine Julie B., and Bachrach Daniel G.. 2000. “Organizational Citizenship Behaviors: A Critical Review of the Theoretical and Empirical Literature and Suggestions for Future Research.” Journal of Management 26 (3): 513–63.
RobinsNick. 2003. “Loot: In Search of the East India Company, the World's First Transnational Corporation.” Environment and Urbanization 14 (1): 7988.
RobinsNick. 2006. The Corporation that Changed the World: How the East India Company Shaped the Modern Multinational. London: Pluto Press.
Ross v. Bernhard, 396 U.S. 531 (1970).
RothkopfDavid J. 2012. Power, Inc.: The Epic Rivalry between Big Business and Government—and the Reckoning that Lies Ahead. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad, 118 U.S. 394 (1886).
SmithAdam. [1776] 1976. An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
StoutLynn. 2012. The Shareholder Value Myth: How Putting Shareholders First Harms Investors, Corporations, and the Public. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler.
SunsteinCass. 2002. “State Action is Always Present.” Chicago Journal of International Law 3 (3): 465.
TaylorCharles. 2004. Modern Social Imaginaries. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.
TsukDalia. 2005. “From Pluralism to Individualism: Berle and Means and 20th-Century American Legal Thought.” Law and Social Inquiry 30 (1): 179225.
U.S. v. Martin Linen Supply Co., 430 U.S. 564 (1977).
Virginia State Pharmacy Board v. Virginia Citizens Consumer Counsil, 425 U.S. 748 (1976).
Von MisesLudwig. 1944. Bureaucracy. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
WalzerMichael. 1983. Spheres of Justice: A Defense of Pluralism and Equality. New York: Basic Books.
WeberMax. 1978. Economy and Society: An Outline of Interpretive Sociology. Berkeley: University of California Press.
WilliamsonOliver E. 1987. The Economic Institutions of Capitalism: Firms, Markets, Relational Contracting. New York: Free Press.
Wood v. Dummer, 30 F. Cas. 435 (C.D. Me. 1824) (No. 17944) (1824).
WoodGordon S. 1999. “The Emergence of the Public-Private Distinction in Early America.” In The Public and the Private in the United States, eds. Abe H., Sato H., and Otsuru C.K.. Osaka: Japan Center for Area Studies, 112.
ZingalesLuigi, and Rajan Raghuram G.. 2001. “The Firm as a Dedicated Hierarchy: A Theory of the Origins and Growth of Firms.” Quarterly Journal of Economics 116 (3): 805–51.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

American Political Science Review
  • ISSN: 0003-0554
  • EISSN: 1537-5943
  • URL: /core/journals/american-political-science-review
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *
×

Metrics

Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 41
Total number of PDF views: 422 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 1232 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 22nd October 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.