Open Seminar at Score: David Ciepley
Thursday 22 September 2022, 10.00-11.30
Score, Stockholm University, Frescativägen 14 A
Democracy and the Corporation - The Long View
Over the past millennium, Europe and its offshoots have, step by step, created an unprecedented form of civilization, wherein almost all organizational property (business property, government property, church property, and civil society property) is owned not by natural persons (capitalists, kings, clerics, and philanthropists), but by “juridical persons”—states and corporations. In recent centuries, the governance of these “persons” has undergone a paradoxical Great Reversal. Specifically, while the “absolutist” monarchs of early modern Europe overwhelmingly chartered republican (i.e. “democratic”) corporations—towns, universities, and guilds, whose leaders were elected by those they governed—the constitutional republics of the modern era (i.e. the democracies) have overwhelmingly chartered authoritarian corporation, such as the modern university and the Anglo-American business corporation, in which those under the corporation’s authority have no voice in it.
This talk describes the nature and consequences of our corporate civilization, and narrates its key reversals: how, in North America, the early modern republican corporation gave birth to the modern constitutional republic, while in the Indies, it was turned inside out, becoming the authoritarian business corporation. It also explains the origins of the stockholder-ownership myth that rationalized this inversion and that is a root cause of today’s vaunting economic inequality.