Logo Utrecht University

The Business Corporation as a Political Actor

Publications

"Hobbes Meets the Modern Business Corporation"
Rutger Claassen, "Hobbes Meets the Modern Business Corporation" in Polity 53 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1086/712231
Abstract
Political theory today has expanded its scope to debate business corporations, conceiving of them as political actors, not (just) private actors in the market place. This article shows the continuing relevance of Thomas Hobbes’s work for this debate. Hobbes is commonly treated as a defender of the so-called concession theory, which traces the legitimacy of corporations to their being chartered by sovereign state authorities for public purposes. This theory is widely judged to be anachronistic for contemporary business corporations, because these can now be freely formed, on the basis of private initiative. However, a close reading of the crucial passages in Hobbes’s work reveals a more subtle view, which rejects this private/public dualism. Hobbes’s reflections on the companies of merchants of his day provide room for business corporations’ pursuit of private purposes, while keeping them embedded in a public framework of authority. Moreover, by criticizing the monopoly status of these companies, he opens up a way to integrate market failure arguments from modern economics into concession theory. The “neo-Hobbesian concession theory” emerging from this analysis shows how concession theory can accommodate private initiative and economic analysis, and thus be a relevant position in the debate about the modern business corporation.
"Epistemic injustice in workplace hierarchies: Power, knowledge and status"
Chi Kwok, "Epistemic injustice in workplace hierarchies: Power, knowledge and status" in Philosophy and Social Criticism (2020). https://doi.org/10.1177/0191453720961523
Abstract
Contemporary workplaces are mostly hierarchical. Intrinsic and extrinsic bads of workplace hierarchies have been widely discussed in the literature on workplace democracy and workplace republicanism. However, a distinctively intrinsic relational bad, epistemic injustice in the workplace, has largely been neglected by both normative theorists of the workplace and theorists of epistemic injustice. This article, by bringing in the insights of Miranda Fricker’s influential conceptualization of epistemic injustice, argues that hierarchical workplaces have contributed to and reinforced both testimonial and hermeneutical injustices in a central activity of most people’s daily lives. This article argues that these injustices are moral wrongs and thus moral injury to the workers. The article concludes by demonstrating that traditional hierarchy is the most epistemically unjust form of hierarchy, while contestatory hierarchy, because of its emphasis on granting the right to the workers to be listened, is less unjust epistemically.