The Business Corporation as a Political Actor

Democratic Accountability of the Corporation

This subproject can be characterized with reference to two central observations regarding the corporation:

1. On the inside, the relation of the corporation to its employees resembles a dictatorship. They lack any ability to meaningful co-determination and are subject to arbitrary rule by their employers. Additionally, this relation is literally vital for many employees and they lack the alternatives required to be able to leave this relationship behind.

2. Towards society in general, corporations are not thought to have any substantial duties of justification, they are largely considered private and their doings beyond the public’s concern as long as they stay within the realm of legality. However, even this minimal requirement is frequently violated by many corporations or evaded through relocation to places with low regulatory standards.

Previously, these issues have not been taken seriously and disregarded with reference to the private character of corporations. But, if the corporation, as per one central assumption of our project, is in fact a political actor and a fundamentally political institution, we are in a stronger position to ask if it is in fact a legitimate institution. The corporation is something brought into existence by the state and there seem to be higher burdens of justification for state action in comparison to private action. The general question regarding decision-making then becomes: What does democracy demand from corporate decision-making? More specifically, this subproject will investigate who the legitimate decision-makers in the corporation are, to what extent decision-making procedures will have to be democratic, and whether the wider general public should have a say in corporate decision-making.

This project is researched by Philipp Stehr.

Would you like to read more about the current developments within the sub-projects? Click here.