Our Corporate Civilization and its Neoliberal Crisis


Frederick Burkhardt Residential Fellowships for Recently Tenured Scholars


Political Science


For residence at the Institute for Advanced Study, School of Social Science during academic year 2015-2016


This project thoroughly revises received understandings of government in the West by recovering its corporate roots and structure. The first part details the borrowings of the liberal democratic state from corporate practice, including juridical personhood, executive elections, representative assemblies, written constitutions and judicial review. The second part leverages this to challenge the reclassification of business corporations over the past two centuries from “bodies politic” to private concerns—a legal status that exempts them from any duty to the public, or accountability to the public, or even publicity to the public, while earning them legal protections and rights of political participation that they ought not have. Corporations are a hybrid, run on private initiative yet receiving their “personhood” and their authority over employees from the state. They are “franchise governments” and thus belong in a distinct legal category—neither public nor private, but “corporate”—to be governed by distinct norms and rules.