The Corporation and the Culture

AAA 2017, Washington D.C., November 29-December 3
Organizer: Gwendolyn Gordon (Wharton)

The success of the business corporation is partially dependent upon narrations of the case for its existing as a net social good. Sometimes these narratives will be arguments respecting the boundaries—and accountability—of the corporation (Sawyer 2006, Kirsch 2014, Welker 2014); sometimes these will be stories put forth by scholars, such as the idea of the corporation as merely a “nexus of contracts” (Jensen and Meckling 1976, Easterbrook and Fischel 1996). At other times, shifts in narrative may go to the legitimation of Corporate Social Responsibility (Humphreys and Brown 2008; Haack et al. 2012; Rajak 2011a, Rajak 2011b) or the increased uptake of alternate corporate forms, such as the benefit corporation. Purnima Bose and Laura Lyons (2010) have described the way that rhetorics of corporate good began to wear thin at the end of last decade. But recent work (e.g., Pollman 2011, Orts 2013, Pollman and Blair 2015) has highlighted the ways that narratives of corporate social good have always shifted and changed in the face of societal changes, including changes to public perception, business regulation, and the importance of the corporate form. In light of new support for the long-voiced (Blair and Stout 1999; Ireland 1999) yet still unconventional notion that profit is not the only legitimate purpose for a for-profit business corporation (Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores; see also Johnson and Millon 2014), the papers in this panel ask: now that anthropologists have begun looking at the inner workings of corporations (Aiello and Brooks 2011, Conley and Richland 2014), now that we have begun an agnostic anthropology of corporations (Benson and Kirsch 2010, Aiello and Brooks 2011, Welker 2015), what responses do anthropologists have in the face of a newly invigorated narrative of corporate social good which blooms from ideas of the corporation as natural expression of cultural, economic, and even religious norms of the people associated with it?

Please submit title and abstract of 250 words or less to by March 31.

Aiello, Leslie C., and James F. Brooks 2011 Corporate Lives: New Perspectives on the Social Life of the Corporate Form. Current Anthropology 52(S3): S1-S2.

Benson, Peter, and Stuart Kirsch 2010 “Capitalism and the Politics of Resignation.” Current Anthropology 51(4):459-486.

Blair, Margaret and Lynn Stout 1999 “A Team Production Theory of Corporate Law” Virginia Law Review vol 85, issue 2 pp247-328.

Blair, Margaret M., and Elizabeth Pollman  2015 ”The derivative nature of corporate constitutional rights.” William & Mary Law Review vol 56, pp1673.

Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., 134 S. Ct. 2751, 573 U.S., 189 L. Ed. 2d 675 (2014).

John M. Conley and Justin B. Richland 2014 “Editor’s Introduction,” Political and Legal Anthropology Review vol 37 issue 2.

Dolan, Catherine, and Dinah Rajak  2011 ”Introduction: Ethnographies of corporate ethicizing.” Focaal 2011, no. 60: 3-8.

Easterbrook, Frank and Daniel Fischel 1996 The Economic Structure of Corporate Law. Harvard University Press.

Haack, Parick, Dennis Schoeneborn, and Christopher Wickert 2012 “Talking the Talk, Moral Entrapment, Creeping Commitment? Exploring Narrative Dynamics in Corporate Social Responsibility Standardization” Organization Studies vol 33 no.5-6 pp 815-845.

Humphreys, Michael and Andrew Brown 2008 “An Analysis of Corporate Social Responsibility at Credit Line: A Narrative Approach” Journal of Business Ethics vol 80 issue 3 pp 403-418.

Ireland, Paddy 1999 “Company Law and the Myth of Shareholder Ownership” The Modern Law Review vol 62, issue 1 pp 32-57.

Jensen, Michael and William Meckling 1976 “Theory of the Firm: Managerial Behavior, Agency Costs and Ownership Structure 3 J. Fin. Econ. 305.

Johnson, Lyman, and David Millon 2014 ”Corporate Law After Hobby Lobby.” THE BUSINESS LAWYER 70.

Kirsch, Stuart 2014 “Imagining corporate personhood.” PoLAR: Political and Legal Anthropology Review 37, no. 2: 207-217.

Orts, Eric W 2013 Business persons: A legal theory of the firm. Oxford University Press.

Pollman, Elizabeth 2011 ”Reconceiving Corporate Personhood.” Utah L. Rev.: 1629.

Rajak, Dinah 2011a In good company: An anatomy of corporate social responsibility. Stanford University Press.

Rajak, Dinah.  2011 ”Theatres of virtue: Collaboration, consensus, and the social life of corporate social responsibility.” Focaal 2011, no. 60: 9-20. [2011b]

Rajak, Dinah 2014 ”Corporate memory: Historical revisionism, legitimation and the invention of tradition in a multinational mining company.” PoLAR: Political and Legal Anthropology Review 37, no. 2: 259-280.

Sawyer, Suzana 2006 “Disabling Corporate Sovereignty in a Transnational Lawsuit” Political and Legal Anthropology Review vol 29 issue 1 pp 23-43.

Welker, Marina 2014 Enacting the Corporation: An American Mining Firm in Post-Authoritarian Indonesia. Berkeley.

Welker, Marina 2015 ”Notes on the Difficulty of Studying the Corporation.” Seattle UL Rev. vol 39: 397.

Welker, Marina, Damani J. Partridge, and Rebecca Hardin  2011 ”Corporate lives: new perspectives on the social life of the corporate form: an introduction to supplement 3.” Current Anthropology 52, no. S3: S3-S16.