Chapter 1: The genesis of a governing institution
Sometimes hero, sometimes villain, from the emancipatory brilliance of Apple to the environmental incompetence of BP, the business corporation presents radically contrasting images. For the most part, however, it is simply part of the landscape, a law-abiding corporate citizen whose presence we take completely for granted, much like the weather. The weather only provokes comment when it is unusual, but it conditions the environment in which we live. In similar fashion the business corporation conditions our social and economic environment, it is a defining factor in our social biosphere but its sheer familiarity, its ubiquitous presence, leads us to assume that we understand its influence on our lives, our society and our politics. We do not. The business corporation is arguably the most influential and the least studied institution in contemporary political life. This book focuses on the business corporation rather than on ‘business’ collectively, on the market, or on capitalism, although all three concepts enter the analysis as helpful theoretical frameworks. The term ‘corporation’ is used in preference to the ‘company’ or the ‘firm’ partly for consistency but also to exploit the mildly alien usage of this American term with its connotations of size and unfamiliarity.
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