A citizens’ movement in Berlin advocates for the expropriation of housing corporations and has won a significant majority in a popular referendum in September 2021. Building on this proposal, this paper develops a general account of expropriation as a measure for corporate reform and thereby contributes to the ongoing debate on the democratic accountability of business corporations. It argues that expropriation is a valuable tool for intervention in a dire situation in some economic sector to enable a re-structuring of the (...) governance of the assets in question. Compared with other tools available, expropriation is a more forward-looking, genuinely political measure that does not depend on the legal assignment of guilt but rather proceeds in a pragmatic and problem-oriented manner. It also allows us to reconsider in how far the market mechanism should be employed in the administration of assets. Objections from private property rights against expropriation fail as corporations generally are privileged, quasi-public institutions that can justifiably be subject to democratic interventions. Expropriation is thus an important addition to the arsenal of corporate reform proposals, especially for those concerned with a broad democratization of the corporation. (shrink)
The fear that business corporations have claimed unwarranted constitutional protections which have entrenched corporate power has produced a broad social movement demanding that constitutional rights be restricted to human beings and corporate personhood be abolished. We develop a critique of these proposals organized around the three salient rationales we identify in the accompanying narrative, which we argue reflect a narrow focus on large business corporations, a misunderstanding of the legal concept of personhood, and a failure to distinguish different kinds of (...) constitutional rights and the reasons for assigning them. Corporate personhood and corporate constitutional rights are not problematic per se once these notions are decoupled from biological, metaphysical, or moral considerations. The real challenge is that we need a principled way of thinking about the priority of human over corporate persons which does not reduce the efficacy of corporate institutions or harm liberal democracies. (shrink)
Many proponents of corporate agency take corporations to be responsible for their conduct, but few take them to merit rights over and above the rights of their members. Hasnas (2016) argues that, given a widely-held view of liberal political theory, corporate agency entails that corporations should have the right to vote. In response, I show that there are problems in appealing to liberal political theory, and that the view of voting Hasnas actually endorses need not be accepted. Should it be, (...) however, the implications go far beyond the right to vote. (shrink)
Businesses cause social harm, meaning harm to society at large and not just to those with whom a business is contractually linked. Evidence introduced: normative claims that businesses should be "socially responsible"; positive claims that they contribute to social well-being; and negative claims that they are sometimes military-like, causing extensive harm for which no one is held personally responsible. The latter point to corporate survivalism, which acknowledges no mandatory civil responsibilities. Neither law nor social pressure has yet counteracted this mind (...) set. Business ethics might, but not if its practitioners examine only narrowly contractual relationships. (shrink)
This article provides a justification for holding complex organizations morally responsible and shows how this moral dimension is implicit in the concept of power. Several objections to organizational moral responsibility are addressed, and a new view of complex organizations as agents which are morally responsible, but do not possess moral rights, is defended.