Corporate Personhood vs Corporations as Instruments

The blog entry linked below (by BEH editor, Chris MacDonald) proposes a practical approach to the question of what kind of thing the corporation is. The way we think of corporations, MacDonald argues, depends on the question at hand. For some purposes, applying the (controversial) lens of corporate personhood makes sense. For other purposes, he says, it’s more useful to think of the corporation as a kind of tool used by humans. And different lenses involve asking different ethical questions.

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LINK: Why It’s Essential to Treat Corporations as Persons, Except When It’s Not (by Chris MacDonald for The Business Ethics Blog)

…My own view is that much of the hubbub about corporate personhood results from a wrongheaded kind of essentialism — a search for the true essence of the corporation, for the truth about what a corporation really, really is, at heart. Is the corporation essentially (and not just incidentally or for convenience) a person? A group of persons? A nexus of contracts? An engine of wealth creation? A mechanism for rapacious aggregation of wealth?

I think such essentialism is a mistake. The corporation — indeed, any particular corporation — is many things to many people. And there are many lenses through which we can view the corporation, lenses that make more or less sense depending on the topic at hand….

What do you think?


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