Abstract: What are we to make of the power that corporations wield over people in modern society? Is such power legitimate? Many think so. To them, firms are purely private and economic entities, which are justified in using all legal means to pursue profit. Others disagree. They see corporations as purely political institutions, which are created by states and are can only be legitimated if they are made to pursue social ends beyond profit.
In The Form of the Firm, Abraham Singer contends that both of these influential approaches overstate their cases dramatically. He offers a third way that sees the corporation as being both economic and political. While it is true that corporations exist primarily to increase economic efficiency, they do this in ways that distinguish them from the markets in which they operate. Corporations are not natural outgrowths of the free market, but institutions that we have developed to correct market inefficiencies through mechanisms normally associated with politics –hierarchy, power, and state-sanctioned authority. Corporations serve economic ends, but through political means. Because of this, Singer argues that they also have an obligation to uphold the social and political values that enable their existence and smooth-running in the first place.
The aim of this panel is not merely to have an “author meet critics” but to lay out thoughtful presentations on important ideas that the book touches on in order to generate a discussion on a crucial topic at the intersection of politics, philosophy, and economics.