Origins of Corporate Power: The Historical Growth and Transformation of Corporations




Griffin, Benjamin

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Corporate business today has become instrumental component of our economy and our society as a whole; however, there is comparatively little discussion of how this came to be. How did corporations develop and change overtime, and what do these changes imply about how they are currently considered? The idea of corporations grew out of a combination of more basic forms of human commercial association, and the idea of organizations that could be considered as a group to be an “artificial person.” Over the course of only about 300 years, the corporate institution in the United States swung from a rarely used, specially granted, device for state-economic regulation to a centrally important, generally available, system for business organization. At the same time, the growing notion of corporate constitutional rights has substantially reduced the government’s ability to manage and regulate corporations. In reaction to the unprecedented corporate growth of the last century, there have been several popular movements that aim to grant new authorities to government in order to counter corporate power; however, this has largely only served to increase government involvement in the economy, while not significantly reducing the influence held by corporate entities. Given all this, it is important to understand the historical development of corporate power in order to determine what might be problematic in the current corporate order, and how such issues should be addressed.



Political Science, History