The Corporation - Unbounded and Unhinged

Helene Ryding (Author)


In this paper, my argument concerns the legal status of a corporation, which is the same as a physical person, and whether it should be judged in the same way as a person. Recently companies have been criticised for being too like humans, (greedy and immoral). The problem is that in these days of transnational companies, local states are not strong enough to regulate transnational corporations, or are already in collusion with them, and the US has a policy of extraterritoriality, in which corporations are bound only by local laws, not US laws. But the morality of US companies abroad is judged by US citizens on the standards which apply in the US. Referring to both the metaphor of personality, and the legal personality, the paper explores whether a corporation has a conscience. The example of the East India Company, which the Crown took over after its adventurism abroad, provides a starting point. Using a corporate ethnography and a film, the paper argues that some modern corporations can be diagnosed with a form of mental illness, acting as psychopaths in their social relations, or trapped in a double bind set up by investors and rating agencies. As with people, mentally ill corporations should be constrained. Thus companies that behave badly abroad (ie without a conscience) should be regulated by the state (or by public opinion) at home.


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