Literature IncorporatedThe Cultural Unconscious of the Business Corporation, 1650-1850

Literature IncorporatedThe Cultural Unconscious of the Business Corporation, 1650-1850

John O'Brien

Print publication date: 2016

ISBN: 9780226291123

Publisher: University of Chicago Press

Abstract

This book treats the business corporation as an imaginative construct, a fiction that informs other fictions and exerts agency in the world. The book uses literary texts--novels, plays, poetry--as well as economic texts by writers as varied as Karl Marx, Adam Smith, John Maynard Keynes, and Ronald Coase, to explore what it calls the cultural unconscious of the business corporation during its rise to autonomy in the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries. Emerging out of the “incorporated” institutions of the Middle Ages, the towns, guilds, universities, and charities that were given royal patents or licenses to enable groups of people to carry out particular activities, the business corporation of the modern period has become the pre-eminent agent of the modern economic system. As such, corporations have often been seen to threaten the autonomy of individual persons. Literature Incorporated argues that the modern person and the modern individual are concepts that have long been deeply interwoven, and have from the early modern period been inextricable from each other.