The Corporate CommonwealthPluralism and Political Fictions in England, 1516-1651

The Corporate CommonwealthPluralism and Political Fictions in England, 1516-1651

Henry S. Turner

Print publication date: 2017

ISBN: 9780226363356

Publisher: University of Chicago Press

Abstract

The Corporate Commonwealth offers a provocative account of the origins of modernity’s most perplexing institution: the corporation. Drawing on the resources of economic and political history, literary analysis, and political philosophy, the book explores the genesis of corporations from the late medieval period to the seventeenth century, showing how a plurality of corporate associations were gradually narrowed to the commercial, for-profit corporations we know today, and how the joint-stock corporation, in turn, became both a template for the modern State and a political force that the State could no longer contain. Reading works by Thomas More, William Shakespeare, Francis Bacon, and Thomas Hobbes, among many others, the book tracks the history of the corporation from the law courts to the stage, from commonwealth to colony, from the object of utopian fiction to the subject of a tragic violence. It provides a new theory of the corporation’s peculiar ontology as at once collective group and singular person, and it suggests ways in which corporations might be re-fashioned into a source of progressive and collective public action.