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Kendy Hess: “… and there be Dragons”

Modern Corporations as Political Actors

Lecture by Kendy Hess (College of the Holy Cross), organized by the Centre for Philosophy, Politics and Economics.

Despite decades of debate about the moral status of corporate agents, there has been surprisingly little exploration of their political status. This paper thus begins with a brief sketch of my own account of corporate agents – from metaphysics to moral obligation – and then moves on to explore some of the political implications. Setting aside the question of political rights and duties, I consider the permissibility of three modes of political engagement:

(1) as citizens, attempting to influence government policy; (2) as an extension of the government, under government direction, and (3) as the government, exercising governmental authority in their own right. I suggest that the first two are unproblematic (if complicated). Proponents of the third argue that, in the absence of a successful state, literal “corporations” (a subset of corporate agents) should step in and govern; they call this “political corporate social responsibility.”

I close by considering how my theory of corporate agency helps us resist this proposal.


Wednesday 7 March 2018, 3.15-5pm


Faculty of Philosophy, room Omega

Last modified:08 January 2018 5.04 p.m.