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Social ontology and the modern corporation

Veldman, Jeroen and Willmott, Hugh 2017. Social ontology and the modern corporation. Cambridge Journal of Economics 41 (5) , 1489 -1504. 10.1093/cje/bex043

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In an assessment of Lawson’s social ontological analysis of the modern corporation, we consider what is marginalized: the significance of the status and the effects of the separate legal entity (SLE). The SLE is conceived as a specific type of construct that is ascribed particular properties through its stabilization within and between different (legal and economic) discourses. By showing how the SLE, as a reified construct, is rendered meaningful, real and/or consequential, we illustrate how the ‘social ontology’ of the modern corporation is radically contingent and inescapably contested. Given that the social ontology of the corporation defies definitive specification, we regard the prospect of the completeness of its disclosure (e.g. by foregrounding a specific referent) as problematic. Indeed, any account of social ontology that foregrounds a specific referent is seen to obscure a political process in which the stabilization of the SLE rests on the contingent foregrounding of particular priorities. This leads us to reflect on the power-inflected social organization of knowledge generation. Key to the explication of social ontology, and with specific reference to the corporation, is not, as Lawson contends, the concept of ‘community’ but the inescapability of contestation within relations of power that translate ontological openness into specific but precarious forms of ontic closure.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Business (Including Economics)
Publisher: Oxford University Press (OUP): Policy E - Oxford Open Option D
ISSN: 0309-166X
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Last Modified: 17 Jul 2019 16:43

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