Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Turner on the corporation in early modern England

We missed this one in 2016. Henry S. Turner, Rutgers University has published The Corporate Commonwealth: Pluralism and Political Fictions in England, 1516-1651 with the University of Chicago Press. From the publisher: 
The Corporate Commonwealth traces the evolution of corporations during the English Renaissance and explores the many types of corporations that once flourished. Along the way, the book offers important insights into our own definitions of fiction, politics, and value.     
Henry S. Turner uses the resources of economic and political history, literary analysis, and political philosophy to demonstrate how a number of English institutions with corporate associations—including universities, guilds, towns and cities, and religious groups—were gradually narrowed to the commercial, for-profit corporation 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. Through innovative readings of works by Thomas More, William Shakespeare, Francis Bacon, and Thomas Hobbes, among others, Turner tracks the corporation from the courts to the stage, from commonwealth to colony, and from the object of utopian fiction to the subject of tragic violence. A provocative look at the corporation’s peculiar character as both an institution and a person, The Corporate Commonwealthuses the past to suggest ways in which today’s corporations might be refashioned into a source of progressive and collective public action.
Praise for the book: 

“This is a major book by a major scholar. Turner takes up the corporate concept as an artifact of law, science, and literature and studies its transformations and deep impact in the early modern period with an eye to the continued prevalence of corporate thinking and corporate functions today. Breathtakingly ambitious, The Corporate Commonwealth addresses a huge spectrum of English intellectual history with great learning and insight and reminds us that corporations and corporate-like forms take many shapes. A must-read.” -Julia Reinhard Lupton

The Corporate Commonwealth is an excellent work, one that stands in a present moment that has seen a tremendous increase in the power and scope of corporate forms. Turner devotes extraordinarily careful and nuanced attention to the relationship between individuals and collectivities in the century and a half between More’s Utopia and Hobbes’s Leviathan. This book is truly exhilarating in the way that it makes familiar texts seem fresh and new.” -John O'Brien

Further information is available here.