What is a corporation? An easy, but not very informative, answer is that it is a legal person. More substantive answers suggest it is a moral person, a person/thing, a production team, a nexus of private agreements, a city, a semi-sovereign, or a (secular) God. Despite the economic, political, and social importance of the corporate form, we do not have a generally accepted legal theory of what a corporation is, apart from the law’s questionable assertion that it is a “person.” In this Article, the author places the idea, and law, of the corporation in a comparative context and suggests that corporation law is a “theme from the borderland where ethical speculation marches with jurisprudence.” The Article further outlines theories of enterprise organization as liberal, Confucian, and Chinese state socialist. The Article then analyzes some of the ways in which each theory of enterprise organization resorts to distinctive ideological fictions to maintain their internal coherence, before considering the practical implications of this analysis in the context of the reform of Chinese state-owned enterprises.
Teemu Ruskola, What Is a Corporation? Liberal, Confucion, and Socialist Theories of Enterprise Organization (and State, Family, and Personhood), 37 SEATTLE U. L. REV. 639 (2014).