Gerald F. Davis


The number of public corporations in the United States has been in decline for almost twenty years. Alternative forms of organization, from LLCs and benefit corporations to Linux and Wikipedia, provide robust competition to traditional corporations, while short-lived, project-based enterprises that assemble supply chains from available parts are increasingly cost effective. Yet our understanding of corporate governance has not kept pace with the new organization of the economy and we continue to treat the public corporation with dispersed ownership as the default form of doing business. Meanwhile, many of the corporations going public in recent years have abandoned traditional standards of corporate governance and give their founders extraordinary voting shares that effectively guarantee their control in perpetuity. The public corporation seems to be an increasingly anachronistic form of enterprise in the United States. Nikefication turned the corporation into a nexus-of-contracts, organizationally separating design from production and distribution. Entrepreneurs grew skilled at assembling contractors into a virtual enterprise. More recently we have seen Uberization, which allows on-demand labor to be contracted by the task via online platforms. Uberization threatens to turn jobs into tasks, to the detriment of labor. Every input into the enterprise becomes possible to rent rather than to buy, and employee-free organizations are increasingly feasible. Enterprises increasingly resemble a web page, a set of calls on resources that are assembled on demand to create a coherent performance.