Routledge Handbook of Economic Theology (Stefan Schwarzkopf, ed., 2020)
16 Pages Posted: 1 Dec 2018 Last revised: 1 Oct 2020
Date Written: July 9, 2018
This essay on Corporations is a chapter in an upcoming volume on economic theology edited by Stefan Schwarzkopf.
The secular study of corporations has long regularly focused on three sets of concerns: (1) Is the idea of corporate “personhood” only a convenient shorthand for a complex set of relationships among human beings or are corporations in some important sense “real entities” with rights, duties, interests, or even intentions of their own? (2) How do the various aspects of corporate personhood differ from the qualities of human personhood? (3) What are the proper purposes or missions of for-profit and not-for-profit corporations?
This essay examines these perennial questions through a distinctive theological lens. It considers, among other topics, doctrines in Jewish and Islamic law about the religious meaning of secular corporations, debates about the spiritual worth and moral responsibilities of for-profit corporations, and ideas in several faith traditions about the ontological status of religious communities.
The essay also discusses the role of the fraught idea of “idolatry” in conversations about corporations. And it ends by looking to Buddhist philosophy, contemporary neurological research, and secular theories of public choice and group decision-making to question the reigning assumption that there is a fundamental difference between “natural persons” such as human beings and “artificial persons” such as corporations.
Keywords: corporations, theology, economic theology, Jewish law, Islamic law, neurology, Buddhism, natural persons, artificial persons, Catholic social thought, corporate personhood, idolatry, religion and law, religion and state, personal identity
JEL Classification: G34, M14, P12, L30, N30, Z12
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation