Adolf Berle's Corporate Conscience
33 Pages Posted: 3 Oct 2022
Date Written: 2021
In this contribution to the symposium on “Corporate Capitalism and the City of God,” we bring Adolf Berle’s distinctive views of morality in corporate life into contemporary conversations about corporate religion. Today’s debates over corporate religious exemptions tend to gravitate toward an entity view of conscience focused on the moral integrity of institutions or an associational view keyed to shareholders’ deep commitments. The foremost corporate law scholar of his day, Berle instead conceived of corporate conscience as a “public consensus” guiding and bounding managerial decision-making. Although he would have sympathized with efforts to integrate faith and business, he would have rejected the conclusion that faith at work requires religious exemptions for corporations. Berle instead would structure analysis around corporate power and its potential to threaten individual personality. His corporate conscience, we argue, offers fresh insights to debates in corporate law, constitutional law, and beyond.
Keywords: corporate conscience, religion, corporations, Berle
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