The Cyclical Transformations of the Corporate Form: A Historical Perspective on Corporate Social Responsibility

53 Pages Posted: 25 Feb 2005  

Reuven S. Avi-Yonah

University of Michigan Law School

Abstract

This Article describes the transformations underwent by the corporate form from its Roman origins to the present. It shows that every time there was a shift in the role of the corporation, three theories of the corporation (the aggregate, artificial, and real entity theories) were brought forward in cyclical fashion. However, every time the real entity theory prevailed, and it is the dominant theory during periods of stability in the relationship between the corporation, the shareholders, and the state. The article describes this evolution in detail, and then attempts to derive normative consequences for the legitimacy of corporate social responsibility (CSR). The basic argument is that under the real view, which is historically the dominant view of the corporation, CSR is normatively acceptable even when it does not contribute to the long-run welfare of the shareholders.

Keywords: Delaware, Journal, Corporate, Law, social responsibility, cyclical transformations, theories of corporation

Suggested Citation

Avi-Yonah, Reuven S., The Cyclical Transformations of the Corporate Form: A Historical Perspective on Corporate Social Responsibility. Delaware Journal of Corporate Law, Vol. 30, No. 3, pp. 767-818, 2005; Michigan Law and Economics Research Paper No. 05-003. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=672601 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.672601

Reuven S. Avi-Yonah (Contact Author)

University of Michigan Law School ( email )

625 South State Street
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1215
United States
734-647-4033 (Phone)

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