The Semi-Sovereign Corporation

17 Pages Posted: 9 Sep 2005

Date Written: March 20, 2005


For at least a generation, corporate law scholars have worked within a paradigm of the corporation as a nexus of contracts, using metaphors drawn from contract, property, agency and trust to describe the relationships between shareholders and the firm as something like those of strangers in a market.

But historically, corporations were understood to be political organizations much like a miniature state or sovereign. The political view emphasizes that the participants in a firm include more than the public shareholders, that they have relationships with each other that extend beyond the momentary contact of strangers in a spot-market, and most important, that the firm is a self-governing entity for many important purposes. Naturally, it also foregrounds the important issue of how corporations make the decisions they make and why only certain role-holders are enfranchised.

In this essay, I begin the process of resurrecting the memory of the semi-sovereign corporation. By examining the history of early corporations in the early colonial enterprises, I focus on the historical connection, now lost, between our business corporations and our municipal, governmental, ones.

Keywords: corporate law, political economy, sovereign

JEL Classification: M10, N20

Suggested Citation

Greenwood, Daniel J.H., The Semi-Sovereign Corporation (March 20, 2005). Utah Legal Studies Paper No. 05-04. Available at SSRN: or

Daniel J.H. Greenwood (Contact Author)

Hofstra University College of Law ( email )

121 Hofstra University
Hempstead, NY 11549
United States
516-463-7013 (Phone)


Register to save articles to
your library


Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics