The Moral Life of Corporations   /   Summer 2009   /    Bibliographic Review

The Moral Life of Corporations: A Bibliographic Review

Jonas Hart

In the last decade, American corporations have embodied both seemingly limit- less prosperity and far-reaching instability. The recent economic downturn has spurred greater public discussion of corporate greed and responsibility, as well as renewed debate over the place of corporations in the social order. However, these are not new concerns. From Adam Smith and his concern for the wellbeing of the proto-industrialized pin- maker to the grander scale apprehensions about the “soullessness” of corporations, the incorporation of business has not gone without scrutiny. Although corporations are, in one sense, merely legal entities created in the service of production, their growth has had an impact far beyond the legal and the economic. Corporations are symbols— symbols of progress, industrialization, and modernity, as well as their attendant discon- tents. As a result, for good or ill, they are now inextricably bound up with the meaning of the “good life.”

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