Democracy, Corporations, and the Limits of the Market
Since the end of the Cold War, capitalism has triumphed globally, and market economies have ruled unchallenged. Criticisms that capitalism exacerbates inequalities have been brushed aside in the name of the freedom of enterprise, while limits to its inherent logic have been suppressed by systematic policies of deregulation and privatization. Despite recurrent periods of recession, economic liberalism became hegemonic in the 1980s through the 1990s, conquering and converting much of the European social-democracy to its assumptions and policies. Then the 2007-2008 financial crisis hit. The long-lasting consequences of soaring inequalities and public and private debt became manifest, as well as the inability of neoliberal policies to provide essential public goods to large portions of national communities affected by the crisis. Many have come since then to question capitalism and the unfettered rule of the markets. Political philosophers have insisted that, even within the constraints of a capitalist market economy, a more just society is not only economically and politically feasible but morally mandatory and have been keen to explore new avenues of alternative public policies. In this context, some authors have recently explored the idea of the private company as a political entity in its own right, which ought to be subject to legal and moral rules and limits analogous to those which exist for other kinds of political communities, such as nation-states. The private company doesn't have to be, nor should it be, a morality-free or justice-free space in liberal democratic societies.
While in previous editions of the Summer School we have discussed alternatives to the existing capitalist regime such asproperty-owning democracy (2014) and democratic socialism (2018), in this edition we seek to discuss more largely the legitimacy of free market capitalism and the political role and structure of the private company.
Among the questions we are particularly interested in debating are the following:
What is the philosophical foundation of the legal personhood of the company?
Should a liberal-democratic state impose democratic rules and rights on the company?
Are democratic constraints on the operations of the company an encroachment on fundamental private property rights of its owners?
Can rules and rights simultaneously be politically and economically feasible?
Are free market capitalism and social justice still compatible? If so, to what extent?
What philosophical grounds justify state regulation and interference in the market?
What limits should be devised to the market for the sake of the public interest?
What is the nature of the public interest?