Corporate personality : a political theory of association
This thesis aims to rescue the tradition of corporation theory from the implications of ontological and ethical individualism, which form important tenets of mainstream political theory. My argument for corporate personality builds on the Lockean and Humean theory of personal identity over time. According to this theory, personal identity is not rooted in the identity of a deep and indivisible Self, but in the relatedness between temporally distinct psychological stages. A person is a group of desires, beliefs, memories, traits and other attitudes, tied together by a causal string. On the best interpretation of the Humean view, personal identity has normative consequences. We are bundles but the string that ties the stages of one life together is formed by the normativity of action-guiding principles and by the mutual recognition of certain associative obligations. This normative claim is often meant to buttress ethical individualism against those who deny that persons exist at all. However, this thesis demonstrates that the claim also reinvigorates the idea of corporate personality. The argument develops along two different strands. First, it is shown that corporate personality is a political theory. It is the theory that compares co-operative relations between people with the co-operative relations between the stages of one person. For contractualist theories, the core virtue is justice. For corporate theories, the highest virtue is integrity. Second, corporation theory makes a real contribution to the field of political theory, in particular in an area where contractualism has traditionally encountered problems, to wit, the continuity of the contract. This thesis argues corporation theory is much more successful in explaining our transgenerational obligations to the past and future.