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2023/2024  KAN-CSOCV1027U  The Political Corporation

English Title
The Political Corporation

Course information

Language English
Course ECTS 7.5 ECTS
Type Elective
Level Full Degree Master
Duration One Semester
Start time of the course Autumn
Timetable Course schedule will be posted at calendar.cbs.dk
Max. participants 50
Study board
Study Board for MSc in Social Sciences
Course coordinator
  • Mathias Hein Jessen - Department of Business Humanities and Law (BHL)
Main academic disciplines
  • Corporate governance
  • CSR and sustainability
  • Sociology
Teaching methods
  • Face-to-face teaching
Last updated on 26-06-2023

Relevant links

Learning objectives
At the end of the course, students will be able to:
  • Account for different conceptions of the corporation
  • Understand the corporation as a political entity and actor
  • Understand the political constitution of the corporation
  • Analyze the corporate form and corporate power
  • Discuss different approaches to transforming or reforming the corporation
  • Critically assess the power of corporations as well as their proposed alternatives
The Political Corporation:
Exam ECTS 7,5
Examination form Home assignment - written product
Individual or group exam Individual exam
Size of written product Max. 10 pages
Assignment type Essay
Release of assignment The Assignment is released in Digital Exam (DE) at exam start
Duration 72 hours to prepare
Grading scale 7-point grading scale
Examiner(s) One internal examiner
Exam period Winter
Make-up exam/re-exam
Same examination form as the ordinary exam
Description of the exam procedure

The students are provided with an exam question. The students have 72 hours to write an essay answering the question using the theoretical concepts and literature discussed in class.

Course content, structure and pedagogical approach

The aim of this course is to make the student capable of critically analyzing and assessing the corporation as a political entity, the political constitution of the corporation, the corporate form as well as different critiques of the corporation and proposals for transforming or reforming it.


The corporation plays a dominant role in the global economy, accounting for a substantial proportion of the world’s top 100 economies as well as of global carbon emissions. Corporations wield massive political power and influence through lobbying and political campaigns. Corporations are also increasingly becoming powerful agents of social and economic development through Corporate Social Responsibility, Corporate Citizenship and the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Corporations occupy a paradoxical role in our social and political order as both agents of innovation, growth, development and prosperity, as well as of inequality, whitewashing, tax evasion, financial crises, climate crisis and environmental disasters.


As a result of the negative externalities produced by corporations, and their political and economic power, debates about the regulation of corporate power, for instance of tech-giants, have proliferated in recent years. At the same time, a number of critiques of corporate power and suggestions for transformations of corporations are being voiced in these years from political parties and candidates, social movements, NGO’s and think-tanks, but also from actors such as the World Economic Forum and Business Roundtable.


The course argues that in order to understand the role of the corporation in our current political and economic situation, we need to understand it not merely as an economic entity, but as a political entity which is constituted politically and which wields political power both externally and internally. The course illuminates the political nature of the corporation in a three-fold way: 1) as politically constituted, thereby highlighting the interactions with states, law and other political organizations, and what this means for what a corporation is and the power it wields; 2) as exercising political power externally in a number of settings; and 3) as exercising political authority over its members and jurisdiction and what this means for the internal governance of corporations.


The course is divided into three parts. The first part discusses and introduces approaches with which to understand the corporation as a political entity. The second part investigates how the corporation wields political power and influence externally through for instance corporate social responsibility and corporate citizenship. The third part investigates how the corporation wields political power internally over its members (employees) and jurisdiction. The course also offers discussions about how to transform or corporations through theories and cases of stakeholder corporate governance, foundation-, cooperatively-, or worker-owned corporations and workplace democracy.


The course is part of the series Advanced Studies Electives. It addresses students in their last year of their master who are looking for inspiration for their master thesis.

Description of the teaching methods
The course consists of lectures, in-class discussions, group work and case discussions.
Feedback during the teaching period
Students will receive feedback as part of ongoing teaching, group work, small presentations, discussions and case discussions. There will be an emphasis on student discussions and ongoing feedback. Office hours will also provide an opportunity for student feedback.
Student workload
Lectures 33 hours
Preparation 101 hours
Exam 72 hours
Expected literature

Baars, G. & Spicer, A. (Eds.) (2017). The Corporation: A Critical, Multi-Disciplinary Handbook. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


Barkan, J. (2013). Corporate sovereignty: Law and government under capitalism. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.


Blair, M.M. (2013). Corporate Personhood and the Corporate Persona, University of Illinois Law Review, pp. 775-820.


Ciepley, D. (2013). Beyond public and private: Toward a political theory of the corporation. American Political Science Review, 107(1), 139-158.


Ferreras, I. (2017). Firms as political entities: Saving democracy through economic bicameralism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


Mayer, C. (2021). The Future of the Corporation and the Economics of Purpose, Journal of Management Studies, 58(3), pp. 887-901.


Shamir, R. (2008). The age of responsibilization: on market-embedded morality, Economy and Society, 37(1), 1-19.

Last updated on 26-06-2023