I was talking to someone, probably a coworker, and I was saying something about a "government," except I slipped and said "corporation." An easy mistake, if not a common one, perhaps, and certainly somewhat telling. In this post I want to discuss a number of ideas that have been lingering about in my thoughts regarding the role of corporations on culture and technology, and the role of corporate structures on the conveyance of cultural values.
In a lot of ways this post is the successor to my posts on: Martian Economics and Transformational Economics
Maybe that's a bit much for one blog post. In brief:
- Corporations and Governments
We can think of both corporations and governments fall into the larger category of "formal social institutions," or "formal collective institutions." They are both, at least in theory, productive beyond the ability of a single individual, and both dominate the shape and course of our lives to significant degrees.
- Corporate Structure and Cultural Transmission
How corporations, and governments more obviously, are structured and behave is--I would argue--a means of creating and transmitting cultural values.
- Praxis and IBM: Autonomy and Bottom Up Organization
I use these two examples--one fictional, one actual--as possible illustrations of a different sorts of ways of thinking about corporate organization. Both of these examples represent large institutions engaged in diverse operations, that are organized (I think) with a great number of quasi-autonomous operations and divisions, which contribute to common project but have the freedom to operate independently and encapsulated ways. This strikes me as a unique modality.
This leads to a lot of questions, and not very many good answers. I suppose that's not intrinsically a bad thing.
One of the biggest problems with corporations as far as I'm concerned is that by virtue of their fiduciary responsibility they have no obligation to operate in a sustainable manner or in the common interests of either their employees or the public.
Can the potentially harmful potentials inherent in corporate person-hood be offset by certain types of organization?
Is there a better way to manage and organize our political society that balances the power of governments, corporations, that is sustainable and efficient?
We talk, and think, a lot about how the Internet affects how people use technology, and how the Internet creates new possibilities for business. How does the Internet change the way we organize our work lives? Has technology made smaller corporate operations more sustainable and able to compete?
Are the alternatives loose and autonomous-cells in corporate organizations that might be able to address the concerns regarding efficiency and sustainability?
And so forth...