The Corporation: A Theological Inquiry

The Corporation: A Theological Inquiry

The Corporation: A Theological Inquiry

The Corporation: A Theological Inquiry

Excerpt

This volume constitutes the third in a series of proceedings of Summer Institutes on theology and economics which have been jointly sponsored by the Department of Religion at Syracuse University and the American Enterprise Institute. The first volume, Capitalism and Socialism: A Theological Inquiry, tested the validity of commonly accepted theories about the ethos, practices, and institutions of competing social systems. In the second volume, Democracy and Mediating Structures: A Theological Inquiry, the exploration focused upon the social institutions--family, church, voluntary association, labor union, business corporation--that mediate between the individual in his private life and the megastructures of government. The present volume provides a more specific analysis of the mediating function of the corporation and its unique role in a free society.

The sponsors of the 1980 Summer Institute were confirmed in their expectation that the corporation would prove to be a lively subject for reflection and debate. Many serendipitous insights were generated in the formal and informal discussions through an intensive week at the Airlie House conference center in rural Virginia. The participants included theologians, economists, historians, philosophers, business executives and consultants, officers of foundations and church agencies, and graduate students in various disciplines. The group comprised both practitioners and theorists, all eager to explore the origins, nature, and function of corporations in relation to cultural and religious values. The texts of the proceedings presented here retain much of the effect and immediacy of their original oral delivery.

We begin this study with the recognition that corporations, especially large or transnational business corporations, are frequently targets of attack by social critics and religious ethicists. We are particularly interested, therefore, in achieving a dispassionate understanding of the facts about corporations. What constitutes a "large" corporation? How significant is the effect of large corporations on the American economy and the world economy? Do corporations foster or impede balanced economic development? Secondly, we wish to explore the overall mean-

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