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Rethinking the purpose of the corporation with the creative power of the enterprise

Abstract : In this article, we propose a new conceptualization of the purpose of the corporation in relation to its activities. This conceptualization builds upon the existing distinction between the corporation as a legal vehicle and the enterprise as an economic organization, but renews the approach of the enterprise. We argue that the enterprise is a peculiar historical form of economic organization that emerged in the late 19th century to not only produce but also create new goods and technologies. This creative purpose involved a new type of managerial authority, not grounded in corporate law, but institutionalized in other branches of law, such as labor law. The legitimacy of the managers relied on the premise that the enterprise’s creative power would be harnessed for collective progress. However, this new view of the enterprise was insufficiently conceptualized in the 20th century and continued to be governed by standard corporate law. This allowed managers to be seen as agents of shareholders, and the purpose of collective progress to be replaced by the interests of shareholders. Our analysis has important implications for the purpose of the corporation. As enterprises become more innovative and impactful, we argue that they can no longer be governed by traditional corporate law. If the corporation remains the legal cloth for business activities, then its purpose must consider the nature and impacts of these activities. We therefore interpret the new legal forms of purpose-driven corporation as an appropriate framework to restore the enterprise and a collective purpose within corporate law.
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Contributor : Blanche Segrestin Connect in order to contact the contributor
Submitted on : Thursday, October 21, 2021 - 9:29:41 PM
Last modification on : Thursday, August 4, 2022 - 3:45:32 PM


  • HAL Id : hal-03393036, version 1


Blanche Segrestin, Armand Hatchuel, Kevin Levillain. Rethinking the purpose of the corporation with the creative power of the enterprise. Research in the Sociology of Organizations, Emerald Publishing, 2022, 78. ⟨hal-03393036⟩



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