08 March 2007

The Post-Capitalist Corporation

The corporation will soon undergo a transformation akin to the change of the nation-state during the age of Enlightenment.

Once the medieval church lost its grip on Europe, the modern nation-state grabbed power. For centuries, religious wars defined European politics. Huge swaths of the population were murdered by competing religions that used monarchs and rebels to compete for ascendancy. It was not until religion was made a personal matter and nation-states focused on issues of politics that warfare became less frequent. Governments could focus on quality of life instead of imposing religion through force.

Today, power has shifted from capitalism, from "the bank," to the corporation. JP Morgan sat on corporate boards and formed corporations like General Electric and International Harvester. The purpose of these newly formed corporations was financial gain. The aims of the bank, financial returns, still define the aims of the corporation just as the aims of the church to impose a homogeneity of religious belief first defined the modern nation-state.

Talking about the aims of the corporation today without talking about profit is about as odd as it would be to talk about the aims of the nation-state in 1650 without talking about which religion it ought to enforce on its subjects.

The idea of financial gain within the corporation being a matter left to individuals may seem foreign to us, but our grandchildren will accept it as easily as we accept transcontinental flights or leaving the matter of religion to individuals. It is yet another dimension of turning employees into entrepreneurs, of giving the individual more autonomy.


Life Hiker said...

When new employees were hired into my organization they would soon get a chance to meet with me.

After some chit-chat, I would always find a moment to ask them, "Who do you work for?" After giving me a strange look, they would answer "I work for (name of supervisor)", or "I work for (the corporation)".

"No, you don't",I would respond. "You work for yourself, and you don't ever want to forget that. Just remember,at the end of the month when the paycheck hits your bank account, you and the company are even. As long as you are here, you owe (the company) your best efforts and loyalty, but either you or the company can change your employment situation at any time. If you work as though you were actually paying yourself, both you and the company will benefit."

Over the years quite a few people came back into my office and thanked me for that advice. I wish I could remember who gave it to me. Sounds pretty entrepreneurial, doesn't it?

Ron Davison said...

That sounds like fantastic advice. I'm going to remember that. Thanks!

Norman said...

Ditto. Thanks Life Hiker.

clearthought said...

Great post, Ron.