The Epistemology of Corporate Power : The Limits of the Firm-State Analogy


*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review


Political theorists frequently utilize the ‘firm–state analogy’ (FSA) to support the arguments for democratic governance in firms. This article presents the FSA as an analogy with both justificatory and epistemic functions. Its justificatory function provides valid justificatory strategies for workplace democracy, while its epistemic function offers models that shape the understanding of corporate power. In this article, four limitations of the justificatory function of the FSA are identified: (i) the problem of ambiguity, (ii) the boundary problem, (iii) the issue of normative redundancy, and (iv) the universality problem. Furthermore, the article argues that the epistemic function of the FSA fails to adequately address some of the most concerning forms of corporate power wielded by large, particularly multinational, corporations in the realm of international trade. As a result, the FSA misses crucial reasons for the normative desirability of democracy in corporate governance.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Applied Philosophy
Early online date24 Jun 2024
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 24 Jun 2024

Bibliographical note

I would like to thank the editor and the anonymous reviewers for their invaluable help with earlier versions of this article. Particular thanks also go to Igor Shoikhedbrod for his extensive comments on earlier drafts of the article. This article has benefited substantially from exchanges with Rutger Claassen, Tully Rector, Barbara Bziuk, and Philipp Stehr. I would also like to thank Derek Tai for his excellent research assistance.


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