Companies are regulated by politics, but they also shape the political arena themselves, whenever they influence politicians and political parties. Moreover, companies fulfill public functions such as providing public goods, regulating their own business activities, or addressing societal problems, like environmental harms. Can this mix of private activity and public responsibility be legitimate, in a democratic society? Aren't corporations given too much political power? Are multinationals different in this respect from other companies? These questions are central in the recently awarded ERC Consolidator Grant project ‘The Business Corporation as a Political Actor’.
The project is based on the hypothesis that a new social contract is necessary to make the public role of contemporary corporations legitimate. This requires transplanting notions traditionally used for legitimizing states – like respecting human rights, democratic procedures, and standards of social justice – to corporations. Is this possible? To answer this question, the project engages in a philosophical reflection on the possibilities to apply existing political theories of legitimacy to corporations. This is combined with practical case studies on different types of regulation of corporate activity: corporate governance regulating, tax policies, and competition law, etc. Home base of the project is Political Philosophy, but its aim is to integrate insights from other disciplines, such as law, economics, political science and history.
You will be working under the supervision of the Program Leader, Rutger Claassen, as part of a research team consisting of two PhD candidates and two Postdoctoral Researchers. You will play an active role in the research team, organize and take part in workshops, public events and other activities. The positions are based at the Ethics Institute, which is part of the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies of Utrecht University, which provides a stimulating and internationally oriented research environment. All positions start at 1 September 2020.
Phd Position 1: ‘The Democratic Accountability of the Corporation‘ (4 years, 1.0 FTE). The first PhD project inquires whether legitimate corporate activity requires democratization. This will require an account of how internal democratisation (i.e. ‘workplace democracy ‘) as well as external democratisation (representation of outside stakeholders in corporate decision making) can be justified, and how both dimensions can be integrated into one coherent democratic theory. Furthermore, the sub project will address the question which variations in regimes of corporate governance can be distinguished in a global context, and how each of them embody the ideals of democracy.
PhD Position 2: ‘Social Justice for Corporations’ (4 years, 1.0 FTE) The second PhD project aims to develop a theory of social justice for corporations; identifying to what standards of fair corporate conduct corporations should be held. This will include an account of the division of moral labour between corporations and governments, what substantive duties corporations owe to their employees, and which duties of fair taxation corporations owe to the political community(ies) in which they operate.