William Roy and Contemporary Corporation

Essay by chittin December 2004

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William Roy's conception of the contemporary corporation focuses on the merger wave of the 1890's during which which many large firms turned to public capital markets to facilitate mergers. The change that occurred in corporations was when they went from a public sphere to a private sphere. Two sectors, manufacturing and financial, came together at this time. In this book Roy criticizes the efficiency theory and relies heavily on the power theory. He felt that with the efficiency theory, anything that was done was done to maximize profits at that given time in history. The power theory looks back on history and relies heavily upon it. The main transformation that has occurred in corporate America has been the transformation of the ownership. Now corporations are owned by many people, (socialized capital) instead of an individual. "Corporations were developed to undertake jobs that were not rational or not appropriate from the perspective of the individual businessman."

(Roy, 41) This is where the transformation of public too private took place. The corporation that exists today has been contingent and developed from pre-existing forms. It evolved from the public corporation. The emergence of the railroad, the power of anti-monopoly, anti-state method of Jacksonian anti-corporation privatized and democratized the corporation. Although the corporate retained many of its privileges, it also made these privileges available to the general public through incorporation laws. Thus, the corporation lost its hold on its public accountability. The boundaries that were developed between the public and private could have been drawn quite differently. For instance, the manufacturing field could have maintained its power in firms that were not corporations. In addition, the corporate setting could have retained its public accountability. The state could have maintained more control over railroads and banks the way it controls highways today. Those who received...