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Capitalism's Moral Economy

How have people historically sought to make economic markets fairer?

From business and its social responsibilities to how moral ideas change business organization, my research probes the moral economy of capitalism. 

Exploring how historical actors sought to make business fairer and more socially responsible suggests possibilities and lessons for the present

Organizing for Purpose

When we think of corporations we think of for-profit, shareholder corporations. But there are many other corporate structures. My new book research focuses on the history of corporations that are designed for social purpose and to directly benefit stakeholders beyond those owning shares. From early co-operatives to digital autonomous organisations, my book, Organizing for Purpose: A History of the Hopeful, will explore the ambitions and hopes of those designing and leading these corporations. 


The History of Business and its Social Responsibilities

This book builds on my research into the history of business and its social responsibilities. Do businesses have social responsibility? How have these responsibilities changed over time and why? These questions are explored in a volume of essays by leading business historians that I have co-edited with William Pettigrew, A History of Socially Responsible Business, c.1600–1950  (Palgrave MacMillan, 2017).


Not everyone agrees that business has social responsibilities, of course. I am now publishing a new article on the intellectual background to Milton Friedman's famous critique of corporate social responsibility (forthcoming, Modern Intellectual History). You can preview an early draft at SSRN.

Interested in the long history of corporate laws and social purpose? Have a look at my exploration of what may be the oldest still-cited corporate law case in the Anglo-American world, The Case of Sutton's Hospital (1612). 

My other research develops a model to understand this dynamic and the "social life" of the corporation, for example, in a recent article, The Hudson's Bay Company, Social Legitimacy, and the Political Economy of Eighteenth-Century Empire

Market Morality and its History

Ideas of market morality and fairness can have real effect on policies and the law. My research questions how people think about fairness in the market over time. Should all market actors play by the same rules? If so, what are the rules? How are they interpreted and enforced?


Explore my new article in the journal Enterprise & Society that links moral ideas with the campaign for law reform in England during the 1840s and 1850s. The modern corporation with limited liability emerged from these efforts in 1855 along with the legal recognition of co-operatives in 1852.


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