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Lecture Series

The Coming Collapse of the American Corporation (and What Comes Next)? by Gerald F. Davis

Finance, Corporations and the End of Neo-Liberalism

Please join us for our next CSES Lecture Series on February 6th, 2014 at Cornell University from 4:30 to 6PM in the A.D. White House, Guerlac Room. Gerald (Jerry) Davis will present his research “The Coming Collapse of the American Corporation (and What Comes Next)?”


Shareholder-owned corporations were the central pillars of the US economy in the twentieth century. Due to the success of the shareholder value movement and the widespread “Nikefication” of production, however, public corporations have become less concentrated, less integrated, less interconnected at the top, shorter-lived, and less prevalent since the turn of the twenty-first century, and there is reason to expect that their significance will continue to dwindle. We are left with both pathologies (heightened inequality, lower mobility, and a fragmented social safety net) and new technologies suitable for being repurposed in more democratic forms. Local solutions for producing, distributing, and sharing can provide functional alternatives to corporations for both production and employment; what is needed is the social organization to match the tools that we already have, or will have shortly. The time for democratic local economic forms prophesied by generations of activists may finally be at hand.

About the Speaker

Jerry Davis is the Wilbur K. Pierpont Collegiate Professor of Management at the Ross School of Business and Professor of Sociology, The University of Michigan. Davis received his PhD from the Graduate School of Business at Stanford University. Recent books include Social Movements and Organization Theory (with Doug McAdam, W. Richard Scott, and Mayer N. Zald; Cambridge University Press, 2005) and Organizations and Organizing: Rational, Natural, and Open System Perspectives (with W. Richard Scott; Pearson Prentice Hall, 2007). Davis has published widely in management, sociology, and finance. He is currently Editor of Administrative Science Quarterly and Co-Director of the Interdisciplinary Committee on Organization Studies (ICOS) at Michigan. Davis’ research is broadly concerned with corporate governance and the effects of finance on society. Recent writings examine how ideas about corporate social responsibility have evolved to meet changes in the structures and geographic footprint of multinational corporations; whether “shareholder capitalism” is still a viable model for economic development; how income inequality in an economy is related to corporate size and structure; why theories about organizations do (or do not) progress; how architecture shapes social networks and innovation in organizations; why stock markets spread to some countries and not others; and whether there exist viable organizational alternatives to shareholder-owned corporations in the United States. His latest book Managed By the Markets: How Finance Reshaped America (Oxford University Press, 2009) examines how finance replaced manufacturing at the center of the American economy, and what the consequences have been for corporations, banking, states, and households in the 21st century. In 2010 it was awarded the Academy of Management’s George R. Terry Book Award for Outstanding Contribution to the Advancement of Management Knowledge.

“Actors do not behave or decide as atoms outside a social context ... Their attempts at purposive action are instead embedded in concrete, ongoing systems of social relations.”— Mark Granovetter