David Armitage:
John Locke, Inc.

THE SEMINAR ON CORPORATIONS AND INTERNATIONAL LAW

A 2017-2018 Mellon Sawyer Seminar

From politics to popular culture, the corporation has become one of the most critical economic, political, and cultural institutions of the modern era.  It has also been one of the most controversial.  Despite the normative and often unquestioned languages with which it is discussed, most questions about the origin and nature of the corporation have hardly been settled. Are corporations people, societies, or even governments? Do they have rights? If so, what are their civic, social, ethical, and political responsibilities?

If such questions are vexing within municipal and national contexts, they have been downright confounding for international legal regimes. Though born of varying forms of domestic law, many corporations have a global footprint and influence on our conceptions of sovereignty and governance, the functioning of international markets, the nature of interstate relations, wealth distribution, international development, and, at a basic level, the lives of people around the world. Yet modern international law has generally been understood to apply almost exclusively to states and to touch only lightly on corporate institutions, with profound consequences for everything from human rights to the global environment. We still lack the robust and extensive concepts and languages to comprehend their jurisdictionally ambiguous and spatially diffuse nature, as well as corporations’ relationships to individuals, states, and other non-state actors in a world filled with various independent or semi-independent political agents besides the nation-state. Read more...

Are corporations people, societies, or even governments? Do they have rights? If so, what are their civic, social, ethical, and political responsibilities? Our seminar will explore these questions, and many more.

The Seminar on Corporations and International Law also features a cross-listed course for graduate, professional, and advanced undergraduate students across the humanities and social sciences. Registration is now open for Spring 2018.