Burde on Turner, “The Poetics of the Corporate Person”

Comparing Henry Turner’s article, “The Poetics of the Corporate Person,” with his book The Corporate Commonwealth – Pluralism and Political Fictions in England, 1516 – 1651, it becomes evident that Turner views and analyzes corporations through a unique lens. In his article, Turner highlights the term “group person,” and during the seminar discussion, he further relates “group person” to a corporation. As denoted in “The Poetics of the Corporate Person,” a corporation functions as more than a person. When discussing the corporation in the context of a “group person” and beyond, the topic of who becomes part of a corporation emerged.

Before turning to the corporation, Turner illuminated on his interest in addressing the “group person.” Groups are distinctive entities. They have a specific start and end-point. But as Turner illuminates, the collection of individuals within a group is ambiguous, existing without a definitive internal structure. To help evaluate the internal structure of a “group person,” Turner introduced the concept of using other fields of academia to guide analysis. Theories from philosophy, neuroscience, and literature can influence the perspective with which we view a corporation. The intersection of these areas of academia contributes another lens to analyze the “group person.” Literature, for example, uses scripts to address theories through characters and imagination. Conversely, philosophy looks for definitions and is based on reason. Turner infers that the combination of literature and philosophy helps unpack the meaning of a group person. In addition to the reflexive relationship between philosophy and literature, applying neuroscience theories of scientific exploration creates another way to define the “group person” and subsequently corporation. Together the collaboration of academic study and law helps create a guideline to view corporations.

Examining the ontological structure of a corporation allows explorations into the formation of a corporation’s boundaries. Turner explains how constitutional factors and social norms influence the formation of corporations. These factors have allowed various forms of a corporation to exist such as churches, joint-stock companies, and monarchies. Each of these had a different internal structure which made it a unique type corporation. Today, several corporations exist both domestically and internationally. Some have a parent-subsidiary structure while others function as a single corporation. In either case, the types of individuals, laws, and entities that make up corporations are important to consider.

The conclusion of the discussion began to focus on who makes up major commercial corporations. There are two sides to this argument. A corporation exists internally. It may consist of a CEO, CFO, CMO, Managing Director, Product Manager, or sales associate. But, a corporation can also consist of more than its core employees. Take Nike, for example. Nike exists across the United States and around the globe. As Turner mentioned, Nike apparel customers become an extension of the corporation as they become branding for Nike. By wearing Nike shoes or clothing, consumers give Nike free advertising with their purchase and use. They become a strategic part of Nike’s business strategy as brand influencers. Neither perspective of who contributes to corporations is incorrect rather these are two different forms to consider when looking at corporations in terms of structure.

Turner’s article and discussion influenced a comprehensive look at how corporations exist today and how they have transformed. The premise of the “group person” remains important to consider when looking at a corporation through a different lens than law and classification than corporate personhood. From the conception of “group person” and have it defines a corporation allows then extrapolation of the crucial elements of a corporation and how some corporates rely on more factors than others to survive.

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