Vanishing Corporations

ILR Book Project examines implications of changed economy
Thursday, February 9, 2017

For many, “corporation” is synonymous with “business.”

In reality, though, many businesses are not corporations, and public corporations, which had dominated the U.S. economy since the 1940s, are in decline.

As a community, ILR faculty, students and staff will discuss the impact of this seismic change in American life through ILR Book Project events in March.

“The Vanishing American Corporation: Navigating the Hazards of a New Economy,” this year’s book, was written by Gerald F. Davis. He is the Wilbur K. Pierpont Collegiate Professor of Management in the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan, where he is also a sociology professor.

He explores the rise and decline of U.S. corporations, and implications of their decline for employment, health care, retirement and income inequality.

In the U.S., the corporation set the standard for business offering the trappings of the welfare state – health care for families, pensions and unemployment insurance. In Germany, France, the United Kingdom and much of the rest of Europe, the government took responsibility for those services.

The system worked fine for decades, and the U.S. saw its lowest income inequality in history during the late 1960s.

But, a series of factors changed the economy, Davis points out. There are fewer public corporations, and they employ far fewer people than corporations of the past. Income inequality has soared.

The change has left many people working as independent agents without a social safety net or the protections awarded employees. Think Uber, Lyft or Amazon’s Mechanical Turks.

The final pages of Davis’s book provide his thoughts on where to place our energies in the economy that is unfolding in the wake of corporate dissolutions.

ILR Book Project events include:

Perspectives on “The Vanishing American Corporation”
Noon, Feb. 28, Doherty Lounge, ILR School
Associate Professor Louis Hyman, Professor Risa Lieberwitz
Open to ILR community, lunch provided

ILR student debate, “This house regrets the demise of the American corporation”
7:30 p.m., March 8
305 Ives Hall, ILR School
Free and open to the public

Book talk with author:
4:30 p.m., March 14
305 Ives Hall, ILR School
Free and open to the public

Lunchtime discussion for faculty and graduate students:
“Can Organizational Theory Explain Income Inequality?”
Noon, March 15
Uris Hall G08
Professor Gerald Davis
Sponsored by ILR and Center for Study of Inequality