The Society for the Arts of Corporation is a non-profit institution for academics, artists, and members of the general public who take an active interest in the problems related to corporation, incorporation, and corporateness. Despite its contemporary relevance, the corporation is in fact a very old institution, dating to at least the early 13th century; many people are surprised to hear that the original term of art in Roman, medieval, and Renaissance law for “corporation” was universitas and that today’s legal theories of corporate personhood derive in part from the foundation of what we now recognize as the University of Paris.
The universitas: the original corporation. What if the dilemma of our own time is not that we have too many corporations in our political life but that we have too few? For our political life has never simply been a drama of states and citizens, and the representatives who putatively unite them: it unfolds across many scales of group life, enabled by many forms of collective association and common action. An enabling premise of The Society for the Arts of Corporation is that we suffer today from a corporate monoculture: that the historical diversity of the corporation — its structures, purposes, and systems of value — has been crowded out by the joint-stock, for-profit corporate form. Schools, churches, voluntary societies, neighborhood associations, and many other enduring groups: all are corporate in the original sense of the term, in that they have been formed to pursue purposes or to undertake action that can only be achieved in a collective fashion. For corporateness is never only commercial, nor is it ever entirely “legal,” in the sense that the beliefs, principles, activities, and phenomena that define a corporate entity or association can never be entirely captured by technical legal instruments (contracts, charters): in short, the law is a sufficient but not a necessary condition for corporateness.
The Society for the Arts of Corporation is a living organization in which members may examine and experiment with the nature of corporate entities of all kinds, without presumption of consensus, agreement, or uniformity of approach. It can be understood as a mimesis of the corporation, an imitative act that recreates the corporation in a new form: a theater of collective life, a sprawling poem written in the many voices of its members, a sculpture built of manufactured circumstances, a “strike” that pits one corporate form against another. It was instituted by Henry S. Turner (Rutgers University) and is open to any person or organization who wishes to participate in the life of the Society by encouraging the invention of ideas, the conduct of public acts, conversations, discussion, lectures, general debate, and the making of works of art of all kinds pertaining to the nature of corporate association and corporate being, including specialized historical, philosophical, and artistic research into:
Information on how to become a member of the Society, including guidelines for the Declaration and Oath of Membership and for the Action and Report, may be found by following the Join the Society link at the top of this page. Some members may choose to join the process of planning, describing, discussing, writing, and filing the charter, bylaws, tax-reporting and other documentation necessary to the formation of the Society as a legal corporation and to the annual disclosure of its activities, in as much detail and with as much considered deliberation as is necessary in order to conduct its activities in a manner appropriate to the Society’s continued existence and with the integrity necessary to the Society’s purpose. Others may choose to engage in activities that press the premises of the Society to their limits.