Companies, Company Law and the Debt State

Professor Lorraine Talbot will present at a one-day event on 29 May 2018, preceding the Annual Adam Smith Lecture at Glasgow University to be delivered by Professor Wolfgang Streeck. 

lorraine-talbot

On 30 May, Streeck will give the annual Adam Smith Lecture at the University of Glasgow, on ‘The Size of Nations and the Politics of Political Scale’. At a seminar to be held the preceding day, and with the matter of political scale in mind, participants address the novelty of the new constitutional conjuncture represented by the ‘debt state’; the notions of a politics of debt and of a politics of scale; and, from their own perspective, to discuss Streeck’s suggestion of the constitutional displacement and the reconfiguration of political space that the debt state entails.

Participants:

  • Wolfgang Streeck, Max Plank Institute, Cologne
  • Ruth Dukes, University of Glasgow
  • Michelle Everson, Birkbeck, University of London
  • Thomas Fazi, journalist and author
  • Marco Goldoni, University of Glasgow
  • Christian Joerges, Hertie School, Berlin
  • Lorraine Talbot, University of Birmingham
  • Agustin Menendez, University of Leon
  • Neil Walker, University of Edinburgh

Sponsor

Society of Legal Scholars

Abstract:

One of the chief tensions in the debt state is how to persuade its citizens to work for the enrichment of the ‘profit-dependent classes’ and to accept the resulting disparity between their wealth. 

In this paper I focus on that most ubiquitous of the profit-dependent class, company shareholders. I show how the legal architecture of the company has helped persuade citizens that enriching shareholders is both uncontroversial and even desirable.

This is attributable first to the historical emergence of the company share as a commodified surplus, a fungible and transferable property that obfuscates the political relationship between worker and shareholder.

Second, to the extension of shareholder rights from the post war period coinciding with neoliberalism from the 1970s. 

I then illustrate how neoliberal companies reflect the debt state by delivering value to finance using their own ‘buying time’ strategies that ultimately exacerbate the very problem they are seeking to tackle.