This paper explores the attempts to depict the global rise to dominance of the shareholder-oriented joint stock corporation as largely economically determined and to portray these corporations as fundamentally "private" in nature. By analyzing the economic nature of the joint stock companies (JSCs) that emerged in growing numbers in the nineteenth century, the historical construction of a corporate legal form to accommodate them, and the very different possible futures contained within their rise (one highly "financialized," the other increasingly "socialized"), the paper argues that special interests and power lie behind what is often dressed up as economic efficiency. Against this backdrop, the paper seeks to highlight the sharp contradiction between the continuing private appropriation of corporate surpluses and the increasingly social and transnational character of production and growing volume of public interventions, national and international, needed to protect rentier investors.


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pp. 291-330
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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