Business legitimacy, modernity, and organizational systems: corporate spirit, esprit de corps and corpus spiritus throughout history

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Organizational reforms often require transformations in motivations. However, often we see old wine in new bottles. Organization studies seem to have ignored the long path dependencies of previous transformations in the ethics of work, cooperation and organizational communication. In the form of an archeology of the conceptual and semantic layers, the article pass from the idea of corporate spirit and capitalist work ethics to the analysis of what was called esprit de corps in administrations and corporations in early modernity, and further on into the late and high medieval constructions of the so-called corpus spiritus in Christianity. The article demonstrates how immense parts of modern organizational forms are constituted by the medieval semantics of cooperative virtues and their transformations in early modernity. The ideas of legitimacy, virtues and ethics were most central in the organization of the Christian Church; moreover, they formed and authorized the paradigm of both state organizations and business corporations. Then, as today, problems of delegation, representation and decentralization appeared as problems of communication to be dealt with in decision-making and at the central levels of corporations and legitimized organization.

TitelHandbook of business legitimacy : responsibility, ethics and society
RedaktørerJacob Dahl Rendtorff
Antal sider17
Publikationsdatoaug. 2020
ISBN (Trykt)978-3-030-14621-4, 978-3-030-14623-8
ISBN (Elektronisk)978-3-030-14622-1
StatusUdgivet - aug. 2020


  • Corporate spirit
  • Ethics
  • Historical Sociology
  • Legitimacy
  • Organizational Sociology