Chartering Capitalism: Organizing Markets, States, and Publics

Publication Date: 
March 2015
Political Power and Social Theory, Volume 29


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This collection of articles features research one distinct organizational form: the chartered company. Chartered companies were commercial and financial organizations formally recognized by state actors, often possessing monopoly privileges to regions or sectors of trade. In addition to being significant domestic actors and the organizational precursors to modern multinationals, the chartered companies were the primary vehicles behind the expansion of European political and economic hegemony, and thus central to the creation of modern global political and economic institutions as well as the global structure of trade and international political relations. The contributions included here cover the evolution of the chartered company form and a range of companies, beginning with one of the earliest known chartered organizations, the Casa di San Giorgio, founded in 1407, and including the Merchant Adventurers, the Levant Company, the English East India Company, the Dutch East India Company, the Royal African Company, and the Hudson’s Bay Company. Collectively, the contributions employ comparative methods, archival research, case studies, statistical analyses, computational models, network analyses, and new theoretical conceptualizations to map out the complex interactions that took place within the companies between state and commercial actors in and across Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Americas – interactions that renegotiated and ultimately institutionalized what were to become modern conceptions of public and private and defined many of the political and economic structures of capitalism.