Corporation Cristián Gómez Moya
The organization of an organic system (corpus) is determined by the conditions of territorial segmentation (border environments) within which a transfer of energy is produced under diverse kinds of organic parameters (adaptation, perception, circulation, transference, variability, etc.). The same process of giving a body or a physical form to an immaterial entity means incarnating or materializing its own social organicity; this provokes a series of transformations which determine the productive dimension (poiesis) of a mechanic corporation.
If a corporation—as a system of what Humberto Maturana and Francisco Varela call “living machines,” and a generator of energy (input-output)—produces connections in what Niklas Luhmann refers to as a system/environment with the aim of socializing in it, it is not so clear that this same system is autonomous within its historical productive generation. In a neurobiological sense what Maturana and Varela would call its structural coupling depends on its autopoietic capability as an autonomous system of organic economy, but thinking about living machines implies, in turn, the recomposing of dialectical coordinates between autonomy and domination; that is, activating the thought about corporation-politics which, constituting a machine-body, spans the ideological dimension of a system.
As a consequence, it is necessary to warn of a tradition inherited from the instituting historical-social autonomy, which the Western-epistemic trace would define as a new sense of opening through autopoiesis. A reading which, all things considered, differs considerably from the notion of “fence” that the neurobiologist Francisco Varela uses to explain that a specific organizational structure creates its own world—its own social dimensions—through the meaning that information bestows on it. From the opposite perspective, autonomy, according to the post-Marxist philosopher Cornellius Castoriadis, is able to achieve the opening, not of the biological system, but of the social system, which is a key aspect in the sense of instituting the autonomy of modernity that has in turn monumentalized the meaning of a corporation.
This corporatizing tendency, resignified now through new systematic organization on a global level, self-regulates in wide harmony with the values of social responsibility, civil security, modulation of economic risk, and impact on system-environments. Thus, we understand that the corporatization of a system within the environment also regulates other subsystems of the environment.
A corporation, in a decidedly political sense, that is to say, more linked to the field of social forces, answers to a matter of hegemony and more specifically to a problem of class, as the Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci pointed out, referring to the domination of a superstructural form: the ethical-political over the economic-corporative. The action of an autopoietic subject would be at the expense of freeing itself from the itinerary of the social economy, which Gramsci denominates “economic-corporative,” to reach a higher level of the “ethical-political.” These categories are historically layered in a corporative labor structure, but despite their temporal particularity they sufficiently illustrate an understanding of the future of Marxist categories transformed into more efficient practices for a neoliberal economy.
In a global context, the results of a corporation are narrowly linked to the new mechanisms of trans-territorial governability. These can be found, for example, in the generation of new corporate citizenship and the implementation of infrastructures of new interest groups (stakeholders). Corporations in the system-modern world circulate in a model of cross-fertilization, which allows the bringing together of private interests and the needs of regional governments through corporation management and new geopolitical intelligence.
Corporations, in this case trans-territorial ones, penetrate geopolitical conditions in diverse regions managing security and risk through global pacts and bioregional agreements of socioeconomic, military, cultural, and educational responsibility. Thus the diverse geopolitical regions have “autonomously” developed their own “fence” of economic-corporative-regional action (e.g., countries of the former Soviet Union [the Commonwealth of Independent States], the Arab Islamic world [UMMAH] or the Baghdad Pact [CENTO], the European Common Market/European Union [EEC], the different corporate-economic markets in America [CAN, MERCOSUR, NAFTA], the Association of Southeast Asian Nations [ASEAN], and on the other hand military corporations [NATO], or the old treaties of friendly collaboration in the Soviet bloc [the Warsaw Pact] as well as the traditional organizations for international rights [the United Nations], of corporate social responsibility [the UN Global Compact] or education [UNESCO]).
By orchestrating the geopolitical itinerary of security, the territorial autonomies of regions with a corporate risk are controlled and strengthened, as are the new intangible economies, direct foreign investment, and civil empowerment through businesses of the third sector. This way, the protocols on international aid, assistance, and cooperation permit new delocalized markets to be widened, maintained, and corporatized. These agencies go from constituting centers of regional security and control to being pacifically and cooperatively diluted among interest groups (stakeholders), who finally lead and incarnate at an optimum level corporate values in an organized and constitutional way.
The corporate regime of these new agencies can be diverse, but at the same time ecumenical, and it can range from corporations dealing with insurance, non-profit, mutual funds, without monetary consideration, subsidiary, traditional, transnational, affiliate, without financial ends, for research, for the sale of professional services, stock market actions, and bank interest; to illegal, unfortunate, religious (corpus Christi), fugitive, experimental, invasive (corpus alienum), delocalized, intercultural, nuclear, creative, and spectral (corpus espectrum) corporations. The legal figure determines its status of corporate autonomy in a given territory, but bearing in mind that the bodies—docile and subordinate—finally incarnate the ontological sense of the corporation.
Through the building of multicultural post-identities, those which registered a hypothetical opening of expanded possibilities and flexibilities of difference, as well as the supposed appeasement and dissolution of the symbolic-economic community frontiers, the ontological-corporate systems which were already inaugurated during the late phase of modernity have been repositioning themselves. These models, recovered from an episteme based on biosocial autopoiesis and generative linguistics, have managed to give rise to a cybernetic architecture upheld through the combination of organizational technologies and through the design of communicational interfaces, thus creating an illusion of a more participatory “autonomy” inside specifically located environments.
This perspective has meant that the modern category of corporate systems based on Martin Heidegger’s ontological essentialism has taken a political-communicational turn. This change finds its most promising moment in the opening, not of static organizations, but rather of living machines based on new mediums defined as mobile subjects. These incarnated corporate acts are subsumed under a strategy of organizational design, which operate on new semio-capitalist fields, to use Franco Berardi’s term. Thus, the ontology of organization and systematic corporation becomes a communication strategy, which widens its semantic capital gains.
If the ontological-system and the environmental-system belong to a combined relation of being and perception, we should also say that a corporation does not have an exogenous value which interest groups (stakeholders) can reconstruct in an autonomous way. Rather, this system operates as a performative action (communicational and organizational), which is incarnated; that is to say, it is corporatized in its interest groups and circulates over areas of influence.
We are facing an expanded model of the corporation that offers us new image media based on sociocultural media which are flexible, mobile, changing, and proactive, and through them the ontological values of the organization are circulated. The system of a corporation is now based on a significant displacement through language-made-body, and in turn, the postmetaphysical meaning of Being-in-the-World has been revalued as the conditions of human needs. This model—derived from the epistemological meaning close to what Heidegger denominated Dasein—constitutes the hyperbolic condition of the corporate-being; that is, a subject which incarnates organizational values, through which the ontological is connected to design-made-body, action, and information. Under these terms—connecting the referential frames between the autopoietic and the ontological—new diagrams of organizational strategies have appeared with the aim of sublimating the future of being, the autonomy of the subject, and the governability of one’s self. The possibility of self-government however, requires training—what Rafael Echevarría calls “ontological coaching”—in which the ontological action of being, through language, makes the transformative capacity of identity according to social groups available. This is why the ontology of the corporate does not refer to the exogenous perception of the organization, and does, on the other hand, refer to how the ontological system is taught (coached) by the organization itself and by the reproduction of its multiple stakeholders, which are equivalent to social and autopoietic subjects that incarnate the corporate identity.
This organizational apologia—in tune with what Terry Winograd and Fernando Flores call “ontological redesign”—has been decisive not only in its effect on thought created in logocentricity, but especially in its contribution to producing a turnaround in the epistemological tradition, bringing ontology closer to the sociopolitical condition of being—that is, the communicative action of corporate design based on social organization.
There currently exists a series of new global strategies to exploit corporate identity which negotiate their penetration mechanisms in areas of social influence. These standards, internationally accepted under the denomination of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), are consolidated in the ethical-discursive frameworks principally proposed by global agencies and project the creation of new ontological branding networks. In this new scenario, CSR constitutes a decisive communicational interface which contributes to socio-ecological sustainability and to corporate transparency.
CSR has become a strategy of communicative action based on sociocultural resources, and which, being more than a simple gesture of social conscience, has facilitated the impact of corporate systems in diverse delocalized geopolitical areas. CSR has been conceived as an agreement on a global network in which businesses and financial shareholders participate, but in connection to the civil dimension, which includes everyone from consumers and citizens to government agencies. These initiatives of global reach, in addition to promoting “good practice” inside corporations, encourage the creation of memories of sustainability and standardization with the aim of making administrative and economic management more transparent, and in passing, provide incentives for social commitment in regions of influence where businesses are inserted.
CSR is perceived as a pact on the repercussions of productivity in regions of influence, but it also measures the image that businesses offer. As a consequence it balances the benefits of the image of a company at the same time as it is committed to the social conditions of the communities in its surroundings. In terms of the ethical-discursive framework, there is a blurry line between economic profits (standard of profits gained) and image resources. From this we could extrapolate the epistemological debate on the ethical-discursive modern tradition, which would supposedly guarantee good practice according to “good speech.” The German philosopher Jürgen Habermas—even if his “theory of communicative action” has served to build a pretentiously emancipatory discourse of responsibility—warned us of the need to question the rationality of those postmetaphysical manifestations which incarnate knowledge. On the other hand, the Argentine philosopher Enrique Dussel—in his criticism of the communicative reason of modernity—considered the relation between the ethics of discourse and its application to the ethics of responsibility. His concern consists of “how power is responsible a posteriori for the consequences of those ‘affected’ by the ‘agreements’ which are discursively reached.”1
The bases of CSR can be found in the universal repercussions of communicative action, repositioned in the logocentric “duty to be rational” in the corporate environment. This could also be questioned from its multiethical condition—or, in Mexican philosopher Teodoro Ramírez’s words, “Can discursive ethics give account of the possible conditions of nonstrategic intercommunity communication?”2
Conforming to this, some communicational strategies of CSR (e.g., those called “greenwash”) persist in the insertion of private corporations through the ethics of discourse, thus modulating its negative impact. This way, through the conditioning of branding codes in more diverse user markets, but also more susceptible to global transfers, it would be possible to persuade of the social/public advantages which economic/private income offers.
The nucleus which best activates these ethics of organizational discourse within the company is Corporate Government (comprising the participation of directors, senior civil servants, and management, workers, and shareholders). This administrative figure comprises a series of strategic and operational elements which condition the ontology of organizations by working as a technology which designs—through business lobbies—the maximum labor output and informs the state of the accounts of its main investors, making public the economic layer of the corporation. The corporate government thus takes advantage of the available media to circulate the ethical attributes and functions of the brands it sponsors.
The communicational strategies which Corporate Government commissions branding agencies to create do not pass as the design of a message but as an innovation in the locus of social enunciation; a linguistic turn of the economy converted now into an act of communication. The new social media consist of modulations of interfaces which put the ethics of sustainability and responsibility into alphabetical order, making the relationship closer, and therefore more efficient, between corporate-government and citizen-consumers; all this is mediated by the idea of progress and development.
As a consequence, it would be valid to uphold that current corporate strategies—directed by ontological consultants—have reformatted the capital gain of the ontological-corporate essentialism through ideologies logo-tactics, which we could now call Corporate Social Governability (CSG). This new figure of global governance would unfold in an eclectic and proactive way through the creation of new corporations based on massive and multicultural stakeholders.
1 / Enrique Dussel (ed.), Debate en torno a la ética del discurso de Apel. Diálogo filosófico Norte-Sur desde América Latina, Siglo XXI Editores/Iztapalapa, Mexico City 1994, p. 98.
2 / Mario Teodoro Ramírez, “Ética de la comunicación Intercomunitaria,” Debate en torno a la ética del discurso de Apel. Diálogo filosófico Norte-Sur desde América Latina, Siglo XXI Editores/Iztapalapa, Mexico City 1994, p. 57.
Franco Berardi, Generación post-alfa: Patologías e imaginarios en el semiocapitalismo, Bajo Tierra/Tinta Limón/Sísifo, Mexico City 2008.
Rafael Echeverría, Ontología del lenguaje, Dolmen, Santiago de Chile 1994.
Jürgen Habermas, Teoría de la acción comunicativa, 2 vols., Taurus, Madrid 1999.
Martin Heidegger, Ser y Tiempo, trans. J.E. Rivera, Editorial Universitaria, Santiago de Chile 1997.
Niklas Luhmann, El Derecho de la Sociedad, Universidad Iberoamericana/UNAM-IIJ, Mexico City 2002.
Humberto Maturana, Francisco Varela, El árbol del conocimiento, Editorial Universitaria, Santiago de Chile 1984.
Humberto Maturana, Francisco Varela, De máquinas y seres vivos: Una teoría de la organización biológica, Editorial Universitaria, Santiago de Chile 1972.
Terry Winograd, Fernando Flores, Understanding Computers and Cognition, Addison-Wesley, Norwood 1986.