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Eschatology of Capitalism and the Future of the Corporation

Hirst, J.

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John Hirst
Associate Professor


Eschatology is defined as “the study of end times”. This paper calls for more serious attention to the eschatology of capitalism which is particularly pertinent to the British Academy’s Future of the Corporation project, launched in 2017. It presents a synthesis of eschatological literature, drawing on Streeck’s (2016) essays on the “end of capitalism”, Rifkin’s (2014) account of the “eclipse of capitalism”, and Fleming & Jones’ (2013) treatise on the “end of CSR”, all of which are related to “legacy pathologies” and associated disorders, stemming from mercantilism, that consecutive versions of liberalism, most recently neoliberalism, have failed to expunge. These pathologies have continually mutated, thwarting successive attempts to re-embed markets in the restraining fabric of society, by latching onto and subverting liberal principles of democracy, utilitarian pragmatic legitimacy and market justice. The resultant excessive commodification of Polanyi’s “fictitious capitals” in ways that have exceeded the “moral limits of markets” (Sandel, 2013) and “planetary boundaries” under “corporate neoliberalism” (Crouch, 2016), has led to the realisation of Kay’s (1997, p.426) prediction that “far from underpinning the market system, this...would bring it to its knees”. Scherer & Palazzo’s (2010) call for a restoration of moral and cognitive legitimacy is critically discussed in relation to both the future of the corporation and associated business school teaching. Building on Gond, Kang & Moon’s (2011) path-dependent framework for institutionalising the “government of self-governance”, CSR is reconceived as a “spiral dynamic” model to guide the transformational challenge of changing business mindsets/practices for which business schools are increasingly being called to account. Indeed, Elkington (2018) is now urging business schools to stop “turning out graduates for an economic paradigm that is not going to be the future” and “recalling” his triple-bottom-line concept to revitalise it as a spiral dynamic fractal of change for tomorrow’s capitalism. The case for seriously “rethinking capitalism” (Jacobs & Mazzucato, 2016) in tandem with “rethinking liberalism” (Bellamy (2000) is now both compelling and necessary to prevent an eschatological crisis becoming an existential one.


Hirst, J. (2018). Eschatology of Capitalism and the Future of the Corporation.

Conference Name British Academy of Management Annual Conference (2018)
Conference Location Bristol, England
Start Date Sep 4, 2022
End Date Sep 6, 2022
Publication Date 2018
Deposit Date Aug 4, 2022
Publicly Available Date Aug 4, 2022
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