chapter  5
12 Pages

Ceremonial aspects of corporate organization

This article is notable for two reasons: one methodological, the other substantive. The methodological contribution consists of Hamilton’s effective use of the often-mentioned but seldom employed Ayresian version of the Veblenian dichotomy – namely, the distinction between ceremonial aspects of behavior and technological (or instrumental) aspects of behavior. The substantive contribution of the article is an extension of his exploration of economic categories as collective representations of modern industrial culture’s belief system. In this article, Hamilton notes that the corporate organizational form of the firm ascribes productive activity to corporate organization while primarily articulating and facilitating the assigned reciprocal rights and obligations to the various status groups, defined by either the particular form of capital contributed or the contribution of other so-called factors of production, in differing circumstances. The corporation does not cause productive activity; instead, it is permissive of such activity, given the traditional and legal private ownership rules of modern industrial capitalism. He goes on to note that the primary role of the corporation is to exercise power over the status groups that make up the corporation with regard to: (1) rights to proceeds; (2) residual rights; and (3) coercive rights. Not surprisingly, Hamilton finds the activities of the modern corporation almost wholly ceremonial in character. Yet he notes the power of the belief that only private enterprise, including corporations, can produce real goods and services efficiently and effectively in the minds of members of modern industrial culture. This belief even creates deep suspicions that something is not quite right when non-corporate, non-private enterprises such as the U.S. Postal Service and the Tennessee Valley Authority regularly manage to make productive contributions of goods and services daily to that same culture. The overwhelming assessment of corporate activity as ceremonial, or at least not substantially interacting with the actual production activities of the enter-

prise, might have something to do with the efficacy of the ceremonial-instrumental distinction’s efficacy, or at least its clarity, in this analysis.