Political Theory

Hobbes and Corporate Ontology: The Essence of the Nonprofit



In this paper, I propose an account of the nonprofit that relies on Hobbes' theory of representation. Existing corporate theories do not adequately explain the nonprofit's essence because they are tailored towards business corporations. A Hobbesian account of representation, by contrast, applies universally to commonwealths, business corporations, and nonprofits alike. Under this account, the nonprofit emerges from a shared contract among its constituents, which includes its donors, volunteers, employees, board members, and even the state. Notably, beneficiaries are absent from this picture, as they do not contract with the nonprofit. This foundational contract defines the purpose of the nonprofit's representation — to interpret and implement the charitable interests of its constituents — as well as the limits of that representation. As corporations are incapable of acting on their own, the nonprofit's employees and board members enact the collective will of its constituents.


Thumbnail image of APSA Draft (v2), Hobbes & Corporate Ontology.pdf


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