Published online by Cambridge University Press: 29 October 2021
For too long, students of the political economy of corporate governance have been enthralled by the language of ownership and control. This language stems from Berle and Means (1932), who observed that trust-busting policies and the diversification of robber-baron fortunes had dispersed stock ownership in the United States, while concentrating corporate control in the hands of a small class of managers.1 Jensen and Meckling’s (1976) agency theory, while reiterating the notions of shareholder dispersion and weakness, conceptualized shareholders as principals – the only actors with a strong material interest in the economic performance of the corporation. Offering a simple solution to what Berle and Means had considered a complex political problem, agency theory reduced corporate governance to the problem of protecting outside minority shareholders against “expropriation” by insiders, namely corporate managers and workers (La Porta et al. 2000: 4).