"Despite not being individual human beings, corporations, as far as US law is concerned, are legal persons, and have many of the same rights and responsibilities as natural persons do. For example, a corporation can own property, and can sue or be sued." - WikipediaIt consumes, it grows, it has a mind of its own, and it adapts. Am I enumerating the basic requisites of a living thing, or am I listing down what a corporation can do? When you think about it, a living thing and a corporation are very hard to tell apart. I tried looking online for a blog post or a reddit thread that compares corporations to actual living entities and surprisingly I've found little on that topic. There's this Quora question that asks the same question that I did, but I'm not satisfied with the discussion that played out. That's where I come in to fill a tiny hole in the internet with my thoughts. It's not much, and maybe nobody will actually see this except for my blog's regular stalkers (aka my loved ones) but here it goes anyway.
My comparison of corporations to living things is in a way similar to Plato's comparison of his ideal society to a soul. For those of you who don't know, Plato once wrote a book called Republic, where he delves into what he calls the ideal society, which is comprised of three parts. These three parts can also be found in the human soul. You can think of a society as one giant soul comprised of souls imprisoned in flesh -- that's how Plato sees us people. Namely, the three parts of the soul are the rational part, the spirited part, and the appetitive part. Ideally these three parts must be kept in balance and in that order for a soul to be "just". Not everyone is the same, so different people have different affinities towards which part they are more drawn to. For example, rational people become scholars, spirited people become soldiers, and appetitive people become businessmen and artisans. Society is "ideal" when these people are organized so that the rational lead, the spirited defend, and the appetitive hoard for the future.
Everyone that still remembers their biology classes would know that cells are the building blocks of life. Although we consider them something as primary as that, they're also pretty much alive. They are just as alive as you and me because they consume, grow, reproduce, and die. Arguably the only thing they lack is sentience. Cells devote their entire lives to one function, and that's making us, well, function.
Correct me if I'm wrong, but I'm sure everyone remembers the hierarchy: A group of cells working together is called a tissue. A group of tissues working together creates an organ. A group of organs working together creates a system. A group of systems working together creates us.
A group of us working together... doesn't that make a corporation? Cells work so that we can move and consume sustenance that in turn keeps them alive. Don't we help corporations stay alive by helping them make money so that we in turn can make money so that we stay alive? A company is an "organization" which comes from the root word "organ". That's not a coincidence. Corporations may not move with limbs like we do, but they're alive just like plants are; they grow slowly, but they can have lifespans that can far exceed ours.
On a more existential note, does that mean that to be productive, meaningful human beings, we must serve and work for corporations 24/7, like our cells do? From this line of thinking, it would seem that sacrificing our lives to corporations would be the right thing to do when aiming to live a life filled with higher purpose. We don't berate our cells for tirelessly working to keep our bodies functioning.
There's just one crucial difference I'd like to point out with this analogy between cells to body and humans to corporations. I've already stated it in one of the paragraphs above: Cells are not sentient, unlike us. They don't have wants, aspirations, goals. They're just cogs in a machine. To treat a human being as something like a cell without any wants and will is -- to put it straightforwardly -- dehumanizing. At least, that's the conclusion that I've come up with.
In summary, a corporation is "alive" in a very loose sense of the word. Obviously I know it doesn't fit the perfect definition used in Biology. This blog post was just a fun thought exercise like the Philosophers of old used to do all the time. People make up corporations like cells do but we aren't cells. We have our own thoughts and sentience that are integral to being considered a higher life form.
Thanks for reading through this short train of thought. As always let me know what you think by leaving a comment. ☺