Annals of the Fondazione Luigi Einaudi

An Interdisciplinary Journal of Economics, History and Political Science

The Annals is a forum for the free exchange of ideas
among scholars working in the field of social sciences
Volume LV 1 - 2021

Divine Kingship in the Firm: Reciprocity, Organizational Culture, and Founder Cults

Giuseppe Danese,
pp. 217-236
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This paper argues that the business firm is a fertile ground for studying how the realms of the ritual and the symbolic affect economic outcomes. In unforeseen contingencies, the contract that the firm draws with its employees is de-facto incomplete. The collaborative nature of organizational tasks, and the long-term nature of many employment contracts, favor the rise of generalized reciprocity between the firm and its workers. This open-ended relationship is guided by both commands (‘hard authority’) and organizational culture (‘subtle authority’). Organizational culture and its standard-bearers often draw on the founder’s values and vision in a fashion that resembles kings’ reliance on metapersons in the political realm. Prominent accounts of entrepreneurship and foundership use a language that closely resembles the rhetoric of divinity and territorial conquest. We conclude with an examination of founder cults in family businesses and startups.