On Wednesday, March 12th, 2008, Eric W. Orts, Guardsmark Professor in the Legal Studies and Business Ethics Department at Wharton School of Business, spoke with Widener Law faculty and staff about some of the ideas in his forthcoming book, Theories of the Business Enterprise: An interdisciplinary Interpretation of the Firm
, to be published by Oxford University Press. Professor Orts received his J.D. from the University of Michigan and has a J.S.D from Columbia University, an M.A. from the New School for Social Research, and a B.A. from Oberlin College.
Professor Orts spoke about the need to examine business enterprises or firms through a variety of academic lenses because the traditional economic models of the firm in both business and law schools are, “valuable, but not enough.” He emphasized that his work only applies to “entities operating in the commercial market under legal constraints” and does not cover non-profits. After giving a run down of the chapters in the book, Professor Orts moved on to the theoretical foundations for his work, particularly the idea of business enterprises as social institutions existing “through legal construction and everyday practice.”
Touching on other disciplines that can be useful for an examination of the business enterprise, Professor Orts touched on business history, discussing early examples ranging from Roman collegia to medieval guilds. He also discussed the legal definition of the business enterprise, the impact of politics, and moving “toward an integrated business theory.” After taking questions from the audience, Professor Orts ended with a summation of his argument, suggesting that “a solid theoretical foundation and perspective” is necessary “to recommend appropriate regulation of business enterprise,” and that only through an interdisciplinary approach can the problem be solved.