All powerful corporations?

Professor David Boughey of the University of Exeter Business School asks whether our perception of corporations being too powerful is correct. He then explains how the free online course ‘Discovering Business in Society’ will help answer this question.

Discovering business in society

Fear, concern or anger over the perceived rising power of large corporations is not a new phenomenon. During the last 100 years there have been repeated bursts of popular reactions to the expansion of big business. Sometimes the focus is on the arrival of “foreign” businesses and the impact they may have on local economies and society. Sometimes it’s about the aggressive expansion strategies of firms, pushing smaller enterprises out of business, with the ensuing impact on local communities.

Recently, people around the world have been repeatedly concerned by the disconnect between large businesses and their tax obligations. A popular narrative says that corporations deliberately manipulate regulations so as to ensure they pay hardly any tax. Is this a fair judgement? What’s the evidence? Have we misconceived the problem? And how can the level of public debate on this be improved?

On the eight-week course, ‘Discovering Business in Society’, we’ll explore this intersection between business and society. We’ll challenge, inform and reflect on how, over the next 50 years, you can shape the world of business.

This free online course is therefore a starting point to encourage better thinking about forms of business, their governance, strategies and structures, and the ethics, values and leadership within them.

The content and learning will be ideal for those new to studying business, whether at college, university or independently. It may also assist those working towards qualifications such as A Level Business Studies, the International Baccalaureate or other pre-higher education awards.

The course will also enable those with an interest in pursuing a career in accounting to take a final examination that leads to exemption from the ACCA’s F1 paper, ‘Accountant in Business’. It’s the first such exemption for a massive open online course (MOOC) in the UK.

The eight week course starts on 8 September 2014. Come and be a pioneer participant in this pioneering programme.

Category Learning
Are business corporations too powerful?

Are business corporations too powerful?

This course can help answer that question

Find out more

Comments (6)


  • Bev Pold

    From these few interesting comments, looking forward to taking part in this course. Having recently completed Innovation & Enterprise (Loughborough) programme, I found the observations, experience and contributions from those in other countries the most fascinating. I just hope I can keep up with the range of experience and knowledge.

  • Michael

    Big questions to resolve and lay a foundation for the next 50 years. Business is about people interacting within an organisation; Business is about organisations interacting through trade partnerships; Business is about meeting the needs and wants of a society – locally, nationally and internationally.

    Businesses are set up and grown by individuals as they develop the disconnect between the people who manage and work in it and the “business organisation” grows wider which creates dissatisfaction for those who think they are losing out in the forward advance of “big” business.

    Should lead to some interesting discussions.

  • francis

    We are in the idealist world. We trade ideas, but by a well-defined strategy. A small business will also become a big business if it is well-strategised. Therefore, a small business owner shouldn’t be afraid or worried about being chased-out by a big business, instead, the small business owner should map out best business strategies that will also make the small business to become a big business. Firstly, there must be an outstanding idea to trade on, by an outstanding strategy which is targeted at meeting the basic needs of the consumers.

  • Mark

    Huge areas for discussion. A small business owner I know, when we discussed tax issues for self-employed people, said he expects his accountant to keep his tax bill to a minimum (or zero). Maybe it is reasonable for large businesses to expect the same of their accountants? Why would they behave differently?

    It is hard to know what is meant by “foreign” anymore; business transactions are not always transparent and many overseas companies have subsidiaries as UK limited, paying UK taxes.

    We are all reliant on business to provide for most, if not all, of our everyday basic needs; whether brushing your teeth, making a cuppa, texting a friend or filling up the car with fuel, we are making choices in a limited market place provided by capitalists all vying for our attention and cash. We influence the market winners and losers so I don’t think we can complain if the winner pushes out smaller businesses. We as consumers need to make wiser choices.

    • The FutureLearn team

      Hi Mark, thank you for your comment.

      We hope that you will join the course and share your thoughts with the other learners throughout.

      Happy learning,
      The FutureLearn team

    • Anne

      The public sector, paid for by taxation is increasingly being privatised. Tax avoidance by big business adds to the public sector bill.