No territory, no profit: The pirate organization and capitalism in the making

  • Rodolphe Durand HEC Paris
  • Jean-Philippe Vergne Ivey School of Business, Western University
Keywords: piracy, capitalism, monopoly, legitimacy, norm, industry evolution


Organizational and management research focuses extensively on topics of legitimacy and competition. At center-stage lie for-profit organizations, which are often assumed to operate in economically turbulent environments embedded in stable sovereign institutions. Our goal in this short essay is to envisage a broader picture that takes seriously other types of organization that gravitate at the periphery of capitalism’s territories and redefine the norms of competition and legitimate profit. Rehearsing the punch line of our recent book (Durand & Vergne, 2010, 2013), we advocate for a line of research that explores the boundaries of capitalistic expansion by examining the interactions between three types of actors: sovereign states and their monopolies, which map and impose norms upon the new territories of capitalism (a process we call “normalization”); legitimate for-profit corporations, which generate a profit in the wake of sovereign normalization (we call them “organizations-of-the-milieu”); and pirate organizations, operating from the fringes of capitalism to contest the sovereign’s norms in the name of a “public cause”. We are especially attentive to the convergent patterns of interactions we observed across time and space on the high seas (17th century), on the airwaves (early 20th century), in cyberspace (since the 1980s) and at the heart of living species in the form of DNA research (since the 1990s). This leads us to assert that sea pirates, pirate radio stations, cyberpirates and biopirates have a lot more in common than prior research on piracy typically assumed.


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How to Cite
Durand, R., & Vergne, J.-P. (2012). No territory, no profit: The pirate organization and capitalism in the making. M@n@gement, 15(3), 264-272. Retrieved from