Looking for a Book on Corporate Personhood
July 3, 2014 6:11 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for a well-written, balanced book on corporate personhood for research. Actually, could use two or three if possible, and links to good, extensive and well-researched non-political articles on the web would be helpful as well.

I have a pretty good lay understanding of the history of corporate personhood and have my own political opinions so am not looking to be converted to politics on one side or the other. I'm not looking for a screed or political treatise from either right or left, but to get facts and some legal analysis on the history of corporate personhood.

I'd prefer something I can read on a Kindle, but paper is good as well.

If you know of any excellent articles, that would be good as well.
posted by nathanrudy to Law & Government (7 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I don't yet know how to link, but I believe the court cases that set precedence for this interpretation of the 14th Amendment are known as the Slaughter-House Cases.
posted by RaRa-SpaceRobot at 6:27 AM on July 3, 2014

The Law of Corporations in a Nutshell (chapter 2).
posted by John Cohen at 6:36 AM on July 3, 2014

A classic:
Adolf Berle and Gardiner Means, The Modern Corporation and Private Property (Transaction Publishers, 1932)

Thorough historical exegesis in:
Phillip I. Blumberg, The Multinational Challenge to Corporation Law: Search for a New Corporate Personality (Oxford University Press, 1993)

Historic article:
Edmund Bayley Seymour, Jr, "The Historical Development of the Common-Law Conception of a Corporation" (1903) 9 The American Law Register 529
posted by ageispolis at 8:13 AM on July 3, 2014

The Company is the single best book I've ever read on the history of companies and corporations, both in the U.S. and internationally. It's largely apolitical and provides a pretty balanced look at how, factually, we got to where we are today in terms of the role that different kinds of corporations play in the world economy.

(Corporate personhood, BTW, is just a term that refers to the fact that corporations exist as legal entities separate from their owners/shareholders/employees, such that they can own property, make and enforce contracts, be sued, and do lots of other legal stuff as entities, rather than as the individual human people who own and work for them. So when people talk about corporate personhood, what they're actually talking about is the fact that a corporation exists as a legal entity. The term itself has become somewhat politically loaded, but all it means is that a corporation is a separate legal entity that does not have the same identity, legally, as the people who own it and work for it.)
posted by decathecting at 9:33 AM on July 3, 2014 [2 favorites]

(and no, the Slaughter-House cases are not about corporate personhood. They're about the meaning of the term "privileges or immunities" in the 14th Amendment, and therefore about whether or not certain types of law or regulations infringe on the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States. Corporations are legal persons, but they are not citizens of the United States, and therefore the 14th Amendment does not protect them. Although I suppose the 14th Amendment could prevent the government from enforcing certain types of laws against corporations if the enforcement of those laws would infringe on the privileges or immunities of citizens who own or work for them. In fact, in the Slaughter-House cases, the Court struck down a law that created a monopoly on butchery for a single corporation on the grounds that granting a monopoly to that corporation would infringe on the privileges or immunities of individual citizens, namely independent butchers. The corporation lost, and the citizens won. IAAL, IANYL, TINLA.)
posted by decathecting at 9:41 AM on July 3, 2014

Rather old, but so good -- you don't want to miss Christopher Stone's Where the Law Ends: the Social Control of Corporate Behavior.
posted by Corvid at 11:31 AM on July 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks to all. I bought a few of these books and will be going through them. Hopefully this will all help me to get where I need to be on understanding existing law and the history that created it.

Thanks to everyone for your suggestions. Ask MeFi is always extremely helpful.
posted by nathanrudy at 2:45 PM on July 5, 2014

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