If Corporations Are ‘People,’ How Are They Held Accountable?

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If Corporations Are ‘People,’ How Are They Held Accountable?

If Corporations Are ‘People,’ How Are They Held Accountable? by Knowledge@Wharton

A brace of recent Supreme Court decisions has granted certain privileges once reserved only for flesh-and-blood citizens — the right to be free from government limitation of political speech, for example, or to exercise religious convictions — to corporations. The decisions have been dissected by legal and political scholars, but comparatively little thought has been given to how this new definition of corporate civic identity interacts with social theories of culture. Such a study would help scholars understand the rights, norms, behaviors and duties of the corporations that have become, like Pinocchio, real “people.”

That’s what Gwendolyn Gordon, professor of legal studies and business ethics at Wharton, advocates for in her recent research, “Culture in Corporate Law, or: A Black Corporation, a Christian Corporation, and a Maori Corporation Walk into a Bar ….” The paper, published in the Seattle University Law Review, examines the cases that, together, brought this new idea of corporate personhood into existence — Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission an