Occupy Santa Clara? Corporate Personhood Reconsidered

15 Pages Posted: 4 Sep 2012

See all articles by Stephen F. Diamond

Stephen F. Diamond

Santa Clara University - School of Law

Date Written: September 2, 2012


The Occupy Wall Street Movement and the controversial Supreme Court decision in Citizens United have combined to bring back to public debate an issue long considered non-controversial: whether private corporations are legal persons. This paper argues that a complete understanding of the debate requires analysis of four distinct approaches to the characterization of the corporate form, including a reassessment of the Supreme Court’s 19th century Santa Clara decision. Liberal and left analysis of the personhood issue has been stymied by the assumption that the debate had long been settled, as suggested in the classic article on the Santa Clara case by the critical legal studies (CLS) figure, legal historian Morton Horwitz. This paper suggests that Horwitz’s analysis, while valuable, has critical flaws including a failure to recognize the impact of law and economics thinking on this topic. Any attempt to reassess personhood must take into account the underlying nature of capitalism, which the paper suggests has been problematic for the CLS school.

Keywords: Santa Clara, Corporate Personhood, Citizens United, Morton Horwitz, Occupy Wall Street

Suggested Citation

Diamond, Stephen F., Occupy Santa Clara? Corporate Personhood Reconsidered (September 2, 2012). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2140510 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2140510

Stephen F. Diamond (Contact Author)

Santa Clara University - School of Law ( email )

500 El Camino Real
Santa Clara, CA 95053
United States

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