Frames /sing


Corporations are Objects called Persons: More so Soon

There is a pressing, and perhaps under-reported Supreme Court case that is set for this month which may determine if corporations finally attain something closer to full subjectivity, citizen status in the additional protections under the 1st Amendment in the United States. A New York Times article here. The legal knot stems from a film – Hillary the Movie – produced by some corporate monies that was going to be run during Hillary Clinton’s, now non-existent national Presidential run.

It seems a good time to revisit just how Corporations became persons in America in the first place. Selections from the 2003 film The Corporation, including contributions by Chomsky.

I won’t say much on this, but as I am in favor of ontologies that want to make of any corporate organization an object of force, drive and thought, it is valuable to see the kind of social (economic, political) differences that are made when IN LAW coporations of people are given person status. It is interesting that in the ontological trend towards objects, we have still to be aware that objects are being turned into persons with possibily dramatic results. As one person puts it in the documentary, it took 600,000 lives to grant certain rights to persons (the 14th amendment), and a stroke of a pen to give them to corporations.

I do not adhere to the hysteria of “corporations are psychotic persons” that the film forwards (in later parts), but the level of abstraction and nexus between Law and subjectivity is an significant one. What changes when economic entities become political subjectivities? And, when corporations are transnational, is this not the first transcendent citizenry, the unworking of the other eco-political entity called the State?

Bill Moyer interviews two major players in the Supreme Court case here.

6 responses to “Corporations are Objects called Persons: More so Soon

  1. pensum September 5, 2009 at 10:35 am

    Hi Kvond,
    The Corporation is a wonderful documentary and today i happened to post something somewhat related you might find interesting:

  2. kvond September 5, 2009 at 1:45 pm

    thanks pensum. I did find the documentary interesting, but a bit polemical. And thank you for the link. As a Spinozist I agree that one should not naturalized economic laws as immutable (or ordained by the Natural Order), but one also does not treat the human social realm as a realm entirely of its own.

  3. pensum September 5, 2009 at 9:46 pm

    good point.

    as you are an expert on all things Spinoza, what’s the best book on the man and his philosophy? i’ve tried reading the Ethics several times and never get very far, so perhaps there is a better gate to the garden…

    • kvond September 5, 2009 at 9:51 pm

      Ha. Expert on all things Spinoza. You are a funny guy.

      The Ethics was closed to me for quite a while as well. One of the most boring books I had ever tried to decipher. Its pretty much the best gate.

  4. Carl September 9, 2009 at 6:02 pm

    Cool. I also find this case compelling, not least because the personing of corporations is so interesting. It may be that all manner of objects are persons, oppressed until they get their 14th amendment (or stroke of the pen). Where’s the ‘no taxation without representation’ manifesto for oil wells and beehives?

    Yet there’s also the practical matter of weight. If corporations are not just persons but citizens, in political discourse they turn all us individuals into mosquitos against their truckish windshields. Along with the issue of what kinds of objects get voices, I think we’ll have to consider their volume.

  5. kvond September 10, 2009 at 9:50 am

    Carl: “Where’s the ‘no taxation without representation’ manifesto for oil wells and beehives?”

    Kvond: This is a very intersting question to be posed to those Object-oriented ones. And it is not merely rhetorical for it seems to expose the very anthropocentric (somewhat repressed) projection into the said, and re-nobilized objects (hey, objects are people too!, we want to say). But what the case exposes, in real, historical terms, is that turning something into a person, or into something like a person has acute consequences. The “stuff” of personhood has radical effect.

    As a supporter of something of an object redeeming ontology, the notion of regulated “volume” is a tricky, but perhaps quite important one. It may not be that oilwells need a voice, but rather recognizing the voice they already have, or, who is ventriloquizing for them.

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