firms and organizations: fictions or real persons?

I was doing some aimless browsing this morning — here are a few law and economics-type papers on the matter of organizations as real persons versus fictitious entities (beyond some of the classics that we’ve referenced here before).

Iwai, K. 1999.  Persons, things and corporations: the corporate personality controversy and comparative corporate governanceAmerican Journal of Comparative Law.

Gindis, D. 2009. From fictions and aggregates to real entities in the theory of the firm.  Journal of Institutional Economics.

Smith, B. 1928. Legal personality.  Yale Law Review.

Ripken. S. 2009.  Corporations are people too: A multi-dimensional approach to the corporate personhood puzzle.  Fordham Journal of Financial & Corporate Law.

Pagano U. 2010. Legal persons: the evolution of a fictitious species. Journal of Institutional Economics.

Binder, J. 1907.  Das Problem der juristischen Persönlichkeit.

UNRELATED BONUS. While browsing I also ran into this:

In his interesting and controversial review article, Fabio Rojas (2006) refers to the ‘imperialism’ of sociological theories of market behavior and argues for recognizing the essential importance of culture and social structure in explaining economic behavior and outcomes.

That’s Nobel laureate Elinor Ostrom’s first line in this article.

Written by teppo

January 13, 2011 at 5:24 pm

10 Responses

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  1. And the often neglected Anglo starting point for early 20th century American discussions of corporate bodies as natural/fictitious persons, F. W. Maitland, *State, Trust and Corporation*:



    January 13, 2011 at 6:38 pm

  2. Teppo: Thanks for the note. That’s humbling. I should have included that Osrtom quote in my tenure application!



    January 13, 2011 at 6:43 pm

  3. PS. I didn’t know the article was controversial. I’ll take that as a compliment.



    January 13, 2011 at 6:44 pm

  4. Brookes: Yes, I have that book — it’s great.



    January 13, 2011 at 7:07 pm

  5. And aside from the valuable historical/philosophical discussion, Maitland (along with Morton Horwitz’s “Santa Clara Revisited” chapter in *The Transformation of American Law”*) is a nice reminder in the wake of *Citizens United* that the debate about corporations was going on long before even the *Santa Clara* case in 1886. Thanks for the other cites!



    January 13, 2011 at 10:01 pm

  6. While not directly addressing the theoretical point of organizations legal persons, Kaufman, Corporate Law and the Sovereignty of States (2008), has a great analysis of the historical development of the particular form of American corporation from the time of the founding of the Republic.



    January 19, 2011 at 8:28 pm

  7. A timely discussion given the current Supreme Court case over whether corporations can claim personal rights to privacy as people under the Freedom of Information Act:

    “At issue is information gathered by the Federal Communications Commission during an investigation of AT&T— information that the telecommunications giant wants to remain secret. A federal appeals court agreed with AT&T that the company could assert a personal privacy exception in the sunshine law.”

    More at:


    Molly M. King

    January 19, 2011 at 9:22 pm

  8. Thomas: yes, that’s a good paper. Brayden has posted about it a couple times, here’s one instance:

    Molly: Thanks for the link. Relevant indeed.



    January 19, 2011 at 9:29 pm

  9. The idea is commonplace in science fiction: the artificial person. Relevant here, however, is Valentina: Soul In Sapphire by Joseph Delaney and Mark Stiegler. The AI program files for corporation status. Filings are automatic. Then (1985) it was leading edge, but now it is commonplace. No one know who files what as long as the forms are complete and the fees are paid. Once the AI was incorporated, she sued in court to prevent “exploitation” by her “officers.”

    Just to say, these academic discussions can take on other meanings.


    Michael E. Marotta

    January 28, 2011 at 9:54 pm

  10. […] Teppo wrote a couple of weeks ago, many scholars have written about the court case that established corporations’ legal status […]


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