Heads of cabbage and mouths full of water by Mark Neocleous. Radical Philosophy Nov/Dec 2003
“The law which shaped the modern corporation as a new form of legal person has been reluctant to admit that the same persons can commit illegal acts and recognizable harms. The law, in other words, has been structured in a way that is far more accommodating to corporate subjects than to human ones. In this way the ruling class has more or less deﬁned capital as beyond incrimination: the ‘harms’ committed by corporations are treated as the result of a failure to follow regulations and procedures and thus are not ‘crimes’ in the way that laypersons might think. Apropos of right-wing attacks on ‘welfare scroungers’ and ‘the idle poor’, one might say that it is the corporation that has acquired plenty of rights but few responsibilities. Capital has used the corporate form to its advantage by avoiding some of the most obvious disadvantages of being a legal subject, namely responsibility for one’s acts”.
STAGING POWER: MARX, HOBBES AND THE PERSONIFICATION OF CAPITAL by Mark Neocleous.
Law and Critique 14: 147–165, 2003. © 2003 Kluwer Academic Publishers. Printed in the Netherlands.
“The law which granted the modern corporation fully-fledged status as a juridical person has been reluctant to admit that the same persons can commit illegal acts and recognisable harms; the corporation is a person when it comes to the advantages of law, but a ‘nonperson’ when it comes to crimes seemingly committed by it. The individualizing nature of bourgeois law constructs the corporation as a person but then resists punishing it on the grounds that it is not a person at all but a collective which has no mind per se. The state personalizes capital, but doesn’t punish it as a person. It punishes it (when it does) as capital – as something different to (human) persons. A propos of attacks on ‘welfare scroungers’ and ‘the idle poor’, one might say that it is the corporation that has acquired plenty of rights but few responsibilities. In Marxist terms we might say that the unity of the corporate persona created by the state has helped consolidate the domination of capital over everyday life. Capital has used the corporate form to its advantage by avoiding some of the most obvious disadvantages of being a legal person, namely responsibility for one’s acts. The outcome has been the tendency to treat ‘crimes’ committed by corporations as mere failure to follow regulations and procedures and thus not ‘crime’ at all: the ruling class has defined capital as beyond incrimination. But then this should not surprise us: as with bourgeois law in general, the corporation is, after all, constituted as a person for purposes of capital accumulation and not for the purposes of justice.
There is a tendency among writers on ‘corporate crime’ to argue that “while . . . the charge of corporate manslaughter remains a highly difficult one to pursue successfully, there are no insuperable problems intrinsic to law to the effective criminalisation of such offences; . . . what is commonly lacking is political will”. Maybe so; but the implication of my argument is that any such ‘political will’ would have to be rooted not in the current structures through which mainstream politics is organized – political parties and reformist groups – but in a movement that would be willing to challenge the whole edifice on which political and social power is structured – the state and the individualizing tendencies of bourgeois law as well as capital itself. Moreover, any such challenge would have to take on board the fact that capital uses the persona in bourgeois law as the veil of its power”.
Both articles via Joss Winn http://stuck.josswinn.org/