Made in the USA: Corporate Responsibility and Collective Identity in the American Automotive Industry
Harvard Law School
December 5, 2011
Boston College Law Review, Vol. 53, No. 3, p. 821, 2012
This Article seeks to challenge the corporate-constructed image of American business and American industry. By focusing on the automotive industry and particularly on the tenuous relationship between the rhetoric of automotive industry advertising and the realities of doctrinal corporate law, I hope to examine the ways that we as social actors, legal actors, and (perhaps above all) consumers understand what it means for a corporation or a corporation’s product to be American. In a global economy where labor, profits, and environmental effects are spread across national borders, what does it mean for a corporation to present the impression of national citizenship? Considering the recent bail-out of the major American automotive corporations, the automotive industry today becomes a powerful vehicle for problematizing the conflicted private/public nature of the corporate form and for examining what it means for a corporation to be American and what duties and benefits such an identity confers.
By examining the ways in which consumable myths of the American corporation interact with the institutions and legal regimes that govern American corporations, I argue that the advertised image of the national in the global economy serves as a broad corporate veil, a way of obscuring the consumer’s understanding of corporate identity and corporate accountability. With these overarching issues and questions as a guide, this Article will historically situate the identification of corporate nationality within a broader framework of debates on corporate social responsibility and interrogate the way that we conceive of the American corporation and corporate decision making.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 56
Keywords: corporations, shareholder primacy, advertising, cultural studies, fordism, automotive industry, Americanism, globalization, situationism
JEL Classification: K13, K22, K32, N42, N72
Date posted: December 8, 2011 ; Last revised: May 30, 2012