University of Pennsylvania Journal of Business Law, Vol. 15, 2013
46 Pages Posted: 8 Sep 2012 Last revised: 5 Oct 2012
Date Written: September 7, 2012
In 1962, the corporation law scholar Bayless Manning famously wrote that “[C]orporation law, as a field of intellectual effort, is dead in the United States.” Looking back, most scholars have agreed, concluding that corporation law from the 1940s to the 1970s was stagnant, only rescued from its doldrums by the triumph of modern finance and the theory of the firm in the 1980s. What a strange time, though, for corporation law to be “dead” — the same decades that the American corporation had seized the commanding heights of the world economy, and gripped the imagination of social and political theorists. This paper takes a new look at mid-century corporation law, situating it within larger economic and political developments, in order to explain the distinctive features of corporate law in the “long 1950s,” why the field appeared vibrant at the time, and how later changes in the American political economy led most to eventually agree with Manning’s diagnosis. In the process, it aims not merely to restore a lost episode to the history of American law but to tell readers something about the nature of corporate law and how it changes from era to era.
Keywords: Corporation Law, Corporations, Bayless Manning, Legal History, Managerialism
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation
Wells, Harwell, 'Corporation Law is Dead': Heroic Managerialism, the Cold War, and the Puzzle of Corporation Law at the Height of the American Century (September 7, 2012). University of Pennsylvania Journal of Business Law, Vol. 15, 2013; Temple University Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2012-39. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2143397