Corporate Personhood v. Corporate Statehood

32 Pages Posted: 2 Jun 2019 Last revised: 11 Jul 2019

Date Written: May 10, 2019


Professor Adam Winkler’s recent history of corporate rights, We the Corporations, showed that folk wisdom about corporate personhood is exactly backwards: businesses have won their rights not by asserting their own personhood, but by purporting to represent the real, rights-bearing people behind the corporate veil. In this review, Professor Nikolas Bowie elaborates on this second framework –– what he calls “corporate statehood.” If this metaphor has had pathological consequences, Bowie argues, the problem isn’t necessarily intrinsic to the metaphor. Drawing on a narrative from the Lochner era, Bowie urges reformers to “make the metaphor true,” and in doing so convert “industrial oligarchies” into representative, accountable institutions.

Keywords: constitutional law, corporate personhood, corporate law, labor law

Suggested Citation

Bowie, Nikolas, Corporate Personhood v. Corporate Statehood (May 10, 2019). Harvard Law Review, Vol. 132, p. 2009, 2019; Harvard Public Law Working Paper No. 19-22. Available at SSRN:

Nikolas Bowie (Contact Author)

Harvard Law School ( email )

1525 Massachusetts Ave.
Griswold 406
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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