Recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions in Citizens United and other high-profile cases have sparked disagreement about the proper role of corporations in American democracy. Partisans on both sides have made bold claims, often with little basis in historical fact. Bringing together leading scholars of history, law, and political science, Corporations and American Democracy provides the historical and intellectual grounding necessary to put today’s corporate policy debates in proper context.
This comprehensive volume covers a range of topics, including the origins of corporations in English and American law, the historical shift from special charters to general incorporation, the increased variety of corporations that this shift made possible, and the roots of modern corporate regulation in the Progressive Era and New Deal. It also covers the evolution of judicial views of corporate rights, particularly since corporations have become the form of choice for an increasing variety of nonbusiness organizations, including political advocacy groups. Ironically, in today’s global economy the decline of large, vertically integrated corporations—the type of corporation that past reform movements fought so hard to regulate—poses some of the newest challenges to effective government oversight of the economy.