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We the Corporations

By: Adam Winkler

Publisher: WW Norton

Imprint: Liveright

Format: Hardcover | ISBN: 9780871407122

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Trade Paperback

On Sale: | Pages: 384

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A landmark exposé and “deeply engaging legal history” of one of the most successful, yet least known, civil rights movements in American history (Washington Post). In a revelatory work praised as “excellent and timely” (New York Times Book Review, front page), Adam Winkler, author of Gunfight, once again makes sense of our fraught constitutional history in this incisive portrait of how American businesses seized political power, won “equal rights,” and transformed the Constitution to serve big business. Uncovering the deep roots of Citizens United, he repositions that controversial 2010 Supreme Court decision as the capstone of a centuries-old battle for corporate personhood. “Tackling a topic that ought to be at the heart of political debate” (Economist), Winkler surveys more than four hundred years of diverse cases—and the contributions of such legendary legal figures as Daniel Webster, Roger Taney, Lewis Powell, and even Thurgood Marshall—to reveal that “the history of corporate rights is replete with ironies” (Wall Street Journal). We the Corporations is an uncompromising work of history to be read for years to come.
Readers will be prompted to think about the meaning of civil rights. The Supreme Court has extended these guarantees not just to the people, who are referenced in our Constitution, but to corporations, which are not. The road to this jurisprudence has been long and convoluted. Professor Winkler has performed yeoman service in illuminating it.
—Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
“We the Corporations”...leads readers to surprising places, especially when Mr. Winkler turns to Marshall's successor as chief justice, Roger Taney, calling him a “populist and a corporate reformer.”... Throughout his narrative, Mr. Winkler describes corporations as “constitutional first movers.” It is a generous sentiment but not entirely accurate.... Mr. Winkler's book teaches that the history of corporate rights is replete with ironies.
—Wall Street Journal
In “We the Corporations,” Adam Winkler, a professor of law at UCLA, provides a lively, fascinating and timely account of the campaign of American businesses to gain constitutional protections in what he deems one of the most successful, yet often overlooked “civil rights movements” in our history. As he focuses on the pursuit of constitutional protections by corporations in the courts, especially the Supreme Court, Winkler illuminates the role played by corporate “personhood.”
—San Francisco Chronicle
Winkler's chief contribution is to show how corporations have been some of the most important innovators in American law, shaping it for good and often ill.... Much of the value of Winkler's book lies in his elegant stitching together of 400 years of diverse cases, allowing us to feel the sweep and flow of history and the constantly shifting legal approaches to understanding this unusual entity — Blackstone's “artificial person.”... Winkler's book provides a masterful retrospective map at a time when people are feeling bewildered and enraged by growing corporate power.
—New York Times
“We the Corporations” is far more than a clear liberal critique of Citizens United. Wink­ler's deeply engaging legal history, authoritative but accessible to non-lawyers, takes readers inside courtrooms, judges' chambers and corporate offices as he reconstructs 200 years of case law. The book offers new takes on familiar stories...as well as fascinating insights from largely forgotten moments.... This meticulous, educational and thoroughly enjoyable retelling of our nation's past leads to Winkler's argument: Citizens United, however wrongly reasoned, was not an aberration in American law. Rather, it marked the culmination of a 200-year campaign, waged by well-funded corporate elites, to bend the law in their favor.
—Washington Post
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