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From Book Description
Surpassing even the state and the church, the corporation has become
the core institution of the modern world. Although its impact is felt
in virtually every aspect of our lives, we know little about its history
and the origins of its power. Gangs of America fills the gap, tracing
the evolution of this revolutionary institution through the behind-the-scenes
figures who shaped it: Thomas Scott, an obscure genius who invented
the holding company; Stephen Field, the Supreme Court Judge who developed
corporate personhood rights; and others. Based on the latest research
by academic historians, sociologists, political scientists, and legal
scholars, this book is a unique synthesis including both compelling
narrative and invaluable reference.
From Publishers Weekly
Nace nurtured Peachpit Press from a home-based operation, writing and
publishing computer guides, to a business worthy of acquisition by the
Pearson conglomerate. The experience inspired him to study the nature
of corporate power. He offers a breezy summary of the legal history
surrounding the formation of corporations and the parameters of their
power, putting an anti-corporate spin on the American Revolution and
discussing how the early republic limited corporate power by enabling
state governments to issue restrictive charters. But the tight controls
didn't remain in place: after the Supreme Court's decision in an 1886
case involving the Santa Clara Railroad, corporations were assumed to
be the legal equivalent of people entitled to equal protection under
the law and, in subsequent cases, were guaranteed a growing range of
constitutional rights. One of Nace's central arguments is that Santa
Clara doesn't mean what everybody thinks it means: the original decision
doesn't take any stand on whether corporations have constitutional rights;
the question comes up in a subsequent version of the decision, but the
Chief Justice acts as if it had been resolved in earlier decisions.
Although Nace blames the Court's reporter for the shift in emphasis,
he illustrates how another justice, Stephen Field, was already buttressing
politicians' and financial titans' efforts to eliminate all restraints
on corporate power, making their legal supremacy inevitable. Later chapters
examine how corporations continue to wield their influence to prevent
the government from regulating them too closely, but while the book
offers plenty of details about the problem's existence and deftly introduces
it, it offers little more than generalities about where to go from there.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.