Vol. LIII No. 3

Made in the U.S.A.: Corporate Responsibility and Collective Identity in the American Automotive Industry

Abstract: This Article challenges the corporate-constructed image of American business and industry. By focusing on the automotive industry and particularly on the tenuous relationship between the rhetoric of automotive industry advertising and doctrinal corporate law, this Article examines the ways that social and legal actors understand what it means for a corporation or its products to be American. In a global economy, what does it mean for a corporation to present the impression of national citizenship? Considering the recent bailout of American automotive corporations, the automotive industry today becomes a powerful vehicle for problematizing the conflicted public/private nature of the corporate form and for examining what it means for a corporation to be American. By examining the ways in which consumable myths of the American corporation interact with the institutions and legal regimes that govern American corporations, this Article argues that the advertised image of the national in the global economy serves as a broad corporate veil, obscuring the consumer’s understanding of corporate identity and corporate accountability. This Article situates the identification of corporate nationality within a broader framework of debates on corporate social responsibility and interrogates long-held cultural conceptions of the American corporation and corporate decision making.

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