Gwendolyn Gordon

Gwendolyn Gordon
  • Assistant Professor of Legal Studies & Business Ethics

Contact Information

  • office Address:

    665 Jon M. Huntsman Hall
    3730 Walnut Street
    Philadelphia, PA 19104

Links: SSRN page

Overview

Gwen Gordon was appointed to the department of Legal Studies and Business Ethics in 2013. Her research is an ethnographically-informed comparative corporate law, focusing specifically on the intersection of indigenous peoples’ cultural norms with issues of corporate governance and social responsibility. She has done long-term ethnographic fieldwork in New Zealand with an indigenously owned corporation. She received a B.A. in 2002 from Cornell University and her J.D. in 2006 from Harvard Law School, where she focused upon social and economic human rights for indigenous groups. She received a Ph.D. in anthropology from Princeton University in 2014; prior to this she worked as a corporate attorney in the London and New York offices of Shearman and Sterling LLP.

 

 

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Research

  • Gwendolyn Gordon (2019), Environmental Personhood,.

    Abstract: Parks are people too, my friend. So quipped an August 2016 headline making reference at once to Mitt Romney’s flip commentary on corporations and to recent developments in New Zealand law enabling landscapes to be named as legal persons— that is, as entities possessing juridical rights akin to those of corporations. In the wake of this and other developments of the concept, legal personhood has struck observers as a promising tool for protecting nature—an idea overdue given the now seemingly unexceptional nature of corporate personhood in protecting corporate rights. Far from being the settled, stolid doctrine that its long tenure might have it appear to be, however, corporate personhood is quicksilver; it seems an endlessly adaptable concept. How might we come to understand the environment as a similarly flexible rights-holder in a way that is robustly protective of environmental interests? This Article argues that, as an example of how we came to see a non-human entity as a rights holder, corporate personhood may be a useful tool in moving toward understanding the environment as a rights holder.

  • Gwendolyn Gordon (2017), Ethical Bankers,.

    Abstract: The capstone of regulatory reform in the wake of the financial crisis has turned out to be an effort to pair substantive changes to the financial industry with an effort to get bankers to behave more ethically. Regulators have emphasized the importance of “culture” set by a “tone at the top” that makes “ethical conduct” a primary organizational value—though they have not given much content to any of these terms. This Article inquires as to what it means to operationalize ethics and culture in a regulatory project and what it tells us about the state of banking and its oversight. The content of these calls for a culture of ethics in banking appears to be an effort to impose the requirements of professional responsibility on a new industry. But banking is no ordinary profession, and the imposition of cultural change is easier said than done. There are good reasons to be skeptical of the merits of a campaign to create ethical bankers, but it may be the most acceptable of an unattractive set of alternatives.

  • Gwendolyn Gordon (2016), Culture in Corporate Law, Seattle University Law Review, 39 (2), pp. 353-396.

    Abstract: Recent Supreme Court cases have entrenched a new image of cor- porate civic identity, assigning to the corporate person rights and abilities based upon the cultural characteristics, social ties, civic commitments, and internal lives of the human beings involved in it. This vision of the corporation is exemplified in recent cases implicating a corporate right to engage in political speech (Citizens United v. Federal Election Commis- sion) and a right of corporations to be free of government interference regarding religious convictions (Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc.). Although much is being written about the soundness of the results in the- se cases and potential inconsistencies of the legal analysis that led to the- se results, this Article uses these cases to introduce a normatively potent theoretical perspective on corporate law that has for too long been exiled to the periphery of legal theorizing. When persons, whether corporate or human, interact within a social system, social theories of culture—not just microeconomic theories of individual incentives or ethical theories of individual duty—are required to fully understand the rights, norms, behaviors, and duties of such persons. The law has transformed the corporation into a unique civic person capable of holding and expressing opinions and beliefs to other members of its social community. This de- velopment urgently demands that corporate law scholars take cultural theory seriously if they are to fully understand the rights, norms, behav- iors, and duties of modern corporations. This Article makes the case for the increased centrality of cultural theory within corporate law and lays out some of the major challenges and implications that lie ahead as this development takes hold.

  • Gwendolyn Gordon (Work In Progress), Bones, Breath, Body: The Life of an Indigenously Owned Corporation (Book Project).

  • Gwendolyn Gordon (Work In Progress), Corporate Contagion: Ethnographic Insights Into the Nature of the Firm.

  • Gwendolyn Gordon (Work In Progress), Maori Acumen: Talking Business and Talking Culture in an Indigenously Owned Corporation.

  • Gwendolyn Gordon (2014), History and the Anthropology of Firms: A Legal Perspective, Journal of Business Anthropology, 3 (1).

Teaching

Past Courses

  • LGST101 - LAW AND SOCIAL VALUES

    This course presents law as an evolving social institution, with special emphasis on the legal regulation of business in the context of social values. It considers basic concepts of law and legal process, in the U.S. and other legal systems, and introduces the fundamentals of rigorous legal analysis. An in-depth examination of contract law is included.

  • LGST230 - SOCIAL IMPACT & RESP

    What role can business play in helping to meet global societal needs, whether it involves the environment, improving health, expanding education or eradicating poverty? Is there any responsibility on the part of business to help meet those needs? What are models of successful business engagement in this area? How should success be measured? Are there limits to what businesses can and should do, and what institutional changes will enable businesses and entrepreneurs to better succeed? This survey course provides students the opportunity to engage in the critical analysis of these and other questions that lie at the foundation of social impact and responsibility as an area of study. The course involves case studies, conceptual issues, and talks by practitioners. The course is designed to help students develop a framework to address the question: How should business enterprises and business thinking be engaged to improve society in areas not always associated with business? The course is required for the secondary concentration in Social Impact and Responsibility

  • LGST830 - SOC IMP & RESPONSIBILITY

    What role can business play in helping to meet global societal needs, whether it involves the environment, improving health, expanding education or eradicating poverty? Is there any responsibility on the part of business to help meet those needs? What are models of successful business engagement in this area? How should success be measured? Are there limits to what businesses can and should do, and what institutional changes will enable businesses and entrepreneurs to better succeed? This survey course provides students the opportunity to engage in the critical analysis of these and other questions that lie at the foundation of social impact and responsibility as an area of study. The course involves case studies, conceptual issues, and talks by practitioners. The course is designed to help students develop a framework to address the question: "How should business enterprises and business thinking be engaged to improve society in areas not always associated with business?" Format: Twelve-session discussion-based course with midterm exam and final project

In the News

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Latest Research

Gwendolyn Gordon (2019), Environmental Personhood,.
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In the News

If Corporations Are ‘People,’ How Are They Held Accountable?

A set of recent Supreme Court decisions has granted certain privileges once reserved only for flesh-and-blood citizens to corporations. Recent Wharton research looks at the potential confusions that arise from that point of view – and what might help.

Knowledge @ Wharton - 2016/07/20
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