The Self as Legal Fiction

Want a good example of how the notion of a continuous, accountable self is nothing more or less than a social and, most importantly, a legal fiction — one that, for a variety of reasons, we all agree to perpetuate… well, at least sometimes?

Then check out this story on the current controversy over General Motors’ liability (or…, lack of it, since it is “the new GM,” after all) over defects they (though who does that pronoun now identify?) now admit to knowing about….


It’s a nifty trick: for corporations are persons under the law in the U.S. but, when they need to be, they can be person’s without a history, and thus outside the law — they are, at times, the perfectly postmodern person with no continuity or trace: Persona non historia.

Interested in Saturday Night Live’s take on the new GM…?

Oh, the Humanity…

edgedailyshowAs I tried to suggest in a post last week, concern over dehumanizing the people we study has long struck me as a pseudo-problem, i.e., a problem of scholars’ own making, inasmuch as I think that we worry about this only for those with whom we already agree, with whom we already share some affinity. In a word, the fact of the concern is an example of our own identification practice/interests up and running. For all others, we, as scholars, are likely in tacit agreement that we are not trying to convey or conserve their self-perceived meanings or some ethereal quality that they apparently share with us but, instead, trying to figure out how in the world they could even think or act in the way that they do (i.e., in such cases the people we study are a puzzle to be solved and not a pristine human value to be protected from the prying eyes of outsiders), given that their actions or beliefs are so patently odd or curious or wrong or unethical or illegal or immoral.

To us, that is…. Continue reading “Oh, the Humanity…”