From guild to nation state
August 24, 2012 § Leave a comment
So yeah… corporate personhood… it seems ridiculous—a GOP fabulism, but there are historical reasons (not justifications, but reasons the distinction here being ontological vs. ethical) that that term came to be. Engin Isin tells us that in the collapse of the Roman Empire, (yes it goes that far back) in the vacuum of power that it left behind, people were left to govern themselves. The formation of guilds (corporations) in the medieval period was in fact a form of self-government (and not extra-governmental). That is to say there was free-association, NOT the ‘right’ to free association, simply free association. To have the ‘right’ to associate already illustrates the contradiction of having corporations as power structures as self-interested organizations antagonistic to the state.
Some of these guilds, though not all consisted of a membership that was exclusively loyal to the guild—as a sworn association of citizens, without any higher power. This is not to say that these guilds were egalitarian within, many of them developed into highly complex heirarchical associations (this is how the Medici family began, which amassed its wealth through trade and not land, though this would not continue to be the case). As these corporations amassed power and wealth so did the minor princes and feudal lords gain power, though this power was quite different and is what Foucault termed “pastoral power.” This pastoral power was bound to territory and the productivity of the land and those who tended to the land. These two types of power occupied two very different spaces. One was urban (dense), the other was topological—inscribed within a territorial boundary. The form of the modern nation state would follow the topology of the latter form of governance, while cities and the wealth/power amassed within them would be legally subjugated to the topological state. These cities were often developed as the capitol or economic and political nerve center. TO BE CONTINUED…