Corporate culpability in Law and Horror

A/Prof. Penny Crofts1
1UTS, Broadway, Australia

Classic legal accounts of corporate liability such as vicarious principles and identification theory reflect a nominalist theory of corporations, viewing corporations as nothing more than a collectivity of individuals, that is, that corporations can only act through individuals. These accounts regard corporate responsibility as derivative – it must be located through the responsibility of an individual actor. In contrast, realist theories assert that corporations have an existence that is, to some extent, independent of the existence of their members. Corporations can act and be at fault in ways that are different from the ways in which their members can act and be at fault. This paper will focus on the portrayal of corporate culpability in the television series Stranger Things (Netflix 2016) and film Ghost in the Shell (Dreamworks; Sanders, 2017) in terms of whether their portrayals of corporations are nominalist and/or realist as a way to critique and analyse contemporary legal responses to organisational culpability. How does the organisation cause/respond to harms? Does malfeasance and culpability end with the death of the CEO? Do criminal legal constructions of culpability assist or prevent encountering crime and doing justice?


Penny Crofts is an Associate Professor at the Faculty of Law, UTS. She specialises in researching legal constructions of culpability and has published widely in the area. Her research is cross-disciplinary, drawing upon a range of historical, philosophical, empirical and literary materials to enrich her analysis of the law. Penny appeared as an expert witness on criminal liability before the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. Penny recently received an ARC grant ‘Rethinking institutional culpability: criminal law, philosophy and horror’. This project interrogates the organisational culpability (or lack thereof) through the prisms of law, horror and philosophy.


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