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The Political Mobilization of Firms and Industries

Journal Title Annual Review of Sociology
Published Date July 01, 2014
Research Topic
Research Type
Authors Christopher Rea


Corporate political activity is both a long-standing preoccupation and an area of innovation for sociologists. We examine the limitations of investigating business unity without focusing directly on processes and outcomes and then review studies of five types of business political action that offer lenses into corporate power in the United States: engagement in electoral politics, direct corporate lobbying, collective action through associations and coalitions, business campaigns in civil society, and political aspects of corporate responsibility. Through these avenues, we highlight four shifts since the 1970s: (a) increasing fragmentation of capitalist interests, (b) closer attention to links between business lobbying and firms’ social embeddedness, (c) a turn away from the assumption that money buys political victories, and (d ) new avenues of covert corporate influence. This body of research has reinvigorated the classic elitist/pluralist debate while also raising novel questions about how business actors are adapting to (and generating changes within) their sociopolitical environments.