The Political Power of the Business Corporation

The Political Power of the Business Corporation

Stephen Wilks

The large business corporation has become a governing institution in national and global politics. This trail-blazing book offers a critical account of its political dominance and lack of democratic legitimacy. Thanks to successful wealth generation and ideological victories the large business corporation has become an effective political actor and has entered into partnership with government in the design of public policy and delivery of public services. Stephen Wilks argues that governmental and corporate elites have transformed British politics to create a ‘new corporate state’ with similar patterns in the USA, in competitor economies – including China – and in global governance. The argument embraces multinational corporations, corporate social responsibility, corporate governance and the inequality generated by corporate dominance.

Chapter 3: Globalisation and the enhanced power of multinational corporations

Stephen Wilks

Subjects: business and management, international business, economics and finance, political economy, politics and public policy, political economy, public policy


The unease felt widely across society about the growth and deployment of corporate power originates, as we saw in Chapter 1, in the implied challenge to democratic government. As democratic theory explores in depth, governments are regarded as legitimate thanks to elections and to the consent embodied in the exercise of popular will operating through the electoral process within a constitutionally agreed legal system. Corporate political power does not enjoy electoral legitimacy and although it may lay claim to alternative modes of legitimation, corporate power is commonly regarded as legitimate only if it is exercised in ways consistent with a democratic political process. Much of the discussion of the corporation as a political actor advanced in Chapter 2 therefore reflected the dynamics of relations between corporate actors and (legitimate) governments. The traditional pluralist view of corporate power visualised corporations making demands on governments but recent scholarship has emphasised a view of societies ordered not only by ‘government’ but by a range of actors in a process of ‘governance’ (Chhotray and Stoker, 2009). The governance perspective is more consistent with the partnership view of corporate power discussed in Chapter 2 and visualises multiple actors and sources of authority working together to define and enforce rule systems.

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