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 4: Corporate power in the UK: the rise of the corporate elite

Stephen Wilks

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


The three earlier chapters dealt broadly with the origins of corporate power in a relatively abstract fashion. The next four chapters turn the emphasis towards the exercise of corporate power and focus in Chapters 4, 5 and 6 mainly on the UK. They examine the factors that have consolidated corporate power since the 1980s and how that power has been exercised through the influence of a corporate elite. The discussion moves on to examine the ways in which corporate power moulds public policy and produces distinctive distributional outcomes. The focus on the UK tries not to be too parochial and draws on comparative material where space allows. It also has a broader relevance in defining a model of corporate capitalism which serves as an example and perhaps a warning to other states. The UK has been a capitalist market pioneer and offers a prototype of an emerging form of corporate state in which partnerships between government and corporations, and between corporate and political elites, dictate political choices. In fact the influence travels beyond other national market economies to affect governance at the international level.

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