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 6: Partnership and policy in Britain’s New Corporate State

Stephen Wilks

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


Chapters 4 and 5 explored the creation of the New Corporate State in Britain and the shape of a new political economy jointly dominated by corporate and political elites. This chapter examines how those developments were boosted by privatisation and demonstrates the exercise of corporate power through the example of the public services industry. This chapter therefore argues that the New Corporate State has created new opportunities for the expansion of the corporate sector, involving new configurations of economic regulation and public policy, and new distributional patterns which favour the interests of the corporate elite. In the process the New Corporate State has matured and become embedded in a stable institutional configuration to an extent that makes alternative economic models difficult to visualise, both ideologically and practically. The economic relationship that has become institutionalised is that of ‘partnership’ as outlined in Chapter 2. This is a partnership in the delivery of public services, in the development of policy options, and in the very process of governance. Partnership is a term imbued with benign associations and in the economic sphere it might well be regarded with approval, as many positive assessments of German neo-corporatism affirm (Schmitter, 2010: 249). But equally, partnership may have negative effects if it is exclusionary and energised by private gain rather than public interest.

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