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 8: Corporations, culture and accountability

Stephen Wilks

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


Up to this point the book has looked at the origins of corporate power and at its exercise, in the UK and globally. The case has been made that corporate political power is substantial and has undergone a transformation since the late 1980s. The result has been the development of a new institutional basis for the state and the consolidation of power by a corporate elite allied with a political elite. In itself power is acceptable if it can be made legitimate, which is another way of saying that it is tolerable if it can be made accountable. These next three chapters therefore examine the accountability of the corporation and the degree to which processes of accountability render its power legitimate. Accountability is one of the magic ingredients of successful societies with an instant ethical appeal, but it involves a complex set of ideas and processes with an ambiguous relationship to democracy. In respect of corporations there are important modes of accountability but also some indefensible shortcomings.

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