Edited by Patricia Kennett
Chapter 3: Governance, Business and Social Policy: International and National Dimensions
Kevin Farnsworth INTRODUCTION The issues of business power and inﬂuence over policymaking have reemerged in the academic literature in recent years after a hiatus spanning almost two decades. The demise of academic interest in business power mirrored the falling out of favour of Marxist ideas, and its rediscovery can be traced to the growth of interest in the global economy and the central role played by corporations in globalization processes. Despite the rekindled interest in these general themes, however, business power is often under-theorized in the literature, whilst speciﬁc issues concerning the role of business in social policymaking remain relatively under-researched. This chapter theorizes corporate power before examining how globalization has transformed the power and inﬂuence of business. It then investigates how business has helped to shape social policy internationally and nationally, taking the UK as a case-study. A THEORETICAL OUTLINE OF BUSINESS POWER In order to better conceptualize and comprehend corporate power under globalization it is useful to begin by outlining the various ways in which power is exercised by business. To facilitate this, a conceptual distinction is drawn between structural and agency power. Structural power can be deﬁned most simply as the ability to inﬂuence social policy without exercising agency, and it is derived, not from the actions of business agents, but from the monopolization of capital: ﬁnancial holdings, industrial plants and machinery. According to theories of structural power, various mechanisms restrict the choices of policymakers and the activities of labour to those...
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