The Political Power of the Business Corporation
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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.
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Chapter 1: The genesis of a governing institution

Stephen Wilks


Sometimes hero, sometimes villain, from the emancipatory brilliance of Apple to the environmental incompetence of BP, the business corporation presents radically contrasting images. For the most part, however, it is simply part of the landscape, a law-abiding corporate citizen whose presence we take completely for granted, much like the weather. The weather only provokes comment when it is unusual, but it conditions the environment in which we live. In similar fashion the business corporation conditions our social and economic environment, it is a defining factor in our social biosphere but its sheer familiarity, its ubiquitous presence, leads us to assume that we understand its influence on our lives, our society and our politics. We do not. The business corporation is arguably the most influential and the least studied institution in contemporary political life. This book focuses on the business corporation rather than on ‘business’ collectively, on the market, or on capitalism, although all three concepts enter the analysis as helpful theoretical frameworks. The term ‘corporation’ is used in preference to the ‘company’ or the ‘firm’ partly for consistency but also to exploit the mildly alien usage of this American term with its connotations of size and unfamiliarity.

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