This is a guest post by Henry Farrell, Associate Professor of Political Science and International Affairs at George Washington University, and Abraham Newman, Associate Professor in the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service and the Government Department at Georgetown University, as part of the Duck of Minerva’s Symposium on Structural Power and the Study of Business. This post draws on ideas developed at greater length in Farrell and Newman’s article found here. Links to other posts in the symposium can be found here.
Political scientists haven’t paid nearly enough attention to structural power over the last two decades. As Charles Lindblom argued, it is clear that firms have political power and influence that goes beyond their direct ability e.g. to put money behind ideas and politicians that they like. In a capitalist system, by definition, businesses make the final decisions about how capital is allocated. This means that politicians have to pay attention to their decisions, allowing businesses collectively and sometimes individually to shape the political agenda. Pepper Culpepper and his colleagues, both by drawing renewed attention to structural power, and by showing that it can vary across state, industry and context, are doing a lot to explain political outcomes that would otherwise remain mystifying.