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The Fracturing of the American Corporate Elite


  • Mizruchi, Mark S.

    (University of Michigan)


In the aftermath of a financial crisis marked by bank-friendly bailouts and loosening campaign finance restrictions, a chorus of critics warns that business leaders have too much influence over American politics. Mark Mizruchi worries about the ways they exert too little. The Fracturing of the American Corporate Elite advances the surprising argument that American CEOs, seemingly more powerful today than ever, have abrogated the key leadership role they once played in addressing national challenges, with grave consequences for American society. Following World War II, American business leaders observed an ethic of civic responsibility and enlightened self-interest. Steering a course of moderation and pragmatism, they accepted the legitimacy of organized labor and federal regulation of the economy and offered support, sometimes actively, as Congress passed legislation to build the interstate highway system, reduce discrimination in hiring, and provide a safety net for the elderly and needy. In the 1970s, however, faced with inflation, foreign competition, and growing public criticism, corporate leaders became increasingly confrontational with labor and government. As they succeeded in taming their opponents, business leaders paradoxically undermined their ability to act collectively. The acquisition wave of the 1980s created further pressures to focus on shareholder value and short-term gain rather than long-term problems facing their country. Today’s corporate elite is a fragmented, ineffectual group that is unwilling to tackle the big issues, despite unprecedented wealth and political clout. Mizruchi’s sobering assessment of the dissolution of America’s business class helps explain the polarization and gridlock that stifle U.S. politics.

Suggested Citation

  • Mizruchi, Mark S., 2013. "The Fracturing of the American Corporate Elite," Economics Books, Harvard University Press, number 9780674072992, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:hup:pbooks:9780674072992

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    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Woll, Cornelia, 2015. "Politics in the interest of capital: A not-so-organized combat," MaxPo Discussion Paper Series 15/2, Max Planck Sciences Po Center on Coping with Instability in Market Societies (MaxPo).
    2. Ergen, Timur, 2017. "Coalitional cohesion in technology policy: The case of the early solar cell industry in the United States," MPIfG Discussion Paper 17/7, Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies.
    3. Suárez Sandra L., 2015. "Reflections on a “Heavenly Chorus [that] Sings with a Strong [Male] Upper Class Accent”," Business and Politics, De Gruyter, vol. 17(1), pages 161-175, April.
    4. Duane Swank, 2015. "The Political Foundations of Redistribution in Post-industrial Democracies," LIS Working papers 653, LIS Cross-National Data Center in Luxembourg.
    5. Cornelia Woll, 2015. "Politics in the Interest of Capital: A Not-So-Organized Combat," Sciences Po publications 15/2, Sciences Po.
    6. Christine Doran, 2016. "Managerialism: An Ideology and its Evolution," International Journal of Management, Knowledge and Learning, International School for Social and Business Studies, Celje, Slovenia, vol. 5(1), pages 81-97.
    7. Young Kevin, 2015. "Not by structure alone: power, prominence, and agency in American finance," Business and Politics, De Gruyter, vol. 17(3), pages 443-472, October.
    8. Thiemann Matthias, 2016. "The Power of Inaction or Elite Failure? A Comment on Woll’ “The Power of Inaction”," Accounting, Economics, and Law: A Convivium, De Gruyter, vol. 6(1), pages 31-45, March.
    9. François-Xavier Dudouet & Eric Grémont & Antoine Vion, 2014. ""Bank Centrality" and Money Creation
      [« Centralité bancaire » et émission monétaire]
      ," Working Papers halshs-01095256, HAL.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • M0 - Business Administration and Business Economics; Marketing; Accounting; Personnel Economics - - General
    • H0 - Public Economics - - General


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