Departing from an interest in the involvement of business leaders in the sphere of politics, in the broad sense, Garsten and Sörbom analyse the role of business within the World Economic Forum (WEF). Many global business leaders today do much more than engage narrowly in the own corporation and its search for profit, and the WEF is one arena through which firms act to advance their interests, financial as well as political. The chapter indicates a number of conduits through which business may draw upon the WEF and its platforms for their non-market interests. However, the WEF cannot merely be conceived as the extended voice of corporations. The WEF also makes use of the corporations to organize and expand its own agency. Garsten and Sörbom introduce the notion of policy bricolage as a way to capture the ambiguous, creative and agile role of WEF and its relation to corporations.
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Christina Garsten and Adrienne Sörbom
Christina Garsten and Adrienne Sörbom
Sébastien Picard, Véronique Steyer, Xavier Philippe and Mar Pérezts
In this chapter Mar Pérezts, Xavier Philippe, Sébastien Picard and Véronique Steyer offer a broad vision of corporate political activities, highlighting its institutional reach, and describing its concrete institutionalizing effects. Drawing on Lallement (2008) the authors attempt at opening the black box of the institutionalization processes of corporate political activities and the institutional dynamics associated to this type of activities. Using data from an in-depth ethnography in VaxCorp, a leading corporation in the vaccine industry, the authors analyse how the company shapes its institutional field by imposing the dominant ‘vaccinology’ imaginary. In practice this takes shape in a modus operandi that goes beyond the mere maximization of VaxCorp’s interests to organize actions and behaviours of other institutional actors (for example, State, WHO). The analysis indicates that this dominant imaginary emerges from but also intertwines institutionalizing processes into a larger and coherent pattern, which eventually legitimizes corporations’ dominance in an institutional field.
Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork from the realm of public affairs consultancy, Anna Tyllström provides insights into the practical nature of corporate lobbying, as well as a discussion of the role lobbying may have in politics and markets. The case describes how a powerful industry player, wishing to influence policy, hires a consultant who uses classical tools to gain political influence. In generalized terms, the chapter shows the lobbying of public affairs consultants to revolve around five practices; information-gathering, contact management, visibility management, role-switching and ideological proactivity. These practices are distinctly observable aspects of lobbying work, but they also feed into and amplify each other. The switching roles facilitate the establishment of contacts, which in turn enables the gathering of more valuable information. Furthermore, the constant management of boundaries, the rich contact networks and the adjustment of identities together makes it possible for consultants to launch own political ideas.
Mélodie Cartel, Eva Boxenbaum, Franck Aggeri and Jean-Yves Caneill
Drawing on the case of construction of the European carbon market (EU-ETS) Cartel, Boxenbaum , Aggeri and Caneill address the question of how public policies can be designed and implemented when facing strong reluctance from both politicians and private corporations. The EU-ETS was adopted in 2003 as the corner stone of the European climate policy. The authors analyse the collective dynamics of the making of the European carbon market. Based on a rich set of archival data and interviews, the analysis reconstitutes the original strategy deployed by the electricity sector to implement a carbon market in Europe. From 1999 to 2001, a handful of actors in the sector organized two successive experiments where they invited industrial companies to build and test various carbon market prototypes. The chapter indicates that these experiments triggered an intellectual shift among participants and considerably fuelled the policymaking process that led to the EU-ETS.
Based on ethnographic insights of the attempts by a since long-established chocolate factory to develop a product in line with the fairtrade standard Renita Thedvall studies how the world views and ideals in Fairtrade International’s standards are negotiated, navigated and embedded in relation to issues of marketability and political ideals. The factory’s choice to use an ethical label on one of its products brought a whole set of political discussions, as well as new priorities within the factory. The words and the values in the standards documents and compliance criteria were translated and adjusted, turning the fairtrade labelled products into a political affair matching the chocolate factory’s political ideals. Still, the negotiated fairtrade ideals did not carve out a space in the milk chocolate segment. Thus, making a business out of being fairtrade opened a space for politics within the factory but not for economic success. In the end, the fairtrade labelled bar was discarded.
Corporate Engagement in Politics and Governance
Edited by Christina Garsten and Adrienne Sörbom
Even if competitive markets have shown themselves to be the most efficient organizational form for creating economic efficiency, the question of how they can avoid destructive influence from agents with opportunistic motives remains unresolved. Different institutional approaches have argued that to be efficient, markets need to be embedded in a set of formal and informal institutions. Because such institutions will in the long run make all market agents better off, they are labelled efficient institutions. Contrary to what is argued in neoclassical economics, it is unlikely that market agents will create such institutions endogenously because the institutions are to be understood as genuine public goods. Moreover, if such institutions have been established, we should expect market agents to face a collective action problem when sustaining them, leading to the destruction of the institutions. The conclusion is that if left to themselves, markets should be understood as inherently self-destructive.
David A. Westbrook
The terrain of political life is traditionally mapped in two dimensions, government and markets. How do the actions of market actors affect presumptively democratic government, or how does government affect the market, a concern of law and economics? This map is old, going back to Hobbes, and has been useful over the centuries. But while it is not wrong, the map is two dimensional, flat – the liberal plane. In Flatland, Victorian author Edwin Abbott told the story of a square, living in a two-dimensional plane, who gradually becomes aware that life could be understood through fewer, or more, dimensions. By analogy, the social might be understood as a third dimension, orthogonal to the government and market that determine the plane of ordinary discourse in liberal societies. In this reflective chapter Westbrook discusses how we might, from within the liberal plane, conceive of the social, in order to imagine politics in three dimensions.
By an analysis of the talk of institutional investors Anette Nyqvist describes and discusses some of the ways in which organizations having the primary goal of ‘making money’ increasingly also embark on projects of ‘doing good’. Empirically, Nyqvist focuses institutional investors, such as mutual funds, insurance companies and pension funds. These are large shareholder organizations commissioned to manage other people’s money which in later decades have emerged as influential front figures of the responsible investment industry, claiming to make money and make a difference and positioning themselves as the ‘active’ and ‘responsible’ do-gooders of finance. The chapter shows how institutional investors, seen as normative intermediary organizations, use ‘voice’, ‘dialogue’ and ‘small talk’ with the intent to (1) define and position themselves as a particular type of financial market actor, (2) foster and try to change companies that they own shares in and (3) set new standards for the investment industry.