“A Voice for the Industry”

Lyn Spillman

in Solidarity in Strategy

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print July 2012 | ISBN: 9780226769561
Published online February 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226769554 | DOI:
“A Voice for the Industry”

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One of the most common assumptions about American business associations is that they are simply political interest groups. This chapter discusses sociological arguments for this assumption and shows how the evidence of political orientations and activities in the association census and the focal groups challenges these arguments as partial and unrepresentative. Then, focusing on that minority of associations that are indeed active in conventional politics, it examines what exactly they do and the terms in which they understand their political action. The chapter argues that they are mostly involved in routine policy monitoring as peripheral players in policy domains. Then, extending recent arguments about American political discourse, it shows how they express their political interests in terms of a democratic code stressing technical reason and the stewardship of the common good. These arguments are demonstrated with illustrations drawn from the focal sample and an extended case analysis of the political work of the Irrigation Association.

Keywords: American business associations; political interest; interest groups; focal groups; political action; democratic code

Chapter.  14189 words. 

Subjects: Occupations, Professions, and Work

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