Politics and Public Policy: Volume 17


Table of contents

(15 chapters)

The success of Research in Political Sociology depends on the community of scholars in many ways. I am grateful to the advisory editors (see above) who reviewed manuscripts and provided advice on editorial decisions. I also owe a special debt of gratitude to the colleagues listed below who served as referees in the peer review process and reviewed one or more manuscripts for Volume 16 of Research in Political Sociology.

Since its inception, the primary objective of Research in Political Sociology (RPS) has been to publish original, high quality manuscripts to increase our understanding of political structures and processes. RPS and the American Sociological Association's Section on Political Sociology share this goal, and the publication cooperates with the section to achieve sociological understanding of political phenomena.

The chapters in this section examine the exercise of power in two distinct policy arenas. Whereas Val Burris examines the interlocking networks among policy planning organizations, Clayton Peoples and Michael Gortari compare the effects of political action committee contributions on the voting behavior of elected officials in the U.S. and Canada.

This chapter examines interlocks among the governing boards of 12 leading policy-planning organizations and changes in the structure of this network between 1973 and 2000. Methods of multidimensional scaling and hierarchical clustering are used to construct topographical maps of the pattern of interlocks among policy-planning groups and their change over time. In contrast to the findings on corporate interlocking directorates, the study shows that board interlocks among policy-planning organizations are substantively meaningful and relatively stable at the dyadic level, although several changes in the topology of the network are also found. In all three decades, big-business “moderate-conservatives” like the Business Council and the Business Roundtable occupied the most central locations in the network. In the 1970s these organizations were linked with the “corporate liberals” to form the core cluster of the policy network. In the 1980s and 1990s the corporate liberals became relatively isolated from the core and their places were taken by several conservative groups. There was also a sharp rise in the cohesion of the network in the late 1970s and 1980s – a period that is widely seen as one of conservative political mobilization and heightened political unity among business elites. These changes in the structure of the policy network are consistent with and help to account for the rightward shift in U.S. state policy during this period.

In both the academic and public policy realms, debates have gone on for decades concerning the influence of class-based interest groups on policymaking. Virtually no work in this area compares influence in the U.S. with influence in Canada despite the fact that the countries provide interesting differences in the social and political contexts within which influence may occur. In this chapter, we analyze how receiving money from the same business and labor entities (“political action committees” in the U.S.) influences similarity in voting among legislators in the 105th U.S. House of Representatives (1997–1998). We then perform the same analysis for the 36th Canadian House of Commons (1997–2000). In the U.S., we find that sharing business contributors significantly affects vote similarity among legislators, whereas sharing labor contributors does not. This supports elite-power and class-based theories and bolsters the arguments of those who feel more campaign finance reform may be necessary. In Canada, however, sharing contributors of either type has no effect on vote similarity among parliamentarians, which supports state-centered theory and lends credence to those arguing additional reforms may be unnecessary. These findings suggest that structural context matters greatly for patterns of political power.

New institutionalisms in economic and organizational sociology need grounding in theories of capitalism. Comparative studies show that multiple, viable forms of capitalism have been constructed through the interplay of institutions, mobilizations of political power, and state policies. Further theoretical development requires attention to the contradictions of capitalism. Promising theoretical sources for this task are examined. The political process produces new forms of capitalist institutions, but contradictions built into those institutions cannot be fully resolved and provide the basis for new acts of social construction and power mobilization. The power and cultural arguments of the comparative institutionalists are joined, at least in aspiration, to theories of capitalist contradictions.

General strikes emerged as part of an industrial repertoire of collective action that included singular strikes. While individual strikes continue, the United States has not experienced a general strike since 1946. What conditions facilitated the selection of this tactic by American labor? Why did the general strike disappear from labor's tactical repertoire after 1946? These questions are answered through a sequential analysis of the emergence of four American general strikes beginning in 1877 through 1946. Through a repertoire of collective action lens, I identify general conditions that increased the probability of general strike emergence. These general conditions, however, were also present in cities that did not have general strikes. To move beyond general conditions, I look at how they informed the local histories and historically contingent events that resulted in the “snowball effect” through which general strikes emerged from singular ones. I propose that American general strikes disappeared after 1946 due to changes in conditions that produced the industrial repertoire of collective action, foremost, changes in patterns of state repression through the passage of the Taft-Hartley Act.

Existing research argues that repression hindered the ability of local civil rights movements to influence the development of local War on Poverty programs; however, the Virginia civil rights struggle defies this pattern. This comparative county-level study melds institutionalist accounts of welfare state development with an analysis of movement repression in order to explain this paradox. A distinction is made between situational and institutional repression. While scholars focus on the former and its negative impact on mobilization, this study suggests that institutional repression can have the opposite effect, unifying movements and facilitating their influence on the formation and implementation of poverty policy.

As cities choose entrepreneurial strategies to lure the mobile corporate service sector and its professional workforce, they also present more forbidding faces to the working class and poor. Scholars and activists have pointed to the passage of public conduct laws as evidence of how modern cities signal to the poor that their downtown cores are reserved for the privileged classes. Yet, even as scholars and advocates attest to the growing “meanness” of American cities, their reports have also routinely showcased cities that develop alternatives to criminalization. This chapter presents data from a historical case study of homeless politics in Philadelphia to shed light on the complex local dynamics undergirding or challenging the modern urban phenomena of “anti-homeless” legislation. Though a pro-development paradigm has slowly transformed Philadelphia since the early 1990s, the local business community has been consistently unsuccessful in its attempts to have new public conduct legislation passed or to have existing laws stringently enforced. Urban regime theory helps explain how a network of local homeless service provider and advocacy organizations has been able to use collaborative strategies to effectively shape the politics and policies of street regulation in the city.

J. Kenneth Benson is a professor Emeritus in the Department of Sociology, University of Missouri-Columbia. He continues to work on the development of a dialectical approach to the study of organizations, networks, and public policies. He also is working currently on religion and the professions. His work has been published in the Administrative Science Quarterly, The Sociological Quarterly, and other journals and edited volumes.

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Research in Political Sociology
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Emerald Publishing Limited
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