Sociologists, political scientists, and the public at large have long been concerned with the political influence of large corporations. For the past few decades, most research on corporate political influence has focused on a narrow set of obviously political behaviors: lobbying and campaign donations.
Scholars have learned a great deal about why firms donate, the value of those donations, and how lobbying efforts shape the content of policy. And yet, focusing on these narrow aspects of overt political behavior seems to only scratch the surface of the policy influence of large corporations.
In a new paper, sociologist Russell Funk and I argue that scholars must attend to how firms use seemingly non-political, market actions to change the content and meaning of the law. These nonmarket effects of market actions are complements and substitutes to more direct political action.
When firms can’t get what they want through the policy process, sometimes they can get it by engaging in a form of economic “politics by other means.” Through innovation or creative implementations, firms can change the interpretation and consequences of the law without the passage of any new legislation.