Business Influence in Public Policymaking: A Case Study of the Loan Guarantee Program Using an Assemblage-Theoretic Framework
This thesis investigates the influence of business on the public policymaking process in the United States. A framework is proposed for categorizing policymaking contexts and mechanisms of influence, synthesized from previous literature on structural versus institutional power, automatic versus instrumental influence, arenas of power, and on the opportunity structures pertaining to distinct varieties of capitalism. Much of the literature on business’ influence on policy performs analyses at the corporation level, resulting in the limited consideration of firms as formal-legal entities, as rational “black-box” actors, or as ensembles of resources. This thesis proposes an assemblage-theoretic approach to conceptualizing the firm and its position within political institutions and political-economic structures. It is argued that firms’ preferences and capacities for influence are properties emergent from the extrinsic relations among actors and resources within the firm, as well as from firms’ extrinsic relations with other actors in broader structural and institutional networks. This framework is demonstrated through an analysis of the Department of Energy’s Loan Guarantee Program (LGP), including an institutional and structural history of the program, a quantitative analysis of the program’s portfolio, and a qualitative analysis of two high-profile cases: Tesla and Solyndra. The qualitative analysis illustrates the instrumentalization of automatic pathways of influence, the transformation of transactional mechanisms into relational pathways, and the interaction of formal and informal pathways. The multivariate regression analyses show a significant positive relationship between lobbying and loan size, reinforcing the notion that relational pathways are instrumentalized effectively by firms at the stage of distribution. Political contributions were not found to be statistically significant, but were negatively associated with loan size, suggesting that the impact of contributions may be indirect through their transformation into relational pathways over time. It is proposed that additional emergent properties captured by the mapping of firm assemblages, such as mediated relational pathways, may be modeled using the framework developed and quantified using network analysis. It is argued that the conception of firms as assemblages comprising larger institutional and structural networks is a promising inroad to future study of business’ influence on policymaking, with broader implications for policy studies and political economy.
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