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Not by structure alone: power, prominence, and agency in American finance


I examine the challenges of conceptualization and measurement of structural power when the differential power of industries or individual firms are in question. While ascertaining structural power's operation at this level can be very challenging, I point to some issues of conceptualization and measurement that can enhance our analytic leverage at the initial stages of the research process. Specifically I propose a more refined language of “structural prominence” to differentiate between the expected causes of structural power from its hypothesized effects. Using a variety of data I show that researchers have some simple tools at their disposal but must pay careful attention to basic logical inferential limitations when examining structural power arguments. Through an examination of firms’ reactions to policy proposals in US securities regulation I find positive evidence for structural power operating in initial policy proposals. When I examine levels of preference attainment in the policymaking process itself, structural power appears to be playing a weaker and more conditional role. I also find that the preference attainment of firms is greatest when structural and instrumental forces operate in conjunction, a finding supportive of recent research in this area.

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* Department of Political Science, University of Massachusetts Amherst, Amherst, MA 01003, USA, e-mail:
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