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The introduction to the special issue develops a systematic and theoretically grounded framework for assessing business power in global governance. It is shown that power is said to have shifted from the world of states to the world of business. However, in order to evaluate such a claim first a differentiation of power in its instrumental, structural, and discursive facets is necessary. It is furthermore explained that the strength of such a three-dimensional assessment is that it combines different levels of analysis and considers actor-specific and structural dimensions and their material and ideational sources. Following a short introduction to the more empirical articles is provided summarizing their commonalities and differences.
In this concluding essay to the special issue on Private Regulation in the Global Economy, I review the main findings, focused on the answers that the papers in this issue jointly suggest to the three sets of core questions noted in the introductory essay: (1) How do private bodies attain regulatory authority? Why do private regulators provide governance and why do the targets of these rules comply? (2) Who governs? Who are the key actors in private regulation and what are their motivations? (3) What is the effect of the rise of private regulation on public regulatory authority and capacity? I then identify and discuss several key issues to develop a research agenda for what I call “global private politics.”
In recent years, International Political Economy literature on “politics beyond state” has emphasized the role of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in broader policy processes, both national and international. In addition to their impact on states, NGOs influence the policies of non-state actors such as firms via public and private politics. Dissatisfied with the progress firms have made in response to public regulation, NGOs have sponsored private authority regimes in several issue areas and pushed firms to participate in them. Across the world, the contest between NGOs and firms has provoked substantial behavioral and programmatic change'including widespread participation in these private authority regimes'among firms seeking to escape NGO pressures. Using firm-level data, this paper examines why direct targeting has not led firms in the U.S. forest products sector to participate in an NGO-sponsored private authority regime, the Forest Stewardship Council. This global regime has been adopted widely in Europe, but U.S.-based forestry firms have tended to favor a domestic industry-sponsored regime, the Sustainable Forestry Initiative. Our analysis suggests that the desire of firms to maintain control over their institutional environment in light of hostile relations with NGOs has led US-based firms to favor the Sustainable Forestry Initiative.
Firms operate in a capital market, a product market, and a market for social pressure directed at them by social activists, NGOs, and governments. An equilibrium in these three markets yields a three-equation structural model that relates corporate financial performance (CFP), corporate social performance (CSP), and social pressure. This paper estimates the simultaneous equation model for a panel of over 1,600 firms and finds that CFP is uncorrelated with CSP and negatively correlated with social pressure. CSP is decreasing in CFP and increasing in social pressure. Social pressure is increasing in CSP and decreasing in CFP, which is consistent with social pressure being directed to soft targets. Disaggregating the panel indicates that CFP is positively correlated with CSP for firms in consumer markets and negatively correlated for industrial markets. For consumer markets, CSP is increasing in CFP, which is consistent with a perquisites hypothesis that managers spend on CSR when they can afford it. For industrial markets CSP is decreasing in CFP, which is consistent with a moral management hypothesis. For both consumer and industrial markets, CSP is responsive to social pressure.
This paper provides a comprehensive review of the empirical literature in transaction cost economics (TCE) across multiple social science disciplines and business fields. We show how TCE has branched out from its economic roots to examine empirical phenomena in several other areas. We find TCE is increasingly being applied not only to business-related fields such as accounting, finance, marketing, and organizational theory, but also to areas outside of business including political science, law, public policy, and agriculture and health. With few exceptions, however, the use of TCE reasoning to inform empirical research in these areas is piecemeal. We find that there is considerable support of many of the central tenets of TCE, but we also observe a number of lingering theoretical and empirical issues that need to be addressed. We conclude by discussing the implications of these issues and outlining directions for future theoretical and empirical work.
This article examines bank lobbying in the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision (BCBS). While excessive bank lobbying is routinely linked to weakened banking regulations, we still know little about bank mobilization patterns. In particular, when and why do some banks lobby the BCBS while others do not? I argue that the decision to lobby is a function of two factors: banks’ organizational characteristics and domestic banking regulations. I test my argument using a unique dataset of over 33,000 banks worldwide during the period in which Basel III was negotiated. My findings confirm a pronounced bias in bank mobilization patterns toward wealthy, internationally active banks. I also find that banks facing more stringent banking regulations at home tend to lobby the BCBS in an effort to level the playing field with international competitors. This effect is particularly salient for stringent regulations on banking activities as well as higher capital adequacy requirements.1
This paper explores the implications of going beyond transaction cost theory's implicit focus on domestic investors to include multinational actors. As developed herein, the discriminating alignment between the level of hazards (contractual and/or political) and the mode of governance carries over. In the open-economy context, such an alignment reflects the hazards that arise from the nature of the transaction and those that arise from the nature of the political and regulatory environment.
Predominant models of financial regulation based on representative agents—in both the public interest and public choice traditions—assume that competitive pressures in financial markets undermine prudential behavior by firms in the absence of regulation. One empirical expectation of these models is behavioral: firms should adjust their risk-taking behaviors in response to the regulatory environment they face but should not over-comply with regulations. That is, the central tendency of bank behaviors should hew closely to regulatory minima and the variance should be small. I first demonstrate that this expectation is not borne out by the empirical record and then advance a theoretical argument that does not rely on a representative agent model. I argue that firms face a range of incentives from markets and governments that condition their risk-taking behaviors, and firms choose a “preferred habitat” within a market structure. Some of these incentives are towards greater risk-taking, while others are in the direction of greater prudence. This framework provides opportunities for examining financial market actors in a realistic context, and offers ways to unify micro-level and structural analyses of the political economy of global finance.
This essay highlights productive ways in which scholars have reanimated the concept of structural power to explain puzzles in international and comparative politics. Past comparative scholarship stressed the dependence of the state on holders of capital, but it struggled to reconcile this supposed dependence with the frequent losses of business in political battles. International relation (IR) scholars were attentive to the power of large states, but mainstream IR neglected the ways in which the structure of global capitalism makes large companies international political players in their own right. To promote a unified conversation between international and comparative political economy, structural power is best conceptualized as a set of mutual dependencies between business and the state. A new generation of structural power research is more attentive to how the structure of capitalism creates opportunities for some companies (but not others) vis-à-vis the state, and the ways in which that structure creates leverage for some states (but not others) to play off companies against each other. Future research is likely to put agents – both states and large firms – in the foreground as political actors, rather than showing how the structure of capitalism advantages all business actors in the same way against non-business actors.
Economic development and growth theory have long grappled with the consequences of cross-border flows of goods, services, ideas, and people. But the most significant growth in cross-border flows now comes in the form of data. Like other flows, data flows can demonstrate imbalances among exports and imports. Some of these flows represent ‘raw’ data while others represent high-value-added data products. Does any of this make a difference in national economic development trajectories? This paper argues that the answer is yes. After reviewing the core logic of ‘high development theories’ from the twentieth century, I analyze the sometimes implicit applications of these arguments to data as they are evolving in the existing literature. I then put forward a different argument which takes better account of unique characteristics of the political economy that emerges at the intersection of data, machine learning, and the platform firms that use them. I explore the implications of this new argument for some policy choices that governments face with regard to data localization, import substitution, and other decisions relevant to growth in both advanced and emerging economies.