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Business Interests In Public Policy

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The long-standing discussion around the policy development and the political actors that play the most crucial role in it has been lying on the root of another colloquy: power in policy making (Hill, 2009). This paper enters the debate by primarily tracing back to its forebear, id est the Marxian political theory and the forthcoming discussions during the 19th century, and then proceeding to the most recent policy controversies and findings.

Theory and Shortcomings

The phrase ‘organised business interests’ is linked to policy making apparatuses crystallised in the discursive representations of the modern state. Diving into the political concerns of the early modern times, we might translate ‘business interests’ into ‘bourgeoisie interests’: in 1848, the State found its modern raison d’être in words of Marx and Engels as ‘a committee of managing the common affairs of the whole bourgeoisie’ (Marx; Engels, 1848). The amplification of this thesis with the historical materialism theory succinctly encompassed a new explanation of how different economic interests dictated changes in the political spectrum from time to time. Hence, the domination of bourgeoisie interests in modern policy making emerged since the economically hefty class at this point was the bourgeoisie and the State was pecuniarily dependent on it (Marx, 1846). In this frame, employers started to be organised in collective entities during the first half of the 19th century (Hilbert, 1912) and their influence was simultaneously theorised as pivotal.

Drawing inspiration from the advancements within the later Marxist approaches, Miliband’s (1969) illustration of the similar social background and the networks that bourgeois and state’s elite share implied an inevitable business interests’ domination in policy making (Hill, 2009). In general, the Marxist rhetoric offers traditionally a rich theoretical ground for the statement discussed in terms of economic power and the State’s tendency to serve the winners of this game, i.e. the capital’s interests (O’Connor, 1973; Gough, 1979). However, not solely Marx or Marxists attempted to untangle the complex of the modern state in the name of power. But this paper argues that Marxism was the first theory delineating clearly the bond between the State, the business and the latter’s prominent influence.

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Even if Marxists’ analyses became objects of esteemed critiques, the lens through which they answered Dahl’s question (‘Who governs?’ Dahl, 1961) was widely adopted. Looking at the policy development process, Cairney (2012) advocated that power may be treated ‘as influence(…)as a resource to be used’. This way business interests – irrevocably linked to resources – started to be more systematically valorised by political theorists to ameliorate the robustness of their models. Thus, pluralism introduced its privileged-position-of-business argument (Manley, 1983) where an unequal competition of interests occurs; there, ‘business officials are privileged not only with respect to the care with which government satisfies business needs’ but also due to their embroilment in policy consultation (Lindblom, 1977). Simultaneously, elitism shed light on certain aspects of business interests’ influence in policy with the ideas of ‘political class and elite’ (Bottomore, 1966) and the ‘military-industrial complex’ (Mills, 1956). Hence, the co-admitted participation of businessmen as key-interlocutors in policy deliberations was accompanied by the idea of the existential dependence of the State on the military and the defence industry, driving to the prevalence of these two elites in the political dialogue (Eisenhower, 1961).

Having epitomised the theoretical consensus around businesses’ influence and soughting to link the above to recent scholarships, we argue that in the modern ‘pluralist heaven’ the ‘heavenly choir’s strong upper-class accent’ (Schattschneider, 1960) is not witnessed by listening to an “ambiguous power song”. On the contrary, businessmen seem to exercise their power and entrench their interests in a precise and practical way by submitting for instance a grand proportion of comments to a newly introduced rule, which includes ‘high quality information’ and expertise that agencies favour (Yackee, 2006). Their ‘perfection of power’ (Foucault, 1977) could be observed more clearly in studies that do not initially investigate this issue but, from my perspective, their co-finding is the constant satisfaction of business interest groups in terms of policy outcomes. For example, the inner-conflict of UK’s current coalition government about immigration was primarily explained in terms of partisan politics by Hampshire and Bale (2015). However, the final policy outcome for the immigrants in the labour market was a result of lobbying with employers (Hampshire; Bale, 2015). In this consultation process ‘not all pro-immigration clients were(sic) equal’ (ibid) since the education lobby did not accomplish to convince the Government about student immigrants. A cornerstone of these analyses is Shin’s research which also underpins the preponderance of business interests in policy development by stating that in the end ‘voters expect politicians of any ideology to promote economic growth’ (Shin, 2017), even if policy instruments differ.

Many examples could embellish our canvas, emerging from the correlations between firms’ size and political power (Salamon & Siergfried, 1977), their capacity to keep issues off the public scrutiny (Cairney, 2012) or even State’s own role as an employer and its unique nature (Fredman; Morris, 1990) being closer to business’ (even only in terms of structure and operation). Although, building an empirical amalgam is not this paper’s purpose. Besides that, it is also worth mentioning that multiple studies engage with the opposite idea and demonstrate valid results to support it (e.g. Anderson and Hassel, 2015). What emerges from this picture is that political science crumbles in its own inability to effectively juxtapose diverse scholarships and come to fruitful conclusions that combine evidence critically.


The attempt of this paper was not to bear out that organised business interests are the only determinant during the policy development process. Our aim was to provide a plausible argument that business interests are indeed one of the most important political actors nowadays that should not be forgotten or placed in an un-politicised frame. Policy procedures should be set under scrutiny that incorporates the whole amalgam of political interests without accepting the offspring of certain historical and political processes as “natural” entities of the system which should not be controverted.

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Business Interests In Public Policy. (2022, February 21). Edubirdie. Retrieved August 9, 2022, from
“Business Interests In Public Policy.” Edubirdie, 21 Feb. 2022,
Business Interests In Public Policy. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 9 Aug. 2022].
Business Interests In Public Policy [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Feb 21 [cited 2022 Aug 9]. Available from:
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