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Reviews 857

support organizations and financing created politics. Why have corporate leaders in the
in the United States, especially through United States stood on the sidelines as the
Christian fundamentalist broadcast net- Republicans in Congress have become ever
works. Sharon Erickson Nepstad and Stellan more extreme to the point where they now
Vinthagen discuss the greater success of the routinely threaten to block the governments
British Plowshares Movement, in contrast ability to pay interest on its debts? The ques-
to the Swedish Plowshares Movement, in tion is even more compelling in that during
Strategic Choices in Cross-National Move- the years of the Cold War, the U.S. corporate
ments: A Comparison of the Swedish and elite played a central and moderate role in
British Plowshares Movements. Although formulating U.S. foreign and domestic
both movements were inspired by and mod- policies.
eled after the American Plowshares Move- To be sure, there is a deep irony in Mizru-
ment, the British movement found an inter- chi posing this question. He, like many of
nal structure that enhanced participation, us influenced by radical politics, began his
while the Swedish model collapsed due to career sharply critical of the amount of polit-
internal conflicts. The concluding chapter, ical power concentrated in the corporate
written by Rachel V. Kutz-Flamenbaum, elite. But in The Fracturing of the American
summarizes the books findings and areas Corporate Elite, those first postwar decades
for future research. appear as a relative golden age in which
This book is well-constructed; the chapters the corporate elite were unified and exer-
are uniformly strong and well-developed. cised their influence in favor of pragmatic
Only two weaknesses in this volume policies that recognized the value of govern-
occurred to me. With most chapters focusing ment and tolerated the existence of trade
on the meso- and micro-levels of analysis, unions. Conservative readers will not hesi-
there is not enough attention paid to the tate to accuse Mizruchi of being nostalgic
macro-level of analysis, the bailiwick of for the corporate liberals he once derided.
Gamson and Piven and Cloward. And In Mizruchis account, big business in the
because the chapters range across a variety years after World War II basically made peace
of meso- and micro-level analyses, and a with the inevitable. Most corporate leaders
variety of venues, both nationally and inter- accepted the expansion in governments
nationally, it is hard for the reader to draw role that had been engineered by the New
more general conclusions about the state of Deal. Somewhat more grudgingly, many of
contemporary social movements from these them also accepted that almost a third of
chapters. Of course, the multiplicity of actors, the labor force had gained representation
settings, strategies, and consequences that by trade unions. But acceptance did not
accompany contemporary social movements mean surrender; the power of Big Govern-
is precisely what this book set out to explore. ment and Big Labor led Big Business to unify
around a coherent and fairly pragmatic set of
policies. This unity was facilitated by the
The Fracturing of the American Corporate Elite, existence of extensive interlocks between
by Mark S. Mizruchi. Cambridge, MA: the directors of nonfinancial corporations
Harvard University Press, 2013. 363pp. and the directors of major commercial banks.
$35.00 cloth. ISBN: 9780674072992. Mizruchi argues that these interlocks helped
the elite develop a shared perspective on
FRED BLOCK business strategies and key policy debates.
University of California, Davis In the 1970s, however, the corporate elite
flblock@ucdavis.edu panicked because of mounting public dis-
trust of Big Business power and because the
Every now and then, there is a perfect match U.S. economy was facing major macroeco-
between a scholar and a topic. Mark Mizru- nomic problems. The consequence was a dra-
chi has been studying the internal organiza- matic right turn in which Big Business
tion of the U.S. corporate elite since the allied itself with a resurgent grassroots con-
1970s, so he is the ideal person to address servatism, leading to the election in 1980 of
the $64,000 question of contemporary U.S. Ronald Reagan. Mizruchi argues that Reagan

Contemporary Sociology 43, 6


858 Reviews

policies effectively disarmed the major short-term time horizons driven by the fixa-
threats to Big Business. The most hated regu- tion on shareholder value. But there is also
latory agencies, such as the Environmental something more structuralmany of the
Protection Agency and Occupational Safety largest firms have gravitated toward busi-
and Health Administration were declawed ness strategies that are heavily dependent
and the new administrations anti-labor pol- on continuing government support. To be
icies accelerated the decline of union repre- sure, even forty years ago, the largest defense
sentation. At the same time, for reasons of contractors had to focus their energies on
their own, the commercial banks withdrew winning the competition for the next weapon
from many of the interlocks, so they ceased system. But now, big firms in agricultural
playing a major role in forging business uni- products, pharmaceuticals, communication
ty. For Mizruchi, the ironic consequence of and entertainment, finance, retailing, and
Big Business triumph in the Reagan years energy all depend on keeping in place the
was that it then lost its unity and effective- extensive subsidies and supports that they
ness as a political force. Freed from chal- receive from the federal government.
lenges by powerful antagonists, there was
no longer any reason to hang together.
Mizruchi cites two other factors that con- Risk: Negotiating Safety in American Society, by
tributed to business political weakness. Arwen P. Mohun. Baltimore, MD: Johns
First, the rise of the emphasis on shareholder Hopkins University Press, 2013. 329pp.
value and the shortening of CEO tenure $55.00 cloth. ISBN: 9781421407906.
meant that firms had to prioritize getting
immediate benefits from Washington over CHARLES PERROW
any concerns with classwide interests. Sec- Yale University
ond, the political success of right-wing charles.perrow@yale.edu
Republicanism meant that firms that demon-
strated political pragmatism and an interest This charming book by an historian is an
in working with Democrats were routinely account of commonplace coping with every-
bullied into toeing the conservative line. day risks in U.S. history. You will learn more
Mizruchi supports his argument at key than you probably ever wanted to know
junctures by citing studies, often his own, about chimney fires and horses in this
that provide compelling evidence for his account, but in the Essay on Sources you
claims. The result is a powerful and persua- will find excellent references to all of the
sive account of the fragmentation of the cor- topics, including the major sociological
porate elite. But there are two points where approaches to risks. The documentation is
there is an urgent need for more research. as thorough as one would expect from
First, Mizruchi does not provide enough a skilled historian, and the writing is superb,
explanation for why Big Business was so with acute observations and wry wit.
traumatized by the brief radical moment in One theme is the persistence of the ver-
U.S. politics in the late 1960s and early nacular (commonplace) approach to risk,
1970s. After all, business elites in France despite the professionalization of risk by
and Italy faced a far graver threat from the reformers. For example, take gun controls.
radical left in that same period and they did Before the twentieth century, the statutes
not make a comparable right turn. Neither that existed were aimed at disarming African
Bobby Kennedys candidacy in 1968, nor Americans, immigrants, and former Confed-
George McGoverns in 1972, posed any real erate soldiers. But systematic research, the
and direct threat to business power. So broadening ambitions of safety experts,
what was it that pushed business pragma- provided evidence that was color- and class-
tists to embrace free market economics and free, capturing native whites, and there was
right-wing Republicanism? more to safety than disarmament. The native
Second, our understanding of the frag- whites opposed controls and argued their
mentation would be deepened by more anal- vernacular approach to risk was sufficient:
ysis of shifts within the corporate world. To experience and carefulness. The gun indus-
be sure, Mizruchi highlights the shift to try exploited the sentiments, and the fierce

Contemporary Sociology 43, 6