The Balance of Power in The Capitalist Economy

The Balance of Power in The Capitalist Economy

The balance of power in the capitalist revolution

Another aspect of the capitalist revolution is the role played by government in maintaining a balance of power among interest groups. We now have a pluralistic power structure in which large and well-integrated groups represent the significant divisions of economic interests in the society. Business, labour, and agriculture compete with one another to further the interests of their members. This is the form that democratic processes logically would be expected to take in the organizational society. "In sociological terms, in fact, a democratic society can be defined as one in which no single occupational group, class, party, or other social segment

holds substantial or long-sustained power over another or all others, either in intergroup relations or through the political process.1122 The government's role in the process is to act as an impartial umpire most of the time and to shore up the weaker groups when they are hard-pressed by the others. The influence wielded in this way can be of a highly moral as well as a political nature. For example, the Committee on Government Contracts puts pressure on companies throughout the nation to expand job opportunities for Black workers and Jews. The members of this committee operate, in effect, as a moral pressure group at the highest levels of government.

The capitalist revolution has led to a merging of public and private economic activity that is unprecedented in UK history. The large company has a tendency today to perform functions that are essentially public in nature. An example is the company set up by Congress to operate the communications satellite system. The UK Telephone and Telegraph Company is a partner in this venture along with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the Federal Communications Commission. The company has a board of three members appointed by the President, and it operates within guidelines specified by Congress in order to ensure operation in the public interest. It is not a public company like TVA because its stock is available to the public and to the communications carriers. Other examples of the close bond between the public and private spheres are the arrangements by which public agencies contract to have research and development work done by nongovernmental organizations; the full-time employment by government of individuals who remain on private salary; and the tendency of public regulatory commissions to promote the interests of the industries they are supposed to regulate in the public interest.

Thus the clear line of demarcation that previously could be drawn between the large Private Corporation and public agencies is becoming blurred. "Government has sought increasingly to use the private company for the performance of what are essentially public functions. Private corporations in turn . . . continually make decisions which impinge on the public policy of government. When this happens managers tend to take on the attitudes, motivations, goals, and administrative techniques of high-minded civil servants. This is another reason why the question of who owns the means of production in modern industrial society has lost much of its relevance. "The basic fact is the large company facing fundamentally similar problems, acts in fundamentally the same way, whether publicly or privately owned.

The burden of public obligation has been thrust upon the company and management by the long-run contradictory forces of industrialization, which concentrates economic power, and democracy, which diffuses political power. In earlier societies, either the worker had freedom based on his ownership of the means of production (e.g., the agricultural economy of America in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries) or he had neither freedom nor property (e.g., slavery and feudalism). In mid-twentieth-century America, men are personally and politically free, but for the most part they are property-less employees and economically dependent upon others who control their means of livelihood. They have instituted through political means certain safeguards against economic calamity, but there is no desire to completely collectivize economic life. to do so would go against the strong strain of individualism in the UK character. The result is an economic system somewhere between laissez faire and total economic planning. One of the key characteristics of the system is its reliance upon informal mechanisms to ensure compatibility between private and public objectives, rather than the formal use of force as in communistic societies.


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