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Beyond Institutions-as-Structure: A Deeper Structural Perspective

  • William F. Grover
  • Joseph G. Peschek
Part of the The Evolving American Presidency Series book series (EAP)

Abstract

Woodrow Wilson had it right, up to a point. There is a structure of power—“the very structure and operation of society itself”—that lies beneath the distribution of governmental powers. His 1912 observation points to a flaw in the conventional structure-as-institutions approach adopted by mainstream political science.1 That approach privileges the institutional balance of power among the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government, often ignoring (or accepting as a “given”) the deeper structure of power within which institutions operate. Then, as now, serious analysis of the presidency would benefit from examining and questioning that power structure underlying the operation of governmental institutions. Wilson’s presidential campaign rhetoric above introduced a critique of the rise of giant corporations within the American political economy, monopoly power that came under attack in the Progressive Era with often harsh indictment:

The masters of the government of the United States are the combined capitalists and manufacturers of the United States. It is written over every intimate page of the records of Congress, it is written all through the history of conferences at the White House, that the suggestions of economic policy in this country have come from one source, not from many sources. The benevolent guardians, the kindhearted trustees who have taken the troubles of government off our hands, have become so conspicuous that almost anybody can write out a list of them.2

Keywords

Social Movement Transactional Leader Corporate Capital Governmental Power Business Confidence 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 1.
    Woodrow Wilson, The New Freedom, New York: Doubleday, 1913, p. 4.Google Scholar
  2. Some of the language and analysis of the structure of the presidency is from William F. Grover, The President as Prisoner, Albany, NY: SUNY, 1989.Google Scholar
  3. Other portions appeared previously in William F. Grover “Deep Presidency: Toward a Structural Theory of an Unsustainable Office in a Catastrophic World—Obama and Beyond,” New Political Science, 35, no. 3, September 2013, pp. 432–448.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    Wolfe, America’s Impasse. For a very readable account the decline of the long wave of US expansion and power after World War II, see Robert Reich, Aftershock: The Next Economy and America’s Future, New York: Vintage, 2011, particularly Chapters Three and Six.Google Scholar
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    Cass Sunstein, a senior White House advisor on regulatory reform, as quoted in Robert Kuttner, A Presidency in Peril: The Inside Story of Obama’s Promise, Wall Street’s Power, and the Struggle to Control our Economic Future, White River Junction, VT: Chelsea Green, 2010, pp. xvi–xvii.Google Scholar
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    David Harvey, “The Party of Wall Street Meets Its Nemesis,” quoted in Gary Olson, Empathy Imperiled: Capitalism, Culture, and the Brain, New York: Springer, 2013, p. 44.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© William F. Grover and Joseph G. Peschek 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • William F. Grover
  • Joseph G. Peschek

There are no affiliations available

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