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The Politics of Capitalist Class Segments: A Test of Corporate Liberalism Theory

Val Burris and James Salt
Social Problems
Vol. 37, No. 3 (Aug., 1990), pp. 341-359
DOI: 10.2307/800747
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/800747
Page Count: 19
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The Politics of Capitalist Class Segments: A Test of Corporate Liberalism Theory
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Abstract

Theorists of corporate liberalism hypothesize a split within the capitalist class between a liberal segment, variously described as large, monopolistic, internationally oriented, capital intensive, or "yankee," and a more conservative segment, described as small, competitive, domestically oriented, labor intensive, or "cowboy." Using data on political contributions by U. S. corporations and corporate elites between 1956 and 1982, we find little evidence of such a split within the capitalist class. During this period corporate elites exhibited a strong preference for conservative candidates, with little variation along the dimensions emphasized by corporate liberalism theory. Support for a rightward shift in U. S. state policy in the late 1970s and early 1980s was as equal, if not greater, among segments of the capitalist class that corporate liberalism theory labels as "liberal" as among those that it labels as "conservative." Whatever validity this theory of class segments may have had in earlier years, it provides a very poor map of political cleavages within the capitalist class during the last quarter century.

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