Cooperation and Collusion: The Social Ambivalence of Lobbying in America
Social embeddedness and social norms have been shown to matter in a host of situations: the garment industry (Uzzi 1996), corporate finance (Uzzi and Gillespie 2002), North African bazaars (Geertz 1978), rotating credit associations (Anthony 2005), the Sicilian mafia (Gambetta 1993), natural resource management (Ostrom 1990), and cattle ranching (Ellickson 1991), to name a few. Embeddedness and social norms in these situations provide actors with better information and reduce an actor?s exposure to opportunism. The policy process also can be thought of as a collective action problem for which one solution is the use of trust-based norms of cooperation and reciprocity (Heckathorn 1996; Anthony 2005). Gaps in the formal institutions of government provide ample opportunity for informal interaction (Amenta et al., 1992). As a result, a significant portion of lobbying is informal in nature. Lobbyists provide a variety of informal resources and services, including information, feedback, and ?kitchen cabinet? activities (e.g., drafting of legislative and regulatory language). This research project makes two claims regarding informal lobbying. First, embedded social relationships and trust-based social norms enable and underpin everyday policy interactions among lobbyists and politicians. Second, these same social relationships and norms inhibit participation in the political process by outside actors. This research focuses on the role of trust-based social norms that govern informal interactions within networked communities of lobbyists: that such networks of trust are neither all good nor all bad but are ambiguous in that they can improve policy making and fuel collusion. I study a particular policy domain of 392 lobbying organizations over a seven-year time period using quantitative data, network measures, and interviews with lobbyists, activists, and policymakers. In summary, I find that a policy domain can be characterized by a set of durable and ?thick? relations that provide benefits in everyday lobbying activity, particularly with regard to joint activity and perceived influence. However, these same embedded relations are often perceived as collusive by outsiders, and outsiders incorporate these perceptions in the policy claims that they make. The study concludes with a note on the influence on risk perceptions and the social ambivalence of lobbying.
My dissertation research was supported by a National Science Foundation Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant program (SES-0602388).
lobbying; social networks; norms; pensions; trust; coalitions
dissertation or thesis