Stuck in Neutral: Business and the Politics of Human Capital Investment Policy

By Cathie Jo Martin | Go to book overview

SIX
UNITED WE STAND:
CORPORATE ENGAGEMENT WITH
TRAINING POLICY

AMERICAN BUSINESS, with its entrenched factions, at times is reminiscent of the Balkans, yet corporate dissension is not a constant. Although employer associations experience general difficulty in imposing order on their members' demands, managers seem to find common ground in some areas of policy. The occasional truce brings moments of respite, when business factions suspend their turf battles to attend to common interests. Fragmentation in the business community, like ethnic affiliation, may indicate the fault lines of antagonism; however, this general pattern tells us little about the ebb and flow of conflict.

Whence come these moments of relative unity, when employers pursue common goals? To some extent corporate coalescence represents the quirky accidents of fate that often seem essential to success: leadership, environmental urgency, and a greater willingness of participants to come together for the sake of action.

But collective business political activism also reflects the corporate policy capacity within a policy area. Some areas have greater policy capacity than others and deviate from the least-common-denominator politics generally prevalent among American business. A critical component is the presence of policy-level organizations that help employers to formulate a political position and to advance that position during legislative episodes. These policy-level associations may dominate the issue, resemble peak associations within their narrow field, and enjoy formal or informal recognition as the legitimate representatives for their concerns. The usual least-common-denominator politics of business becomes most vivid when suspended by these policy-level groups.

Help in organizing business can come from surprising quarters, in the form of political leadership. At times presidents and other political leaders set out to bring together diverse parts of the business community to support legislative programs. In some cases these coalitions have been institutionalized into enduring business organizations with a broad reach and a commitment to making things happen. Politicians can thereby unify factions that would otherwise remain disparate; these political interventions

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