Rescuing Business: The Making of Corporate Bankruptcy Law in England and the United States

By Bruce G. Carruthers; Terence C. Halliday | Go to book overview
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3 The Structure of Influence in Bankruptcy Law-making

Political influence in law-making arrays along two dimensions. Lawmaking has a temporal structure: it unfolds along a time line. At first blush, this observation appears obvious to the point of triteness. Closer examination, however, reveals that how events unfold through time produces opportunities and introduces constraints that variously benefit those actors with the power to set and unset agendas. Time is a resource that can be manipulated by prolonging a reform cycle or speeding it up, by widening or narrowing agendas, by adding or subtracting stages, or by including or excluding participants at different moments.1

Law-making also has a political structure: it configures political actors in ways that broaden or narrow the range and profiles of interests brought to bear on issues in the political arena. The political structure emerges from negotiations among actors who seek access to the decision-making process, between actors that have conflicting or coinciding interests, among civil servants, government agencies, legislators, and private organizations, and between experts and generalists. The power to configure those political interests significantly determines both the form and content of the outcomes.

This chapter examines the interplay of temporal and political structures in the reform of bankruptcy law. We begin by sketching a general macro-economic context that itself framed the terms of debate and set the range of options available to English and American lawmakers. Holding this particular historical moment constant, we present some influential social science theories that seek to explain which actors have the highest probability of coming out ahead, and which political and economic struggles are most likely to dominate on the road to statutory enactment. With these economic and sociological contexts in place, we outline the main events and the primary actors who crafted the 1978 Bankruptcy Code and the Insolvency Act 1986. The chapter concludes with a theoretical stock-taking on theories and structures of influence.

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1
For an interpretation of the bankruptcy reforms as episodes of agenda-setting, see Carruthers and Halliday ( 1990). More generally, see Kingdon ( 1984).

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