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

11 Professions in the Institutionalization of Business Rescue

Rescuing business was the central motif that ran through corporate bankrupty reforms in the United States and Britain. This much the two countries had in common. Their underlying accounts of business failure differed, as the British characteristically blamed the managers and the Americans blamed the economy. The solutions offered by reformers in either country also differed, as the British relied more on professional autonomy and discretion, while the Americans retained some confidence in managers. Even bankers, who preferred that businesses be "saved" by their private workouts, concurred that saving businesses through a reorganization moderated by bankruptcy law probably benefitted everyone more than liquidation of a business inside or outside of bankruptcy law.

If this was common ground, the ways to achieve business rehabilitation were neither self-evident nor unconflictual. Government departments and ministers, financial institutions, consumer agencies, judges and professors, practitioners and trade suppliers brought unique histories of precedent, experiences of practice, and visions of opportunity to inform their perspective on rescuing businesses. To help save businesses through statutory law was by no means a narrowly legalistic undertaking. Business rehabilitation rests upon complex social and economic dynamics. These processes widen the frame of bankruptcy reforms beyond legislative histories as they also enable us to extend theories of legal change, organizational power, and professional influence.

The bankruptcy reforms in England and the United States exist in a context of cross-cutting dynamics that have consequences for other sorts of statutory law-making. Statutory law-making in many fields, including financial legislation, can disturb property rights and unsettle work domains and who gets to control that work. Thus struggles over property rights become embroiled in negotiations and disputes over jurisdictional rights, a confounding of interests that becomes more acute as the jurisdictional stakes increase, and the resources for political mobilization of the claimant occupations also expand. Everyday bargaining over property and jurisdictional rights in the market differs substantially from infrequent meta-bargaining in politics. Markets and politics differ

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