A Neo-Gramscian Approach to Corporate Political Strategy: Conflict and Accommodation in the Climate Change Negotiations


Address for reprints: David L. Levy, Associate Professor, Department of Management, University of Massachusetts, Boston, Boston, Massachusetts 02125, USA (David.Levy@umb.edu).


ABSTRACT  A neo-Gramscian theoretical framework for corporate political strategy is developed drawing from Gramsci's analysis of the relations among capital, social forces, and the state, and from more contemporary theories. Gramsci's political theory recognizes the centrality of organizations and strategy, directs attention to the organizational, economic, and ideological pillars of power, while illuminating the processes of coalition building, conflict, and accommodation that drive social change. This approach addresses the structure-agency relationship and endogenous dynamics in a way that could enrich institutional theory. The framework suggests a strategic concept of power, which provides space for contestation by subordinate groups in complex dynamic social systems. We apply the framework to analyse the international negotiations to control emissions of greenhouse gases, focusing on the responses of firms in the US and European oil and automobile industries. The neo-Gramscian framework explains some specific features of corporate responses to challenges to their hegemonic position and points to the importance of political struggles within civil society. The analysis suggests that the conventional demarcation between market and non-market strategies is untenable, given the embeddedness of markets in contested social and political structures and the political character of strategies directed toward defending and enhancing markets, technologies, corporate autonomy and legitimacy.