Figurations of Power: Multiplex Political Network Fields in Japan, the US and Germany

Monday, 16 July 2018: 15:45
Oral Presentation
Jeffrey BROADBENT, University of Minnesota, USA
The original “social question” of industrial society arose from strife between labor and capital, and how the state should respond. Concerning the governance and outcomes of labor politics (@1988), the USA, Germany and Japan had bent those tensions into very different institutional formations contestedly described as business-pluralist (USA), democratic corporatist (Germany) and state-centric (Japan). This paper advances beyond this institutional perspective. It examines the circulation of influence through political networks at the meso, inter-organizational level (about 120 organizations per case). This detailed analysis shows how the distribution of influence and sources of power overflow institutional descriptions and require new theoretical language. Borrowing from Elias and Bourdieu, the three cases can be seen as three distinct figurations each composed of interactions among four distinct network fields. Each network consists of a distinct medium of relationship: expected reciprocity, vital information, public political support and administrative work for others. Cross-case differences in figurations, fields and interactions indicate influence from surprising angles; for instance, a scatter-shot distribution of information in the US, a prominent reciprocity network in Japan centered on a single ministerial agency, and a breakdown of class divisions in Germany due to legalization of rights. The final section discusses the implications of these findings for the operation of the three cases as governance systems. It also speculates on the social origins of these differences. It concludes that they emerged through an historical process shaped not just by the clash of raw interests, the strictures of formal institutions or situational contingencies (such as the Occupations). Also, they emerged due to the effect of embedded relational schema and network patterns, validated by cultural identities, that shaped the parameters of struggle and the social control strategies of contending parties. The findings highlight the importance, in the investigation of macro-power, of including these latter socio-cultural factors.