Conceptualizing the role of Politics in the Economy: Industries and their Institutionalisations

Type de publication:



Gedi Working Papers (2009)




Recent literature on the persistence or transformation of economic models frequently evokes the role of politics. However, such publications rarely set out precisely what politics is and how it plays out within specific sites of economic activity, particularly individual industries. In order to show that politics is the cause of both change within industries and difference between them, this article develops an institutionalist framework of analysis which seeks to elucidate the ‘thickness’ of the relationship between economic and political activities. Politics is first conceptualized in a way that opens up for research the emergence and evolution of the institutions which constrain and make industrial activity possible: behaviour that both discursively and interactively seeks to change or reproduce institutions by mobilizing values. Building upon existing institutionalist approaches in political economy and economic sociology, but also constructivist strands of political science, this definition is then used to set out a research design with which to conduct in-depth empirical study of the ‘political work’ undertaken within industries that lie behind perpetual processes of institutionalisation. This work, and the intermediary concepts developed to study it -problematization and politicization- are illustrated throughout the piece by examples from two industries: automobile distribution and wine.