Elite collective action and social networks : influences on corporate political donations to the Conservative Party, 1992-97
This dissertation explores the social factors influencing large British corporations' decisions
to make a donation to the Conservative Party. The largest 250 British Corporations in the
1995 financial year were selected and the donations they made over the 1992-1997
parliament were examined. It is contended in the thesis that the decision to make a donation
resembles the contribution to a public good. As a consequence it is not necessarily
individually rational to make a donation. The probability of making a donation is increased if
a corporation has social capital. Interlocking directorates, social club ties, school ties and
attribute variables were explored as examples of social capital.
The analyses demonstrated that social factors had greater impact on the decision to make a
donation than purely attributional variables. Each of the relational variables had an influence.
The various findings were unified by the association of school and club ties with issues of
identity formation and political preference, and interlocking directorates with issues of
control and influence. These findings contrast with inner circle theories where issues of
identity and control arise simultaneously from more bureaucratic organisational factors.
Ultimately, the findings lend strong support to elite theories that hypothesise that corporate
political behaviour has a strong class basis.