Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Business as usual: The nonprofit sector in the U.S. national elite network
by Dolan, Scott V., Ph.D., State University of New York at Albany, 2011, 282; 3450595
Abstract (Summary)

Research on the structure and distribution of power in the United States has focused mostly on the relative power of business, and has largely neglected the nonprofit sector. This is despite evidence that points to the emergence and growth of large-scale, bureaucratic, and elite-led nonprofit organizations. When the political role of the nonprofit sector has been examined, it has come predominantly from two sets of literature: the civic engagement/social capital tradition or the interest group tradition. I argue that both sets of literature, however, start with faulty assumptions about the nature of power and politics, and thereby fail to situate large, national nonprofit organizations within the overall structure of power.

Using an elite theoretical approach to liberal democracy, my research rekindles debates between pluralist and power structure researchers through an examination of one type of elite interaction network—the interlocking directorate. I assess the structural integration, cohesion, and fragmentation of elite networks by conducting social network analyses on the Elite Directors Database II, a new dataset composed of directors and trustees for the largest corporations, foundations, public charities and think tanks in addition to individuals holding positions on federal advisory committees.

A comparison of the corporate sector to each nonprofit domain suggests that all of the networks have some level of integration, but that the corporate sector is the most integrated internally. Analyses of all organizations simultaneously suggest that major corporations and think tanks with centrist political ideologies are the most integrated, while only some public charities—namely arts and culture organizations and private universities—are integrated into the overall elite network. Largely peripheral and isolated are public charities working in the areas of health and human services. The final analyses show that corporations have disproportionate access to federal advisory committees, while humanitarian public charities have virtually no access to federal advisory committees.

Based on this research, I claim that when it comes to the distribution of power in the United States, the interests of many nonprofits are largely excluded and access is granted disproportionately to business—as usual.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Moore, Gwen
Commitee: Lachmann, Richard, Raffalovich, Larry E., Rethemeyer, R. Karl
School: State University of New York at Albany
Department: Sociology
School Location: United States -- New York
Source: DAI-A 72/07, Dissertation Abstracts International
Source Type: DISSERTATION
Subjects: Public policy, Social structure, Organizational behavior
Keywords: Democracy, Elites, Interlocking directorates, Nonprofit, Power, Social networks, United States
Publication Number: 3450595
ISBN: 978-1-124-59520-7
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