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Volume 17, Issue 3 (Oct 2015)


Structural power and political science in the post-crisis era

Pepper D. Culpepper
  • Corresponding author
  • European University Institute, San Domenico, Italy
  • Email:
Published Online: 2015-08-22 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/bap-2015-0031


This essay highlights productive ways in which scholars have reanimated the concept of structural power to explain puzzles in international and comparative politics. Past comparative scholarship stressed the dependence of the state on holders of capital, but it struggled to reconcile this supposed dependence with the frequent losses of business in political battles. International relation (IR) scholars were attentive to the power of large states, but mainstream IR neglected the ways in which the structure of global capitalism makes large companies international political players in their own right. To promote a unified conversation between international and comparative political economy, structural power is best conceptualized as a set of mutual dependencies between business and the state. A new generation of structural power research is more attentive to how the structure of capitalism creates opportunities for some companies (but not others) vis-à-vis the state, and the ways in which that structure creates leverage for some states (but not others) to play off companies against each other. Future research is likely to put agents – both states and large firms – in the foreground as political actors, rather than showing how the structure of capitalism advantages all business actors in the same way against non-business actors.


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About the article

Corresponding author: Pepper D. Culpepper, European University Institute, San Domenico, Italy, e-mail:

Published Online: 2015-08-22

Published in Print: 2015-10-01

Citation Information: Business and Politics, ISSN (Online) 1469-3569, ISSN (Print) 1369-5258, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/bap-2015-0031. Export Citation

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Kevin Young
Business and Politics, 2015, Volume 17, Number 3

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