Many societies use labor market coordination to maximize economic growth and equality, yet employers' willing cooperation with government and labor is something of a mystery. The Political Construction of Business Interests recounts employers' struggles to define their collective social identities at turning points in capitalist development. Employers are most likely to support social investments in countries with strong peak business associations, that help members form collective preferences and realize policy goals in labor market negotiations. Politicians, with incentives shaped by governmental structures, took the initiative in association-building and those that created the strongest associations were motivated to evade labor radicalism and to preempt parliamentary democratization. Sweeping in its historical and cross-national reach, the book builds on original archival data, interviews, and cross-national quantitative analyses. The research has important implications for the construction of business as a social class and powerful ramifications for equality, welfare state restructuring and social solidarity.


  • Winner of the David Greenstone outstanding book prize
    the Politics and History section
    of the American Political Science Association
  • Reviewed by Andrew Moravcsik
    Foreign Affairs (November/December 2012)

  • Roundtable Review. Perspectives on Europe. Council for European Studies. Fall 2012.

. Review Symposium. Socio-Economics Review. 11 (2013): 795-804.







Few contemporary debates generate as much heat as that over human capital investment policy, yet little attention has been paid to how managers form their opinions in this important realm. Stuck in Neutral fills this void with a journey into the world of corporate deliberations, offering startling and counterintuitive observations. Most large employers want more government assistance in human capital investment (training, health, and work/family) policies. Company policy exerts put these issues on the corporate agenda using the strategic tools of social activists. This considerable corporate interest stopped short of tangible support for recent social initiatives for a surprising reason: large employers are poorly-equipped to act on shared collective social concerns. The vacuum in big business leadership is being filled by small business associations, who are working to enact two-tiered regulatory systems with different rules for small firms.

Stuck in Neutral makes a major contribution to academic studies, promising to become a landmark in the under-explored area of business preferences for social policy. This creative application of historical institutionalism to managers avoids the parallel pitfalls of economic reductionism and isomorphism found in most investigations of corporate political action. With a rare blend of research methods, subjecting hundreds of in-depth interviews to quantitative analysis, Martin claims the certainty of the statistician and the intimate knowledge of the anthropologist. This lively discourse also offers a fresh take on the future of social policy. To those advocating centralist coalitions for new social initiatives, Martin provides an essential understanding of managerial preferences yet points out that those least likely to support social initiatives are the real corporate powerhouse in Washington today.


"A masterful analysis of business and government that adds up to an
explanation of American social policy-past, present, and future. Cathie Jo
Martin describes the institutional dynamics of corporate politics while
eloquently catching the voices and the aspirations of business men and
women. Stuck in Neutral is wise, balanced, engaging, persuasive,
theoretically sophisticated, and entirely unexpected in its conclusions."
-James A. Morone, Brown University

"Cathie Jo Martin's Stuck in Neutral is a brilliantly researched
study of the development of the policy preferences of American businesses
and business influence on public policy. Its well documented conclusions on
the determinants of variation in the policy orientation of businesses
challenge basic assumptions of both rational choice and class analytic
approaches in social science and make it essential reading not only for
those interested in public policy but also for all political scientists and
sociologists interested in these central theoretical disputes in the
---John D. Stephens, University of North Carolina

"A vital and highly original book for all political scientists
working on business and politics or interest groups in general. Martin shows
that we cannot simply deduce what corporations' interests or political
objectives are; in this important and original study she shows instead that
the policy goals and tactics of corporations are themselves constructed in a
complex political process. This book is a model of how empirical research
and theory can be brought together."
-Graham K. Wilson, University of Wisconsin, Madison

American Business and Political Power: Public Opinion, Elections and Democracy by Mark A.Smith; Stuck in Neutral: Business and the Politics of Human Capital Investment by Cathie Jo Martin; Does Business Learn? by Sandra I. Suarez. Review by: Graham K. Wilson. Journal of Policy Analysis and Management 20 (4 Autumn 2001): 790-794

Stuck in Neutral: Business and the Politics of Human Capital Investment Policy by Cathie Jo Martin. Review by: Sandra L. Suárez The American Political Science Review 94 (4 Dec., 2000): 951-952.