Eyes on the Horizon? Fragmented elites and the short-term focus of the American corporation

Richard Benton, J. Adam Cobb

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Recent scholarship expresses concerns that U.S. corporations are too focused on short-term performance, undermining their long-term competitiveness. The authors examine how short-term strategies and performance, or short-termism, results from the dissolution of the American corporate elite network. They argue that the corporate board interlock network traditionally served as a collective resource that helped corporate elites to preserve their autonomy and control, mitigating short-termism. In recent years, changing board-appointment practices have fractured the board network, undermining its usefulness as a platform for collective action and exposing corporate leaders to short-term pressures. The authors develop and apply a cohesion metric for network managerialism, derived from theory and evidence in social-network scholarship. Using three indicators that capture short-termism earnings management and shareholder returns, the authors identify a structural basis for short-termism that links network-based resources to manag-ers’ decisions. The results highlight the benefits of the corporate elite network and illustrate unforeseen consequences of the network’s dissolution.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1631-1684
Number of pages54
JournalAmerican Journal of Sociology
Volume124
Issue number6
DOIs
StatePublished - May 1 2019

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corporation
elite
shareholder
group cohesion
collective behavior
resources
performance
competitiveness
social network
autonomy
leader
management
evidence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science

Cite this

Eyes on the Horizon? Fragmented elites and the short-term focus of the American corporation. / Benton, Richard; Cobb, J. Adam.

In: American Journal of Sociology, Vol. 124, No. 6, 01.05.2019, p. 1631-1684.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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