Mark Mizruchi, University of Michigan Departments of Sociology and Organizational Studies

Big Business and Political Power: The Benefits of Fragmentation


Winter 2021
Lecture Time: 
Friday, March 26, 2021 - 1:30pm to 3:00pm
Lecture Location: 


It is broadly accepted among political scientists, political sociologists, and social movement theorists that a unified group will have a higher probability of success than a group that experiences internal divisions or fragmentation. Similarly, it has been assumed that in a society with a relatively unified elite, the elite will experience disproportionately high benefits relative to the larger population. I take issue with this claim. In the mid-twentieth century, large American corporations exhibited a relatively high level of unity but the relative economic benefits accruing to the elite were at historic lows. In more recent years, American big business has become increasingly fragmented, yet the economic benefits that these elites have received have reached historic highs, and the average American’s standard of living has stagnated. Drawing on Padgett and Ansell, I introduce the concept of inadvertent robust action to explain how a relatively fragmented, disorganized elite can reap benefits that exceed those that its more unified counterparts experienced in an earlier era.

Recording & Additional Notes

Mark S. Mizruchi is the Robert Cooley Angell Collegiate Professor of Sociology, the Barger Family Professor of Organizational Studies, and Professor of Management and Organizations at the University of Michigan. He received his B.A. at Washington University (St. Louis) in 1975 and his Ph.D. at the State University of New York at Stony Brook in 1980. After several years as a statistical consultant at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, he became Assistant Professor of Sociology at Columbia University in 1987. He was promoted to Associate Professor at Columbia in 1989 and moved to Michigan as Professor in 1991.

Mizruchi's research has focused on the economic and political behavior of large American corporations using the methods of social network analysis. He has also published articles on circadian rhythms of blood minerals in humans, substance abuse among psychiatric inpatients, and two (scholarly) papers on professional basketball teams. His publications include four books and more than 100 articles and reviews. His book, The Fracturing of the American Corporate Elite (Harvard University Press, 2013), received the George R. Terry Book Award from the Academy of Management and the Distinguished Contribution to Scholarship Book Award from the Political Sociology Section of the American Sociological Association. He has received fellowships from the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences and the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, a Presidential Young Investigator Award from the National Science Foundation, and two teaching awards from the University of Michigan.