We develop a conceptual model of the circulation of corporate control-the instability in formal authority at the top of large corporations. According to our model, chief executive officer (CEO) selection is both a political contest for the top executive position and an ideological struggle among members of the firm's political coalition over defining the corporate agenda and strategy. We apply the model to analyze the selection of functional backgrounds of 275 new CEOs in large U.S. manufacturing firms from 1981 to 1992. Results show that the circulation of control adds to previous explanations based on strategic contingencies and institutional isomorphism. Furthermore, we find evidence of an ideological and political obsolescence of financial CEOs and a change in the strategic contingencies that previously favored finance and the financial conception of control. Results suggest that conceptions of control are best understood as styles, rather than institutions, as these conceptions are neither taken for granted nor isomorphic across industries or the manufacturing sector, but are subject to sectoral variation, contestation, and change.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
- Sociology and Political Science
- Public Administration