The Politicization of Corporations: The Case of the World Economic Forum

Christina Garsten, Adrienne Sörbom

    Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperResearchpeer-review


    This paper departs from an interest in the involvement of business leaders in the sphere of politics, in the broad sense. At a general level, we are seeing a proliferation of usages of non-market corporate strategies, such as testimony, lobbying, interlocking of positions and other means to influence policymakers at all levels of government and international institutions as an adjunct to the firm’s market strategies. This paper brings to the fore the role of corporations in the World Economic Forum (WEF), and how firms act through the WEF to advance their interests, financial as well as political. What is the role of business in the WEF, and how do business corporations advance their interests through the WEF? Empirically we depart from ethnographic field studies of the World Economic Forum, drawing on observations from WEF-events and interviews with participants and organizers. We propose that corporations find a strategically positioned amplifier for their non-market interests in the WEF. The WEF functions to enhance and gain leverage for their ideas and priorities in a highly selective and resourceful environment. In the long run, both the market priorities and the political interests of business may be served by engagement in the WEF. By way of corporate financial resources, the tapping of knowledge and expertise, and access to vast networks of business relations, the WEF is also able to amplify its own voice and agency in the field of global governance.
    Original languageEnglish
    Publication date2014
    Publication statusPublished - 2014
    EventThe American Anthropological Association Annual Meeting 2014 - Marriott Wardman Park, Washington, DC, United States
    Duration: 2 Dec 20147 Dec 2014
    Conference number: 113


    ConferenceThe American Anthropological Association Annual Meeting 2014
    LocationMarriott Wardman Park
    Country/TerritoryUnited States
    CityWashington, DC
    Internet address

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