Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy




The extent to which corporate power, in and of itself, is considered a problem in U.S. society is a function of the perceived role of the corporation in social, political, and economic structures. Recognition of the inordinate powers of large corporations in the social and political, as well as economic, institutions of the society serves as an impetus for the analysis of the structures and processes designed to control corporate activities. The structural and bureaucratic impediments to these control mechanisms are illustrated in the Ford Pinto case. The activities of the Ford Motor Company, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and judicial bodies provide the forum in which interrelationships among controlling bodies and the organizations to be controlled are addressed. Furthermore, the related issues of legitimacy of corporate and controlling powers, the role of the state in the economic sphere, and the role of economic organizations in the political sphere are explored within a model of society that allows recognition of major power differentials and the harm that may come from them.

In this research, the mechanisms designed for the control of corporations are examined for their contributions toward the social responsibility of large corporations. The reinforcements and contradictions in the network of control agencies are explicated and the effectiveness of the regulatory mechanism in the Ford case is assessed. The delineation of obstacles to the control of corporate actions within the case study afforded by the criminal prosecution and federal regulation of the Ford Motor Company illuminate political/economic and organizational relations in our society. While support is found for the view that power differentials are, to some extent, mitigated in the structure and processes of interactions between corporations and their controllers, this case study illustrates the form and extent of the advantages associated with corporate actors in these processes.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access

Included in

Sociology Commons