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Joshua Murray

Associate Professor of Sociology
Director of Graduate Studies
Affiliated Faculty, Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions

How has corporate elite agency shaped the structures in which both elites and workers operate; how can collective worker agency can take advantage of those structures to win major concessions from capitalists; and in what ways do existing structures constrain and/or facilitate elite agency?

My research focuses on corporate elites and class conflict. The scope of my work is broad and encompasses many different cases, including federal campaign finance, ballot initiatives, and the production decisions of the auto industry. The shared point of departure for all my research projects is an abiding interest in the interaction of structure and agency in class conflict. One line of research is concerned with questions revolving around the political behavior of the corporate elite and has appeared in the American Journal of Sociology, Social Problems, Sociological Perspectives, and Global Networks. I find that, despite long-term structural changes to the economy, corporate elite political unity persists due to the influence of different elite social and organizational networks that encourage consensus building around class-wide interests.

My second line of research focuses on the role of class conflict in the decline of U.S. manufacturing. The culmination of my past work on this project is the recently published (June 2019 by the Russell Sage Foundation) book, Wrecked: How the American Automobile Industry Destroyed Its Capacity to Compete, co-authored with Michael Schwartz. Wrecked is animated by a puzzle: how did US Auto, once the largest, most prosperous industry in the richest, most powerful country in human history, find itself on the verge of bankruptcy? We solve this puzzle by offering an historical sociological analysis of the downfall of the auto industry. Through an in-depth examination of labor relations and the production processes of automakers in the U.S. and Japan both before and after World War II, we demonstrate that the decline of the American manufacturers was the unintended consequence of their attempts to weaken the power of their workers.