Date of Award

12-2012

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts

Major

Sociology

Major Professor

Robert E. Jones

Committee Members

Jon Shefner, Paul K. Gellert

Abstract

Business actors have historically been an important point of discussion for environmental sociologists. However, theoretical assumptions of business as an environmental actor provide divergent understandings of business’s role in environmental problems, politics, and improvements. Also, empirical studies of business actors primarily examine how individual firms or industry-funded organizations participate in specific environmental controversies or in the attempted implementation of specific environmental policies. Although these approaches have been instrumental in understanding the roles power, privilege, and resources play in environmental politics, they present an understanding of business engagement in environmental issues as reactionary rather than sustained. Such a characterization neglects the long-term political strategies of business entities in environmental politics. A more comprehensive understanding of business political engagement, particularly of the organizations, claims, and tactics these actors use in environmental politics and how these change or remain the same over time, is needed to help clarify and evolve theoretical assumptions and empirical examinations of business actors.

Taking the case of a coal industry-funded organization, currently known as the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, this study documents how a group of business actors in the coal industry organized and engaged in environmental politics over a 15-year period. Findings suggest these business actors collectively organized and pursued a political strategy of protection of their interests and positive promotion of their products and processes.

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