Business, state, and community: 'responsible risk takers', New Labour, and the governance of corporate business

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Wilson, G (2000)

In December 1998, Peter Mandelson MP, one of the principal architects of the Labour Party’s victory in the May 1997 general election, dramatically resigned as Secretary of State for Trade and Industry. Nevertheless, despite his relatively brief period in that office, Mr. Mandelson left his imprint on policy through the publication in November 1998 of a major White Paper, ‘Our Competitive Future: Building the Knowledge Driven Economy’. The White Paper sets out the New Labour analysis of the national political economy in a globalized world economy and is very much influenced by Mr. Mandelson’s experience of the entrepreneurial spirit during his fact-finding visit to the United States of America. This article seeks to chart the relationship between New Labour’s desire to foster the development of the corporate sector within a vibrant entrepreneurial culture and the need to ensure that the integrity of the market is preserved in an arena which is seen as inimicable to strong regulatory intervention by the state. As well as mapping New Labour’s political rhetoric onto contemporary debates in corporate governance, the analysis will involve an examination of the interface between business practice and morality. In particular, the article will focus upon the role of the conception of company directors as ‘responsible risk takers’ and the upon the use of name-and-shame sanctions in the development of an entrepreneurial culture in which all corporate enterprises are seen as having a legitimate societal ‘licence to operate’.
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    6. Cf. N. Bobbio, Left and Right ( 1996 ) and W. Hutton, Marxism Today ( 1998 ) 34 who argue that

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