Business Elites and Populism: Understanding Business Responses

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This article analyses the challenges to business associated with the rise of right-wing populism. It discusses how the populist turn has weakened key underpinnings of business power in the neoliberal era, notably the prevalence of quiet politics and network governance. This article analyses the complex strategic dilemmas these challenges create for business. Extending Hirschman’s classic model of exit, voice and loyalty, it develops a novel typology of five business responses to the rise of populism: exit, soft voice, loud voice, explicit loyalty and implicit loyalty. The extended typology highlights two key dilemmas related to the appropriate degree of engagement with politics which business faces in the populist era and which are reflected in the contrast between two types of voice and loyalty. The article analyses the factors shaping which strategy businesses are likely to choose and reflects on the broader implications of this analysis for state-business relations and business power.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)347-359
Number of pages13
JournalNew Political Economy
Issue number2
Early online date31 Aug 2021
Publication statusPublished - 21 Feb 2022

Bibliographical note

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© 2021 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.


  • business and populism
  • business power
  • state-business relations
  • exit, voice and loyalty


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