Store wars: The enactment and repeal of anti-chain-store legislation in America

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Citation: Paul Ingram, Hayagreeva Rao (2004) Store wars: The enactment and repeal of anti-chain-store legislation in America. The American Journal of Sociology (RSS)
DOI (original publisher): 10.2307/3568223
Semantic Scholar (metadata): 10.2307/3568223
Sci-Hub (fulltext): 10.2307/3568223
Internet Archive Scholar (fulltext): Store wars: The enactment and repeal of anti-chain-store legislation in America
Tagged: Sociology (RSS) social movements (RSS), organization theory (RSS), institutionalism (RSS)

Summary (Abstract)

Chain stores were created in the early part of the twentieth century, received fierce resistance, had many states pass laws outlawing them, and then saw those laws repealed. Ingram and Rao provide a sociological account, and analysis, of the enactment and repeal of chain store legislation. Their analysis focuses on the social movement literature but focus on the way that institutional helped influence the outcomes. In both cases, the state had to be involved in the delegitimation and legitimation of the chain store organizational form. Ingram and Rao argue that although neo-institutionalists as early as DiMaggio and Powell and Meyer and Rowan established that isomorphic pressure was often influenced, that theorists know very little about how this happens. They offer the example of chain store legislation as a way of understanding one example of how this happens.

They frame their argument in both the social movement literature and the institutional literature and build explicitly off of Rao 1998's Caveat emptor: The construction of nonprofit consumer watchdog organizations which occupies a similar theoretical place.

This story, however, looks more at the way that formal laws are influenced (e.g., Gusfield's Symbolic crusade: Status politics and the American temperance movement on the temperance movement) and the interaction between different types of interest groups and with a tact that looks more like a resource mobilization perspective from social movements. In particular, they describe the way that chain stores were able to take advantage of cooperative agricultural interests and retain worker unions which the chain stores will essentially willing to cut deals with in order to bring additional resources to their own attempt to create legitimacy for their form.

They offer a series of formal hypotheses:

  • 1a: The rate of anti-chain legislative outcomes will increase with the number of independent stores in a state.
  • 1b: The rate of pro-chain legislative outcomes will increase with the number of chain stores in the state.
  • 2: The rate of anti-chain legislative outcomes will increase with the degree of segment homogeneity of independents in a state.
  • 3: The rate of pro-chain legislative outcomes will increase with the number of retail workers in the state.
  • 4a: The rate of anti-chain legislative outcomes will increase with the size of of non-cooperative agricultural interests in a state.
  • 4b: The rate of pro-chain legislative outcomes will increase with the size of of cooperative agricultural interests in a state.

They also offer a series of hypotheses about interstate diffusion:

  • 5a: Legislative contention will do more to promote anti-chain store outcomes in other states when the anti-chain store forces in the state are higher.
  • 5b: Legislative contention will do more to promote pro-chain store outcomes in other states when the pro-chain store forces in the state are higher.
  • 6: Susceptibility of a state to influence by action in other states will decrease with the degree of segment homogeneity in the focal state.
  • 7: Pro-chain store legislative outcomes will increase with Supreme Court decisions striking down anti-chain-store legislation.

The hypotheses using a dataset assembled by the authors associated with different years and states and with legislative information. The two dependent variables are the passage of pro- or anti- chain-store legislation.

Hypotheses 4a and 4b are not supported. Indeed, the results show an asymmetry asymmetry in that the number of independents influenced the the anti-chain store but that repeal "happened on the chain store's turf". Essentially, chains were able to use their national networks to use supra-state organizations and structure to enact legislation at that level, but their opponents, operating at the within-state level, were much less effective at influencing outcomes.

The authors suggest that the relationship between the chain and independent effort can be associated with the (often unexplored) distinction between interest groups and social movements -- the former are without organization.

Theoretical and Practical Relevance

Ingram and Rao's article has been cited more than 50 times in the 6 years since it's publication. It is frequently used as a citation in the growing sociological literature on markets and movements.