Solidarity in Strategy

Making Business Meaningful in American Trade Associations


Popular conceptions hold that capitalism is driven almost entirely by the pursuit of profit and self-interest. Challenging that assumption, this major new study of American business associations shows how market and non-market relations are actually profoundly entwined at the heart of capitalism.

In Solidarity in Strategy, Lyn Spillman draws on rich documentary archives and a comprehensive data set of more than four thousand trade associations from diverse and obscure corners of commercial life to reveal a busy and often surprising arena of American economic activity. From the Intelligent Transportation Society to the American Gem Trade Association, Spillman explains how business associations are more collegial than cutthroat, and how they make capitalist action meaningful not only by developing shared ideas about collective interests but also by articulating a disinterested solidarity that transcends those interests.

Deeply grounded in both economic and cultural sociology, Solidarity in Strategy provides rich, lively, and often surprising insights into the world of business, and leads us to question some of our most fundamental assumptions about economic life and how cultural context influences economic.

  • University of Chicago Press; July 2012
  • ISBN 9780226769554
  • Read online, or download in secure PDF format
  • Title: Solidarity in Strategy
  • Author: Lyn Spillman
  • Imprint: University of Chicago Press

In The Press

“Lyn Spillman does for trade associations what Alexis de Tocqueville did for civic ones, carefully investigating a wide range of associations in the United States—with surprising results. In describing how these associations band members together and give rise to group identities, Solidarity in Strategy breaks new ground in the discussion of the cultures of capitalism.”
— Frederick Wherry, University of Michigan

Solidarity in Strategy makes a very powerful argument that if we want to understand economic phenomena, we have to look at them from the perspective of culture. Readers from many different disciplines—sociology, political science and economics—will learn from and enjoy this important book.”
— Richard Swedberg, Cornell University

“This is a path-breaking study of American trade associations that significantly enriches our understanding of contemporary economic life. Based on a tremendous empirical undertaking, Spillman defies the assumption that self-interest and profit-seeking exhaustively define what business is all about, as she makes important strides in advancing both economic sociology and the sociology of culture."
— Nina Bandelj, University of California, Irvine

“Lyn Spillman powerfully clarifies how ‘economic interest’ is filtered through cultural understandings of solidarity and moral obligation. Illuminating the extraordinary range and activities of business trade associations, she has created a new subject for contemporary social science. Solidarity in Strategy is a major work.”

— Jeffrey Alexander, Yale University

About The Author

Lyn Spillman is associate professor of sociology at the University of Notre Dame. A 2001 Guggenheim Fellowship recipient, she is also the author of Nation and Commemoration: Creating National Identities in the United States and Australia and the editor of Cultural Sociology.