Sociologický časopis
Czech sociological review


The Czech Sociological Review is announcing a Call for Abstracts for a thematic issue in English on: ‘Private actors in politics and policy-making'

Guest editor: Jana Vargovčíková, Charles University in Prague / Université Paris Ouest Nanterre La Défense

Planned issue: Sociologický časopis / Czech Sociological Review 54 (6), December 2018

In recent decades a body of literature has documented the growing involvement of private actors in politics and policy-making at different levels of government. In literature this has been seen as related to changes in modes of governance towards more horizontality and flexibility (Hall and Biersteker 2002; Stone 2013; Peters 2009), but also to the state’s changing regulatory modes and capacities (Majone 1994; Lascoumes and Le Galès 2007). This issue of the Czech Sociological Review will reflect on what these changes mean for making the distinction between the private and public spheres, and will do so based on empirical research on the actors and practices that transcend the frontiers between the two.

The social sciences have traditionally used the term ‘interest group’, rooted in the pluralist tradition, to study the ambitions of private actors in influencing politics. The term itself presupposes a distinction between the public and private spheres and often also the existence of a pre-political ‘interest’. In the face of a growing diversity of actors undertaking political activities (e.g. individual companies, think-tanks, hybrid networks of companies, and NGOs), some suggest that the definition of the term ‘interest group’ should be expanded to encompass this diverse section of actors (Gray and Lowery 1996; Saurugger 2004). Others highlight the specific nature of the role that companies (Mclaughlin, Jordan, and Maloney 1993; Coen 1997; Hart 2008; Ciepley 2013), lobbyists (Heinz et al. 1993; Kersh 2002; Michel 2005; Courty and Michel 2012), and lawyers (Vauchez 2015) play as actors in politics. Still, the distinction between the private and the public spheres remains the analytical ground shared by all these researches. Private actors thus often continue to be seen as external to policy-making, as qualitatively incommensurable with actors that represent the people and the state, and their activities thus continue to be studied in terms of influence, leaving the monopoly of symbolic power with the state.

What, however, is the epistemic value of such a distinction today? How does it still help to understand policy-making processes or the transformations of government? To examine whether an adjustment of our conceptual apparatus is necessary and, if so, what that might look like, this thematic issue invites papers based on original empirical research in sociology and political science. The questions to be dealt with in the papers may include but are not limited to the following:

  • How has the involvement of private actors impacted the development of policy in particular areas (education, urban security, environmental policies, etc.)?
  • What role have public actors played in the involvement of private actors in politics and policy-making?
  • What role do intermediaries such as consultants, lobbyists, lawyers, or advisors play in the management of crossovers between the private and public spheres (taken as analytical categories)?
  • How do policy-making actors themselves represent and articulate these boundaries and categories? What sort of boundary work in relation to the public-private dichotomy are they involved in?
  • What productive analytical alternatives might there be to the dichotomy of the public and private spheres in the empirical study of today’s politics and policy-making?


The deadline for the submission of abstracts (300–500 words) is 31 January 2017. The abstracts must be submitted directly to the guest editor – – who will inform authors as to whether their abstract has been selected by 20 February 2017. Full-text papers will be expected no later than 31 October 2017.

For author guidelines see



Ciepley, David. 2013. ‘Beyond Public and Private: Toward a Political Theory of the Corporation.’ American Political Science Review 107 (1): 139–58.

Coen, David. 1997. ‘The Evolution of the Large Firm as a Political Actor in the European Union.’ Journal of European Public Policy 4 (1): 91–108.

Courty, Guillaume, and Hélène Michel. 2012. ‘Groupes D’intérêt et Lobbyistes Dans L’espace Politique Européen: Des Permanents de L’eurocratie.’ In Le Champ de l’Eurocratie. Une Sociologie Politique Du Personnel de l’UE, edited by Didier Georgakakis, Etudes politiques, 213–40. Paris: Economica.

Donahue, John D., and Richard J. Zeckhauser. 2006. ‘Public-Private Collaboration.’ In The Oxford Handbook of Public Policy, edited by Michael Moran, Martin Rein, and Robert E. Goodin, 496–525. New York: Oxford University Press.

Gray, Virginia, and David Lowery. 1996. The Population Ecology of Interest Representation: Lobbying Communities in the American States. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.

Green, Jessica F. 2013. Rethinking Private Authority: Agents and Entrepreneurs in Global Environmental Governance. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Hall, Rodney Bruce, and Thomas J. Biersteker. 2002. The Emergence of Private Authority in Global Governance. Cambridge University Press.

Hart, David M. 2008. ‘The Political Theory of the Firm.’ SSRN Scholarly Paper ID 1406640. Rochester, NY: Social Science Research Network.

Heinz, John P., Edward O. Laumann, Robert L. Nelson, and Robert H. Salisbury. 1993. The Hollow Core: Private Interests in National Policy Making. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press.

Kersh, Rogan. 2002. ‘Corporate Lobbyists as Political Actors: A View from the Field.’ In Interest Group Politics, 225–48. Washington: CQ Press.

Lascoumes, Pierre, and Patrick Le Galès. 2007. ‘Introduction: Understanding Public Policy through Its Instruments—From the Nature of Instruments to the Sociology of Public Policy Instrumentation.’ Governance 20 (1): 1–21.

Majone, Giandomenico. 1994. ‘The Rise of the Regulatory State in Europe.’ West European Politics 17 (3): 77–101. doi:10.1080/01402389408425031.

Mclaughlin, Andrew m., Grant Jordan, and William A. Maloney. 1993. ‘Corporate Lobbying in the European Community.’ JCMS: Journal of Common Market Studies 31 (2): 191–212.

Michel, Hélène, ed. 2005. Lobbyistes et lobbying de l’Union européenne : Trajectoires, formations et pratiques des représentants d’intérêts. Strasbourg: Presses universitaires de Strasbourg.

Peters, Anne. 2009. Non-State Actors as Standard Setters. Cambridge University Press.

Saurugger, Sabine. 2004. Européaniser les intérêts. Les groupes d’intérêts économiques et l’élargissement de l’Union européenne. Paris: L’Harmattan.

Stone, Diane. 2013. Knowledge Actors and Transnational Governance: The Private-Public Policy Nexus in the Global Agora. [S.l.]: Palgrave Macmillan.

Vauchez, Antoine. 2015. Brokering Europe. Cambridge University Press.

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