Systemic preservation and political legitimation: a critical examination of the Sherman Anti-trust Act of 1890
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[ACCESS RESTRICTED TO THE UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI AT AUTHOR'S REQUEST.] While researchers in economics, history of law, and business administration have conducted extensive research into the origins of the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890, few sociologists have given any attention to this important regulatory law. Given the theoretical assumptions and unique methodological approaches found within political sociology and the sociology of law, the origins of such a major regulatory law like the Sherman Act ought to be of considerable academic interest. After reviewing the relevant literature pertaining to the origins of the Sherman Act in the social sciences and elsewhere, I perform a textual analysis of Congressional debates in both Houses of Congress in order to derive a sociological understanding of the Sherman Act that is strongly grounded in the complexities of the late Populist Era. Ultimately, I argue that the Sherman Antitrust Act was created in order to quell radical dissent and criticism of an opportunity structure that was inconsistent with cultural notions of American exceptionalism. By creating a specific type of economic regulation aimed at reifying those culture notions, the symbolism of the Sherman Act was also aimed at (re)legitimating a state structure in crisis.
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