Hustling While You Wait: The Politics of Energy and the Deregulation of Natural Gas, 1938-1993



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The ability of the state versus societal groups to influence the formulation of policies has long been debated in political sociology. I suggest that historical contingency theory provides insight to resolve this debate. I evaluate the explanatory power of societycentered, state-centered and historically contingent theories of policy formation using the case of deregulation of the natural gas industry. I find that capitalists in the natural gas industry unified in response to capital accumulation crises and mobilized politically to change their institutional arrangements to restore and expand profitability. These changes, in turn, expanded state structures, creating powerful mechanisms for groups in society to leverage the state to obtain favorable policy outcomes. In the natural gas industry, the key state structure was the industry?s regulatory body. Once this structure was created, the natural gas industry used it to leverage the state to incorporate deregulation into its national agenda. Thus, instead of increasing state autonomy, the creation and expansion of state structures undermines state autonomy and provides powerful groups in society with the means to control the policy formation process.