The Emergence of Anticorporate Progressivism

Robert D. Atkinson August 25, 2021
August 25, 2021

Opposition to globalization. Efforts to weaken intellectual property protections. Pushing for municipal broadband. Calls for the National Institutes of Health to develop drugs. What do these positions have in common?

As Rob Atkinson writes in American Compass, they are all examples of the recent turn toward anti-corporate progressivism. This shift is defined by a fierce determination to expand government provision of goods and services; to support small, locally owned firms; and to break up or heavily regulate big corporations.

So-called Big Tech companies face broad scrutiny these days from the media, advocacy groups, lawmakers, and regulators. But for most progressives, this anti-corporatism extends well beyond the tech sector. It has become a general operating principle: the go-to policy formula for righting wrongs. It’s a conviction so firmly held that it is no longer just the means to an end—for many, it’s the end in itself.

This has not always been the case. For more than a century, starting in the 1910s and continuing through to the 1990s, most progressives accepted that large corporations were a permanent and even valuable part of American economic life, to be balanced by other forces, such as unions and regulation.