Industrial complex

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The industrial complex is a socioeconomic concept wherein businesses become entwined in social or political systems or institutions, creating or bolstering a profit economy from these systems. Such a complex is said to pursue its own financial interests regardless of, and often at the expense of, the best interests of society and individuals. Businesses within an industrial complex may have been created to advance a social or political goal, but mostly profit when the goal is not reached. The industrial complex may profit financially from maintaining socially detrimental or inefficient systems.



President Dwight D. Eisenhower famously warned about the "military-industrial complex" in his farewell address, 17 January 1961. Eisenhower in the Oval Office.jpg
President Dwight D. Eisenhower famously warned about the "military–industrial complex" in his farewell address, 17 January 1961.

The concept was popularized by President Dwight Eisenhower [1] in his Jan. 17, 1961 farewell speech. Eisenhower described a "threat to democratic government" [1] called the military–industrial complex. This complex involved the military establishment gaining "unwarranted influence" over the economic, political, and spiritual realms of American society due to the profitability of the US arms industry and the number of citizens employed in various branches of military service, the armaments industry, and other businesses providing goods to the US army. The "complex" arises from the creation of a multilateral economy serving military goals, as well as the paradox that arises from the goal of the multilateralism (sustained profit) as antithetical to the military's theoretical goal (peace).


In many cases, the industrial complex refers to a conflict of interest between an institution's purported socio-political purpose and the financial interests of the businesses and government agencies that profit from the pursuit of such purpose, when achieving the stated purpose would result in a financial loss for those businesses. For example, the purported purpose of the US penal system is to assist offenders in becoming law abiding citizens [2] yet the prison–industrial complex subsists upon high inmate populations, thus relying on the penal system's failure to meet its goal of criminal reform and re-entry. In these types of cases, government agencies are often thought to profit financially from institutional industrialization, perhaps eroding their motivation to legislate such institutions in ways that may be socially beneficial.

The industrial complex concept has also been used informally to denote the artificial creation, inflation, or manipulation of an institution's societal value in order to increase profit opportunities, especially through specialty businesses and niche products. An example of this is the marriage industrial complex, [3] [4] [5] [6] where demand for wedding dress makers, wedding venues, wedding planners, wedding cake bakers, wedding rentals companies, wedding photographers, etc, is created by the perceived social necessity of an elaborate wedding ceremony. [7]



The following have been considered examples of industrial complexes:

See also

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