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Business Elites and the Field of Power in France

Elites on Trial

ISBN: 978-1-78441-680-5, eISBN: 978-1-78441-679-9

Publication date: 10 February 2015


Bourdieu’s construct of the field of power has received relatively little attention despite its novelty and theoretical potential. This paper explores the meaning and implications of the construct, and integrates it into a wider conception of the formation and functioning of elites at the highest level in society. Drawing on an extensive dataset profiling the careers of members of the French business elite, it compares and contrasts those who enter the field of power with those who fail to qualify for membership, exploring why some succeed as hyper-agents while others do not. The alliance of social origin and educational attainment, class and meritocracy, emerges as particularly compelling. The field of power is shown to be relatively variegated and fluid, connecting agents from different life worlds. Methodologically, this paper connects biographical data of top French directors with the field of power in France in a novel way, while presenting an operationalization of Bourdieu’s concept of the field of power as applied to the French elite.




The authors would like to thank the convenors and participants of the sub-theme on ‘Elites and the Design of Institutions, Industries and Organizations’ at the 28th European Group for Organizational Studies (EGOS) colloquium held in Helsinki in July 2012 for their perceptive and helpful comments. We wish to thank Sigrid Quack in particular for her insightful comments which further strengthened this paper.


Maclean, M., Harvey, C. and Kling, G. (2015), "Business Elites and the Field of Power in France", Elites on Trial (Research in the Sociology of Organizations, Vol. 43), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 189-219.



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