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Elite maintenance work across the Covid-19 crisis: a critical view on power and language

Suhaib Riaz (Telfer School of Management, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Canada)
Sean Buchanan (Asper School of Business, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Canada)

Critical Perspectives on International Business

ISSN: 1742-2043

Article publication date: 11 January 2021

Issue publication date: 17 May 2021

273

Abstract

Purpose

This paper aims to present a critical interpretation of unfolding events related to corporate and policymaking elites during the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic crisis to serve as a point of contrast to mainstream views.

Design/methodology/approach

Drawing upon literature on elite maintenance and power, learning from recent previous crises and emerging evidence during the Covid-19 pandemic crisis, this study develops arguments to question and problematize the exercise of power by elites toward maintenance of existing systems across the pandemic.

Findings

Critical examination points attention to three related but analytically distinct strategies in the exercise of elite power: reinforcing myths, redirecting blame and reclaiming positions, all directed to maintain the system and preserve power. The potential effects of this ongoing elite maintenance are highlighted, revealing the old and new forms of power likely to emerge at the corporate, national and global levels across the pandemic crisis and endure beyond it.

Social implications

It is hoped that the critical examination here may build more awareness about the deep and complex nature of elite power and systems across the globe that preclude meaningful system change to address societal challenges. It may thereby provide more informed engagement toward system change.

Originality/value

The main originality of the paper lies in its attempt to tie together the various types of elite maintenance works and their potential effects into an overarching narrative. Making these connections and interpreting them from a critical perspective provides a rare large-canvas picture of elite power and system maintenance, particularly across a global crisis.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

The authors would like to thank the editor Christoph Dörrenbächer along with the other editors of the special issue, our reviewers for very helpful suggestions during the review process, our collaborators on multiple projects in related streams of research and Tom Lawrence for early encouraging comments.

Citation

Riaz, S. and Buchanan, S. (2021), "Elite maintenance work across the Covid-19 crisis: a critical view on power and language", Critical Perspectives on International Business, Vol. 17 No. 2, pp. 210-229. https://doi.org/10.1108/cpoib-05-2020-0053

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2020, Emerald Publishing Limited

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