Elites on Trial: Volume 43

Cover of Elites on Trial
Subject:

Table of contents

(22 chapters)
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Advisory Board

Pages xiii-xiv
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The New Context of Elites: Neo-Liberalism and Globalization

Abstract

The paper adopts an organizational perspective to explore the conditions of possibility of the recent re-emergence of overt class-based discourse on one hand, epitomized by the ‘We are the 99%’ movement, and the rise on the other hand of a populist, nativist and sometimes overtly fascist right. It is argued that these phenomena, reflecting the increasingly crisis-prone character of global capitalism, the growing gap between rich and poor and a generalized sense of insecurity, are rooted in the dismantling of socially embedded organizations through processes often described as ‘financialization’, driven by the taken-for-granted dominance of neoliberal ideology. The paper explores the rise to dominance of the neoliberal ‘thought style’ and its inherent logic in underpinning the dismantling and restructuring of capitalist organization. Its focus is upon transnational value chain capitalism which has rebalanced power relations in favour of a small elite that is able to operate and realize wealth in ways that defy and often succeed in escaping the regulation of nation states.

Abstract

The paper argues that the form, structure and ideologies of elites are embedded in particular forms of capitalism. Whilst elites in these different societies are engaged in a common task of ensuring that their position is sustained and protected in the light of economic and political uncertainties, the way in which they are able to do this is shaped by the particular forms of legitimation, coordination and cohesion that are embedded in particular institutional trajectories, path dependencies and complementarities. However, the paper emphasizes that these institutional structures are dependent on particular international economic orders and when these change either over the short or the long term, elites often find themselves struggling to maintain their position without significant changes. The paper examines firstly how the long-term change from Keynesianism to neo-liberalism in the international economic order led to changes in the terrain on which elites in different countries formed and exercised power and secondly how the immediate and drastic short-term changes in the global economy arising from the financial crisis has impacted on elites.

Abstract

This paper begins by outlining the basic attitudinal differences between the elite and the rest of society. Understanding these divergent views does not require resorting to arguments that reply upon error, ignorance, manipulation, or differences in individual character. Instead, both elites and others are correct in their understanding of these processes because they overgeneralize from their own experience. The major proposition of this paper is that if we compare the economic conditions of the average American and to that of the elite, we find that they are, in important ways, the inverse of one another. During times when Americans as a whole were experiencing economic advancement and mobility, elites were comparatively stagnant. And today, as most Americans are locked in place, elites observe tremendous mobility. The counter-cyclical character of the elite has important implications for our understanding of elite culture, and elite response to inequality and redistribution.

The Field of Power: The Changing Nature of Elite Networks

Abstract

In this study, we aim to understand how the relationship between state and business elites and underlying power dynamics develop in the face of neoliberalism and globalization in a state-dependent context. For this purpose, we draw on a qualitative research with in-depth interviews with elites from 65 companies which are ranked among the 500 largest Turkish firms by the Istanbul Chamber of Industry. Major contribution of this work is that we illustrate how globalization or internationalization provides a limited tool for business elites to escape the domination of the state in a state-dependent context. The only exceptions to this rule of state domination among business elites are the elites who hold double citizenships and whose initial investment background is in a foreign country. This exceptional group of elites enjoyed higher latitude of action in their interactions with the state. For the rest, state remains as an influential mechanism of coercive power to which elites are subjected. Last but not least, in spite of the connections between business growth and the state, the business elites are generally distrustful of politics and politicians and this mistrust is manifested in different ways. Overall, we illustrate the significance of the historical context and turning points in accounting for the changing nature of the relationship between elites and the state in Turkey.

Abstract

This paper investigates the impacts of globalization processes on the Swiss business elite community during the 1980–2010 period. Switzerland has been characterized in the 20th century by its extraordinary stability and by the strong cohesion of its elite community. To study recent changes, we focus on Switzerland’s 110 largest firms’ by adopting a diachronic perspective based on three elite cohorts (1980, 2000, and 2010). An analysis of interlocking directorates allows us to describe the decline of the Swiss corporate network. The second analysis focuses on top managers’ profiles in terms of education, nationality as well as participation in national community networks that used to reinforce the cultural cohesion of the Swiss elite community, especially the militia army. Our results highlight a slow but profound transformation of top management profiles, characterized by a decline of traditional national elements of legitimacy and the emergence of new “global” elements. The diachronic and combined analysis brings into light the strong cultural changes experienced by the national business elite community.

Abstract

The paper examines the degree of interlocking directorships across the major Eurozone economies. It uses the major stock market indices in France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, and Belgium to identify the top of the corporate elite in each country. For the period of 2005–2008, it studies transnational links between European companies. The paper draws attention to a number of features of these interlocks. Firstly transnational interlocks remain relatively low but secondly they do vary considerably. An important issue here is the degree of bilateral integration which is occurring between some countries within the Eurozone, for example France and Belgium, and the degree to which other countries, most notably, Italy are increasingly disconnected, whilst the two most powerful economies, France and Germany, are very weakly connected. This variability reflects a series of structural divides between big business in the Eurozone that makes it difficult for this corporate elites to be cohesive at the European level.

Abstract

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.

Elites and the Problem of Legitimacy

Abstract

Regardless of whether “elite” is defined with respect to social status, economic wealth, or professional accomplishment, these sources of advantage are blunted by democratic political commitments to equality. This durable dilemma has shaped the institutional development of the American polity and the economy, as those with extra-political advantages have sought new forms of political influence, at times subverting rules or advancing cultural projects that elaborate an image of corporations as moral actors or the development of a “business creed.” American elites have also worked at the margins of the formally democratic policy to construct fields of public action that are accepted as public, legitimate, and admirable, but not strictly democratic. Corporate philanthropy has been central to these efforts. Organizations like the Community Chest can be understood as practical responses to the constraints of ideological commitments to political egalitarianism. This line of response to the democratic dilemma is “constructive” in the nonnormative sense that it produces new fields of social action and reconfigures institutional arrangements. By linking economic position to civic influence, organizations of this type translate economic power into elevated influence over public affairs through the constitution and stabilization of partially hybridized forms or fields.

Abstract

Corporate elites are increasingly held responsible for issues of sustainability including working conditions and workers’ rights in global production networks. We still know relatively little about how they respond to concrete stakeholder initiatives aiming to restrict corporate voluntarism through transnational regulation. In this paper we report comparative findings on corporate legitimation strategies in response to requests by labor representatives to sign Global Framework Agreements (GFAs). These agreements are intended to hold multinational corporations (MNCs) accountable for the implementation of core labor standards across their supply chains. We propose to broaden management-focused analyses of corporate legitimation strategies by applying a field-oriented perspective that considers the embeddedness of management in a broader web of strategic activity and variable opportunity structures. Our findings suggest that legitimation strategies are developed dynamically along with the rules, positions, and understandings developing around specific regulatory issues in sequences of interactions between elites and challenging groups.

Abstract

This paper focuses on the strategic role of elites in managing institutional and organizational change within English public services, framed by the wider ideological and political context of neo-liberalism and its pervasive impact on the social and economic order over recent decades. It also highlights the unintended consequences of this elite-driven programme of institutional reform as realized in the emergence of hybridized regimes of ‘polyarchic governance’ and the innovative discursive and organizational technologies on which they depend. Within the latter, ‘leaderism’ is identified as a hegemonic ‘discursive imaginary’ that has the potential to connect selected marketization and market control elements of new public management (NPM), network governance, and visionary and shared leadership practices that ‘make the hybrid happen’ in public services reform.

Elites and the Politics of Crisis

Abstract

This exploratory paper discusses the undemocratic agenda setting of elites in Britain and how it has changed politics within a form of capitalism where much is left undisclosed in terms of mechanism and methods. It argues for a more radical exploratory strategy using C. Wright Mills’ understanding that what is left undisclosed is crucially important to elite existence and power, while recognising the limits on democratic accountability when debate, decision and action in complex capitalist societies can be frustrated or hijacked by small groups. Have British business elites, through their relation with political elites, used their power to constrain democratic citizenship? Our hypothesis is that the power of business elites is most likely conjuncturally specific and geographically bounded with distinct national differences. In the United Kingdom, the outcomes are often contingent and unstable as business elites try to manage democracy; moreover, the composition and organisation of business elites have changed through successive conjunctures.

Abstract

Soon after the Lehman crisis, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) surprised its critics with a reconsideration of its research and advice on fiscal policy. The paper traces the influence that the Fund’s senior management and research elite has had on the recalibration of the IMF’s doctrine on fiscal policy. The findings suggest that overall there has been some selective incorporation of unorthodox ideas in the Fund’s fiscal doctrine, while the strong thesis that austerity has expansionary effects has been rejected. Indeed, the Fund’s new orthodoxy is concerned with the recessionary effects of fiscal consolidation and, more recently, endorses calls for a more progressive adjustment of the costs of fiscal sustainability. These changes notwithstanding, the IMF’s adaptive incremental transformation on fiscal policy issues falls short of a paradigm shift and is best conceived of as an important recalibration of the precrisis status quo.

Abstract

This paper is concerned to show how the Danish political elite interpreted and responded to the consequences of the 2008 financial crisis for the Danish economy. In particular, the paper describes how this interpretive construction focused primarily on three features of the Danish context to the exclusion of other perspectives; the first was an emphasis on the problems of the financial sector, of interest rates and state finances; the second was that Danish productivity increases were falling behind other comparable countries and part of the solution required new strategies towards labour and unemployment benefits; thirdly, the adverse effects of the crisis were causing an increase in government expenditure and a decline in government revenues which was rapidly becoming unsustainable. As a consequence, the Danish elite fell into the broader interpretation of the crisis embedded in the dominant view within the EU institutions as well as among the international financial institutions such as the IMF and the World Bank, that a period of austerity and fiscal consolidation was the required remedy, even though this was likely to be pro-cyclical in its effects. However, the paper shows that alternative data which is more reflective of Denmark’s position in the global economy and the trajectory and form of its growth over the last decade reveals that the interpretation of the Danish elite has been too narrow and neglects the distinctive roots of Denmark’s competitive strengths. Indeed, by responding in the way which they have, the Danish elite is in danger of undermining the very conditions of Denmark’s competitiveness.

Abstract

Defining features of the American corporate apex have evolved in recent decades from a modest classwide coherence to a more dispersed amalgam of company-focused management and then to greater director engagement in company leadership. The rise of institutional investing had moved executives and directors to focus more on the specific interests of their own firms and less on their common concerns. More recently, the nation’s borders that have long defined its business elite have been giving way to an elite-ness transcending those boundaries. While the classwide sinews of the American business elite are diminishing within the United States, we find evidence that they have at the same time been strengthening with other national business elites to create a transnational informal network with a modicum of global coherence.

About the Authors

Pages 423-429
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Cover of Elites on Trial
DOI
10.1108/S0733-558X201543
Publication date
2015-02-10
Book series
Research in the Sociology of Organizations
Editors
Series copyright holder
Emerald Publishing Limited
ISBN
978-1-78441-680-5
eISBN
978-1-78441-679-9
Book series ISSN
0733-558X