Weaving the fabric of Elite Bonds (WEB)
This project investigates the social cohesion of Norwegian elites, paying particular attention to how patrimony may enable access to positions of control and to profitable networks in the economy. Maren Toft is the Principal Investigator.
About the project
Elites are back on the agenda in the social sciences. The centrality of inheritance and kinship in attaining high wealth has been an important finding in the burgeoning studies of economic elites. Yet, the sociological emphasis on the institutional underpinnings to elite power and the emphasis placed on network ties across organizational divides are insufficiently linked to notions of patrimony in contemporary societies. The project moves the field of elite studies forward by cross-fertilising insights from research on economic elites with insights from sociological network studies.
The literature on concentrated affluence has examined the degree of economic capital individually owned by the wealthiest people, but not their institutional affiliations or their networks. In contrast, the sociological literature on networks has yet to theorize the precise role of the family in elite networks in contemporary society. The organizational underpinnings of dynastic tendencies, such as the significance of board membership within family-controlled firms, remain largely unknown. This lack of understanding prompts questions about the types of networks that arise due to shared membership in organizational and company boards, and the roles of organizations in forging elite cohesion.
Core questions that are raised include:
- How are kinship ties interwoven with business networks?
- What is the role of family-owned businesses in channeling economic privileges between parents and children?
- Are interconnected elites politically cohesive; do interlocked directors engage in political action through membership on political advisory boards or by contributing financially to political parties? Are they socially cohesive; have they shared attendance at educational institutions or resided in proximity over their life courses?
- What patterns of elite circulation and elite integration across different sectors (e.g. the economy, the state, educational and nongovernmental institutions) are evident in Norway, and how have they evolved over time?
The project will address these issues in Norway, a country that is often receiving attention for egalitarian traits, but paradoxically constitutes a society with dynastic tendencies and where high-end wealth inequalities and are on the rise.
The project is organized into two closely integrated work packages that in combination help fill important knowledge gaps. The first work package addresses the question of how kinship ties are interwoven with business networks, whereas the second addresses questions of elite cohesion and elite circulation.
The project is funded by the Norwegian Research Council (NFR) (Researcher Project for Young Talents; ground-breaking research). The total grant award was for NOK 8 000 000 (grant no. 325205).
December 2021 – November 2024