Elite business networks and the field of power: A matter of class?

Mairi Maclean, Charles Harvey, Gerhard Kling

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Citations (SciVal)
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We explore the meaning and implications of Bourdieu’s construct of the field of power and integrate it into a wider conception of the formation and functioning of elites at the highest level in society. Corporate leaders active within the field of power hold prominent roles in numerous organizations, constituting an ‘elite of elites’, whose networks integrate powerful participants from different fields. As ‘bridging actors’, they form coalitions to determine institutional settlements and societal resource flows. We ask how some corporate actors (minority) become hyper-agents, those actors who ‘make things happen’, while others (majority) remain ‘ordinary’ members of the elite. Three hypotheses are developed and tested using extensive data on the French business elite. Social class emerges as persistently important, challenging the myth of meritocratic inclusion. Our primary contribution to Bourdieusian scholarship lies in our analysis of hyper-agents, revealing the debts these dominants owe to elite schools and privileged classes.
Original languageEnglish
Article number6
Pages (from-to)127-151
Number of pages25
JournalTheory Culture and Society
Issue number5-6
Early online date3 Jul 2017
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2017


  • Bourdieu, elite careers, field of power, French corporate elite, hyper-agency, network analysis, social class, social mobility

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business, Management and Accounting(all)
  • Social Sciences(all)


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