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Business elites and the field of power in France

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Mairi Maclean, Professor Charles Harvey



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC 4.0).


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.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Maclean M, Harvey C, Kling G

Editor(s): Morgan, G.; Hirsch, P.; Quack, S.

Publication type: Book Chapter

Publication status: Published

Book Title: Elites on Trial

Year: 2015

Volume: 43

Pages: 189-219

Print publication date: 02/02/2015

Series Title: Research in the Sociology of Organizations

Publisher: Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Place Published: Bingley


DOI: 10.1108/S0733-558X20150000043019

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

Library holdings: Search Newcastle University Library for this item

ISBN: 9781784416805