Toggle Main Menu Toggle Search

Open Access padlockePrints

Elite Business Networks and the Field of Power: A Matter of Class?

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).


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.

Publication metadata

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

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Theory, Culture & Society

Year: 2017

Volume: 34

Issue: 5-6

Pages: 127-151

Print publication date: 01/09/2017

Online publication date: 03/07/2017

Acceptance date: 23/09/2016

Date deposited: 19/11/2016

ISSN (print): 1460-3616

ISSN (electronic): 0263-2764

Publisher: Sage


DOI: 10.1177/0263276417715071


Altmetrics provided by Altmetric