Global financial elite

Researchers: Sebastian Botzem & Natalia Besedovsky

Since the financial crisis of 2007/2008, there is increasing interest in the social structure underlying transnational finance. Conceptual debates center on elite, class and communities beyond the nation state in trying to understand the role of the transnational financial elite. However, empirical evidence does not give clear indications of how to interpret global finance’s social structure. We therefore suggest conducting an in-depth longitudinal analysis to answer the question of how to conceptualize the specific social configuration in global finance. In this project we study the effects of different power resources at the actors’ disposal. In particular, we are interested in the changing control of command posts, as well as potential cleavages and divisions of labor between different subgroups (e.g. managers, professionals and analysts, capital owners) within the financial elite, and specific sources of influence, e.g. capital, expertise, or organizational power.

In our project, we aim at contributing to recent debates with an analysis of changes in elite configurations of global finance over the last two decades. We take a dynamic perspective on financial elite development by accounting for the emergence and evolution of personal ties of financial actors, as well as the relations between organizations established through such personal links. Using board interlock data of the world’s 30 largest banks and exchanges since 1995, we seek to identify patterns of social relationships between these organizations and their environment. In addition, we analyze biographical data of the core individuals and the organizations’ senior staff that complements the network analysis. With our analysis, we aim to contribute to debates on transnationalization and shifting power configurations in finance focusing on changes in elite composition.

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