Linking Wealth and Power: The Role of the Super-Rich in the Transnational Capitalist Class and Its Lobby
Dir. Jens Beckert (MPIfG) & Olivier Godechot (Sciences Po - CRIS & MaxPo)
Profile Page (Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies)
Project duration: October 2018 to March 2022.
Project description: Wealth inequality in general and top wealth and top income shares have risen significantly in many countries globally during the past decades. Prominent observers predict that the trend will continue. This draws attention toward the wealthiest families and individuals worldwide. One of the claims made in the normative discussion surrounding this finding is that the level of wealth concentration threatens the foundations of democracies and especially political equality. However, this claim is not yet based on much solid or systematic empirical evidence. To make a contribution to the debate, this project uses data on the super-rich and extensive corporate data to analyze interrelations between super-rich individuals and families, their corporations, and national as well as transnational business elites. Theoretically the project is inspired by the Marxist literatures of transnational fractions of capital and a transnational capitalist class, as well as instrumental and structural power. As a first step, super-rich individuals and business elites are mapped in global corporate networks of interlocking directorates and ownership using social network analysis. In a second step, the question of if and how this class (if it is a social class) takes political action is addressed.