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Elites and Their Challengers? Bridging Sociological and Political Science Approaches

Participation
Parties and elections
VIRTUAL010
Håkan Johansson
Lunds Universitet
Trygve Gulbrandsen
Institute for Social Research, Oslo

Abstract

The aim for this workshop is to bring together studies of elites and their challengers to advance our understanding of elites. Most contemporary societies face rising inequalities, fall in trust in traditional representative institutions and personalization and mediatization of politics (Friedman and Laurison, 2020). Debates on the ’super-rich’, ’the 1 %’ or a ’global power elite’ have increased the need for cross-disciplinary debates on elite reproduction and integration as elites span and cross sector boundaries. In the same time, the rise of populist parties as well as social movements demanding wider representation of social groups (eg women and ethnic minorities), reflect lack of cirulation at the top and need for studies on elite challengers (Johansson & Uhlin 2020). To accomplish this greater integration of political science and sociological approaches on elites and their challengers is needed. Political science scholars often capture formal political elites, their (lack of) legitimacy, representation and accountability, and the conseqences from their behaviour (e.g. Dalhström and Wägnerud 2015; Best and Higley 2017; Dowding and Dumont 2009, 2015; Cotta and Best 2007;). Sociological approaches largely focus on what shapes elites and elite positions as reflected in the study of the culture, capital and career trajectories (Hartmann 2007; Khan 2012a & b; Scott 2012; Savage & Williams 2008). Challengers have been less explored, a gap this workshop seeks to cover, by also addressing civil society elites alongside political or business elites as these potentially act as counter elites and/or challengers to elites (Pareto 1991). To enhance cross-fertilization across disciplinary boundaries, the workshop proposes three core questions for potential contributions. What resources and modes of reproduction shape elites? The workshop invites papers that theorise ’pathways to power’ and the impact of education, class and social origin in reaching top positions across sectors. This includes papers which focuses on the mechanisms that lead to homogenious social composition of elites with regards to their gender, class or ethnic structure and the consequences from this for social and political representation (Edling 2014; Göransson 2007, Zweigenhaft & Domhoff 1999). What mechanisms promote elite integration? The workshop invites papers that studies mobility between sectors or social networks and their interlocking effects across public, business and civil society boardrooms (Mills 1956; Mizruchi 1996; Useem 1984). Of key concern here is under what conditions such mobility is possible and/or restricted, which factors seem to enhance and/or restrict such sector-mobility and the consequences of such integration for theorizing of elites and challengers. What separates challengers from counter-elites? Sociologists and political scientists have studied counter elites, as a non-ruling elite or challengers to elites as in social movement literature (e.g. Hutter & Borbáth 2019; Norris & Inglehart 2019). Elites’ use of populist resources and the extensive professionalization of civil society raise questions on what currently constitutes counter elites and challenger to elites. The workshop invites papers that study the emergence of counter elites, their overlap/interconnectedness with actors in elite positions and their grounds in movements demanding greater social, gender and climate justice.