While the guest speakers acknowledged the importance of understanding civil society through the lens of elite phenomenon, the discussions were about if and whether civil society can be seen as yet another arena where political and economic elites try to establish themselves as more legitimate leaders.
In addition, the seminar offered an alternative conceptualisation of civil society elites. It implies that civil society constitutes an independent social field where resources and rules of power, influence and hierarchies differ from the economic or political fields.
This position calls for a more novel theorisation about individuals reaching top positions in civil society and how such a vertical structure of the field is formed, consolidated, and challenged. It means that civil society should not be seen as a mere empirical field where existing elite theories are applied/tested.
The research seminar on civil society elites gathered researchers with diverse expertise in elite studies, from England, Italy, France, USA, Norway and Sweden. There were also faculty members and students from multiple disciplines among the audience, such as political science, social work, sociology, anthropology and history.