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The reproduction of civil society elites

Civil Society Elites?

Our interest into ‘civil society elite’ ties into debates on elite reproduction and circulation that lies at the center of elite research.

Scholars have long studied the role of social institutions and social networks constitute a ‘glue’ that binds elites together. There is ample research on how class structures and education systems constitute key factors in elite reproduction. Using elite education institutions like Oxbridge, scholars investigate the norms, attitudes and preferences of elites and as means of social closure for elite groups in society. The notion of elite reproduction is linked to general sociological debates on lifestyles, identity and social status as bases for social domination in society.

We take stock of these debates and study the vertical mobility of actors in the field of civil society, focusing on why some acquire elite positions and elite status while others do not. Our overall aim is to investigate the rules, practices, and the capital composition that allows for or restrict mobility into positions that holds significant resources and influence. We will conduct studies of the recruitment and appointment of presidents and directors into leadership positions in large and powerful civil society organisations. We will conduct studies into training and leadership programs of young activists and civil society leaders as they are being trained and prepared ‘for power’. We will also study of civil society prizes across Europe to capture how status and recognition is produced in the field of civil society. These three “routes” of upward mobility (an ‘organizational route’, an ‘educational route’ and ‘a route of consecration’) will allows us to capture both institutionalized as well as less institutionalized avenues of upward mobility. Aside from elite and field theory, this thematic study draws on theories on social closure, symbolic boundaries and symbolic power and domination.

Scientific coordinators

Niklas Altermark
Email: niklas [dot] altermark [at] svet [dot] lu [dot] se

Håkan Johansson
Email: hakan [dot] johansson [at] soch [dot] lu [dot] se