How elites gain, maintain and propagate status 1770-2012: A social capital perspective

  • Barbara Russell

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    Recent studies on networking, social capital and elites have done much to expand academic knowledge in each of these topic areas. Elites are defined in several ways, including their attributes and their use of and access to power. However, far less research has been conducted on how those attributes and/or power are used by local political elites. A great deal of research has also been conducted on social capital, what it is and how it can benefit society, but less work has been done on the local politician’s individual production and use of social capital. Despite the important role that networks and networking play in producing social capital, local elite networks thus remain largely unexplored. We know little of how their networks are constructed and used in the pursuance of status and less on how the elite adapt the use of their networks in response to socio-economic change. In focusing on the construction and use of social capital networks by the Borough Aldermen and Councillors in Northampton over the longue durée, this work redresses those shortcomings. The research uses a large number and variety of sources which provide a wealth of qualitative and quantitative data with which to explore elite networking and social capital in the town. The work contributes towards furthering academic knowledge on how elites gain maintain and propagate status. The research reveals that the elite use two different constructs of networks, each of which provides different benefits for the user. It is the symbiosis of these networks which enables the political elite to respond to socio-economic and political events. The research also finds that overlapping networks produce the largest exchange of social capital, which is translated into gaining and maintaining status. It is clear that, over the longue durée, the importance of business networks in producing social capital has drastically reduced, and has been replaced by the growing importance of political association membership. It is also evident in the research that the expansion of formal institutions in the business and political arenas has led to individual Councillors and Aldermen making strategic choices. Using a market mentality of returns, they decide which networks give greater social capital and are thus more valuable and useful in gaining and maintaining elite status.
    Date of Award2014
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • University of Northampton
    SupervisorJon Stobart (Supervisor) & Nada K Kakabadse (Supervisor)

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