The Inner Circle Revisited: The Case of an Egalitarian Society

Anton Grau Larsen, Christoph Ellersgaard

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The interlocks within the corporate elite in a highly egalitarian society, the negotiated economy of the Scandinavian welfare state of Denmark, are examined by critically reassessing Michael Useem’s notion of the inner circle. Using a new measure of social circles memberships based on proximity in social networks, we identify a cohesive core group of 171 individuals within a corporate elite of 6154 board members of the top 1037 Danish corporations. A high degree of social homogeneity in gender, social background, education and career position underlines the cohesion of the inner circle. By mapping business association committees, political commissions, university governing boards, cultural institutions, social clubs, foundations and royal events, the inner-circle members are shown to be representatives of the entire capitalist class in key sectors. This suggests that ongoing opposition to the capitalist class enhances the need for collective action, and thus paradoxically strengthens the unity of the corporate elite.
TidsskriftSocio-Economic Review
Udgave nummer2
Sider (fra-til)251–275
Antal sider25
StatusUdgivet - apr. 2018


  • Elites
  • Welfare state
  • Social networks
  • Social capital
  • Scandinavia
  • Class