From Integrated to Fragmented Elites: The Core of Swiss Elite Networks 1910–2015

Thierry Rossier*, Christoph Ellersgaard, Anton Grau Larsen, Jacob Aagaard Lunding

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

64 Downloads (Pure)


This article focuses on historical elite dynamics and investigates elites' integration over time. We describe the changing relations and composition of the central circles in Swiss elite networks at seven benchmark years between 1910 and 2015 by relying on 22,262 elite individuals tied to 2587 organizations among eight key sectors, and identify for each year the most connected core of individuals. We explore network cohesion and sectoral bridging of the elite core and find that it moved from being a unitary corporate elite, before 1945, to an integrated corporatist elite, between the 1950s and 1980s, before fragmenting into a loose group, with an increased importance of corporate elites, in the 1990s onwards. The core was always dominated by business and their forms of legitimacy but, at times of crisis to the hegemony of corporate elites, after the Second World War and (only) shortly after the 2008 financial crisis, elite circles expanded and included individuals with delegated forms of power, such as politicians and unionists. In the most recent cohort (2015), the share of corporate elites in the core is similar to the one before the First World War and during the interwar period. This return to the past echoes findings on wealth inequality and economic capital accumulation by a small group of individuals organized around the most powerful companies.
Original languageEnglish
JournalBritish Journal of Sociology
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)315-335
Number of pages21
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2022


  • Coordination
  • Elites
  • Historical sociology
  • Inequality
  • Networks
  • Social networks

Cite this