Protégés of Power: Patrimonialism in Mobility Narratives of the Danish Power Elite

Christoph Ellersgaard*, Anton Grau Larsen, Morten Fischer Sivertsen, Anne Nørgaard Christensen, Jacob Lunding

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Career narratives among the Danish power elite often include the facilitating presence of an elite superior. We explore the role patrons play in the mobility narratives of the Danish power elite. Drawing from a highly select group identified in the core of elite networks, we interviewed 37 individuals selected for maximal variation in career paths, networks and positions within the power elite. We referenced the concept of patrimonialism to understand the relations between patrons and protégés in building an elite career and develop a typology identifying three kinds of patrimonial relations described by elites, intra-organizational relations to mentors and patriarchs and inter-organizational relations to sponsors. We then empirically explore the three types of patrimonial relations. Finally, we argue that each of these patrimonial relations reinforce elite cohesion, even in the supposedly critical case of good governance in Denmark. Hence, patrimonial relations present a crucial perspective for understanding contemporary power structures.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbermwad031
JournalSocio-Economic Review
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)29-60
Number of pages32
Publication statusPublished - 2024

Bibliographical note

Published online: 03 July 2023.


  • Elites
  • Leadership
  • Scandinavia
  • Social capital
  • Social networks

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