The Power Elite in the Welfare State 2012-2017: Stability and Change in the Key Institutional Orders of the Core of Power Networks in Denmark

Christoph Ellersgaard*, Anton Grau Larsen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


C. Wright Mills’ framework of power elites did not just address the power structure of post-World War II America. We propose a methodological framework to identify this group—by locating individuals sitting at the core of elite networks—arguing that the sector composition of this group reflects the relative importance of institutional orders within the limits of a nation-state.

With two comprehensive sets of network data, composed of around 5,000 potentially powerful affiliations containing approximately 38,000 individuals, we identify a modified version of k-cores in Danish elite networks each composing around 400 individuals in 2012 and 2017.

While 55% of the individuals in the core have changed over five years, the core group exhibits remarkable institutional stability. First, sectoral affiliations remain largely the same, as just over half were employed in the corporate world with the rest split fairly evenly amongst union leaders, academics, senior civil servants, and politicians. Other sectors, such as cultural elites, army, clergy, or judiciary were all but excluded. Second, their organizational affiliation also remains stable. Four out of five in 2017 were employed in an organization having a member in 2012. Third, the social background, ethnic background, education, and residence remain largely the same.
Original languageEnglish
JournalSocial Forces
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)790-813
Number of pages24
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2023

Bibliographical note

Published online: 25 February 2023.

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