Sub-theme 31: Elites Misbehaving in a Hypermobile World: Good Life for the Few? --> CANCELLED!


Call for Papers

The oversized influence of elites on economies, societies and democracies has increasingly received much needed attention by sociologists (e.g., Khan, 2012; Cousin, Khan & Mears, 2018), anthropologists (e.g., Abbink & Salverda, 2013), scholars of space (e.g., Bruno & Salle, 2018), economists (e.g., Saez & Guzman, 2019) and political scientists (Morgan & Ibsen, 2021). While organization scholars have worked to foreground related phenomena, like rising inequalities (Amis, Mair & Munir, 2020), class differences (Gray & Kish-Gephart, 2013) and grand challenges (George et al., 2016), similarly pressing attention to elites as a focus of scholarship has largely been missing.
That is not to say that elite dynamics have been wholly ignored. Dacin, Munir and Tracey (2010) observed how rituals in elite universities perpetuate cohesion, while Holmqvist (2017) studied an elite suburb as a “leader community”. Others investigated class-based exclusion in law firms (Ashley & Empson, 2013), how board members exert authority (Maclean, Harvey & Press, 2006), and how they justify their status in the wake of events such as the Global Financial Crisis (Riaz, Buchanan & Ruebottom, 2016) and amid evolving crises like Covid-19 (Riaz & Buchanan, 2021), among other analytical priorities. It is notable though that such efforts remain comparatively peripheral in our field. They also do not wholly reflect emergent insights about contemporary elites, notably their efforts to harm organizations and institutions through unethical or illegal means, as well as the role of hypermobility in facilitating this.
Specifically, following decades of globalization and financialization, and reshaping of public sectors in the private mould, elite business interests are increasingly being aided by hypermobility and offshoring (Harrington, forthcoming). This enables organizational elites to escape their public and national commitments, especially tax obligations, while at the same time reshaping institutions and organizations in ways that benefit them, for instance, by lobbying against tax increases or tighter regulation. The intersection of elite misconduct and easy mobility can be seen in the rise of support professionals and organizations, such as wealth managers (Harrington, 2016), freeports (Helgadottir, 2020), family offices (Glucksberg & Burrows, 2017), and the citizenship industry (Surak, 2020), triggering processes of justification for assisting such wrongdoing (Harrington, 2018). It is further aided by formal relationships, like public board membership or political appointments as attempts at influence, and informal exclusive clubs (Farrell, 2020; Mears, 2020). It is finally visible in “alpha cities” like London, fashioned by politicians and planners for elites’ unrestrained “grand escape”, without much obligation in return (Atkinson, 2020).
This sub-theme thus aims at centring organizational elites as drivers of wrongdoing amid easy mobility. We define organizational elites as individual actors, along with their related networks, set apart ‘by virtue’ of access to significant resources and the possibility, if not execution, of notable direct or organizationally mediated influence, primarily in self-interest. We include top managers, owners, executives, board members and related professionals supporting certain forms of misconduct and/or purposeful hypermobility (e.g., elite consultants, wealth managers, bankers, lobbyists), working across a variety of organizational settings where business logics are being engaged (e.g. charitable and public sectors, lobbying, regulation), who may exert influence toward elite personal benefit (e.g. via mobilizing resources, engaging certain discourses, disregarding or redrafting legal restraints).
We engage organizational elites in this way in an effort to reach and connect across disciplinary lines, to centre elites as critical to contemporary studies of organizations, and to support further responsiveness to timely societal dynamics in our field. For the same reason, we remain open to engaging wide-ranging interdisciplinary research into generative new scholarly dialogue about elites’ misconduct amid hypermobility, and its implications for contemporary organizing.
With this in mind, we invite papers on a broad range of related topics, such as:

  • Understandings, practices, and justifications of organizational elite wrongdoing;

  • Novel emerging forms of capitalism sustaining elites and their wrongdoing;

  • Differential experiences of hypermobility; borders and boundarylessness;

  • Different analytical foci, e.g., resources, individuals, relations, consumption, power;

  • Social underpinnings of elite misconduct; how is misconduct normalised;

  • Gatekeeping and purposeful invisibility, e.g., role of staff and facilitator organizations;

  • Consequences of elite misconduct for states and societies;

  • Intersectional dynamics of elite belonging, being and wrongdoing;

  • Studying elites practically: access, diversity in methods, interdisciplinarity.



  • Abbink, J. & Salverda, T. (eds.) (2013): The Anthropology of Elites: Power, Culture and the Complexities of Distinction. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Amis, J.M., Mair, J., & Munir, K.A. (2020): “The organizational reproduction of inequality.” Academy of Management Annals, 14 (1), 1–36.
  • Ashley, L. & Empson, L. (2013): “Differentiation and discrimination: Understanding social class and social exclusion in leading law firms.” Human Relations, 66 (2), 219–244.
  • Atkinson, R. (2020): Alpha City: How London was Captured by the Super-Rich. London: Verso.
  • Cousin, B., Khan, S., & Mears, A. (2018): “Theoretical and methodological pathways for research on elites.” Socio-Economic Review, 16 (2), 225–249.
  • Dacin, M.T., Munir, K., & Tracey, P. (2010): “Formal dining at Cambridge colleges: Linking ritual performance and institutional maintenance.” Academy of Management Journal, 53 (6), 1393–1418.
  • Farrell, J. (2020): Billionaire Wilderness: The Ultra-Wealthy and the Remaking of the American West. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
  • George, G., Howard-Grenville, J., Joshi, A., & Tihanyi, L. (2016): “Understanding and tackling societal grand challenges through management research.” Academy of Management Journal, 59 (6), 1880–1895.
  • Glucksberg, L., & Burrows, R. (2017): “Family offices and the contemporary infrastructures of dynastic wealth.” Sociologica, 2, 1–23.
  • Gray, B., & Kish-Gephart, J.J. (2013): “Encountering social class differences at work: How “class work” perpetuates inequality.” Academy of Management Review, 38 (4), 670–699.
  • Harrington, B. (2016): Capital Without Borders: Wealth Managers and the One Percent. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
  • Helgadottir, O. (2020): “The new luxury freeports: Offshore storage, tax avoidance, and ‘invisible’ art.” Environment and Planning A: Economy and Space, first published online on December 10, 2020,
  • Holmqvist, M. (2017): Leader Communities: The Consecration of Elites in Djursholm. New York: Columbia University Press.
  • Khan, S.R. (2012): “The sociology of elites”, Annual Review of Sociology, 38, 361–377.
  • Maclean, M., Harvey, C., & Press, J. (2006): Business Elites and Corporate Governance in France and the UK. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Mears, A. (2020): Very Important People: Status and Beauty in the Global Party Circuit. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
  • Morgan, G. & Ibsen, C. L. (2021): “Quiet politics and the power of business: New perspectives in an era of noisy politics.” Politics & Society, 49 (1), 3–16.
  • Riaz, S. & Buchanan, S. (2021): “Elite maintenance work across the Covid-19 crisis: A critical view on power and language.” Critical Perspectives on International Business, 17 (2), 210–229.
  • Riaz, S., Buchanan, S., & Ruebottom, T. (2016): “Rhetoric of epistemic authority: Defending field positions during the Financial Crisis.” Human Relations, 69 (7), 1533–1561.
  • Surak, K. (2020): “Millionaire mobility and the sale of citizenship.” Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 47 (1), 166–189.