Who Rules the World?
Edited by Georgina Murray and John Scott
Chapter 8: National and Transnational Structuring of the British Corporate Elite
Bruce Cronin Corporate power in Britain is multifaceted, multilayered and geographically structured. In contrast to the classic rise of the capitalist class, the established landed aristocracy was not overthrown in Britain but became embedded in its ascendancy, an articulation that strongly marks institutional forms of power to this day (Anderson 1964). The industrial revolution that drove the accumulation of national wealth in nineteenth-century Britain had its catalyst in the wealth of international trade and plunder, and in turn was quickly followed by international corporate expansion. British capital dominated international investment through to the Second World War and today still accounts for the world’s second largest overseas direct investment stock (Dunning and Archer 1987; United Nations Conference on Trade and Development 2011). So the British corporate elite are intimately structured by a complex of national and transnational influences. Periodic attempts to delve into the growing documentary archive of elite relationships in Britain have barely pierced the outer layers of the structures of corporate elite cohesion, however. The availability of data and the potentially strategic importance of a director’s role have led attention primarily towards interlocking directorships (Aaronovitch 1956; Useem 1984; Windolf 2002), while the mining of biographical databases provides an entry-point into elite schools, clubs and social circles (Sampson 1962). But these are only limited components of the taxonomy of multiple layers of inter-organizational bonds proposed by Scott and Griff (1984) as constituting elite cohesion, let alone extended to national and transnational dimensions (see Table 8.1). This chapter takes a modest...
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