The Small World of the American Corporate Elite, 1982-2001
Strategic Organization, Vol. 1, No. 3, pp. 301-326, August 2003, Sage Publications London, Thousand Oaks, New Delhi, Copyright
Posted: 3 Oct 2003
This paper examines the degree of stability in the structure of the corporate elite network in the US during the 1980s and 1990s. Several studies have documented that board-to-board ties serve as a mechanism for the diffusion of corporate practices, strategies, and structures; thus, the overall structure of the network can shape the nature and rate of aggregate corporate change. But upheavals in the nature of corporate governance and nearly complete turnover in the firms and directors at the core of the network since 1980 prompt a reassessment of the network's topography. We find that the aggregate connectivity of the network is remarkably stable and appears to be an intrinsic property of the interlock network, resilient to major changes in corporate governance. After a brief review of elite studies in the U.S., we take advantage of the recent advances in the theoretical and methodological tools for analyzing network structures to examine the network properties of the directors and companies in 1982, 1990, and 1999. We use concepts from small world analysis to explain our finding that the structure of the corporate elite is resilient to macro and micro changes affecting corporate governance.
Keywords: corporate governance, business elites, networks, complex systems
JEL Classification: G34, Z13
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