ABSTRACT

The renewed attention given to “elites” is perhaps the most salient consequence of the financial crisis (2007–2009) and the Great Recession that followed it. Economic and political reform has been remarkably timid, but concern about the privilege and power of elites is far more widespread today than it has been for decades. While the Occupy Wall Street movement presented itself as an essentially diverse and consciously leaderless movement, criticism of elite privilege was its common denominator: “The one thing we all have in common is that we are the 99 percent that will no longer tolerate the greed and corruption of the 1 percent.” Although the initial appeal of the movement has not been matched by its actual impact, the issue of the “one percent” has become the centre of intense public debate, unavoidable even for members of the elite themselves. One illustration among many is that in the primaries for the 2016 presidential election in the US, both the New York billionaire Donald Trump and the veteran politician Bernie Sanders presented themselves as anti-elite candidates. No longer merely a specialized “backwater” (Froud et al. 2006; Savage and Williams 2008), inquiring into elites has taken centre stage in journalistic investigations as well as in academic research.