Presented by Amy Sanders

Co-Authors: Amy Sanders, Flossie Kingsbury, Jesse Heley, Sally Power, Najia Zaidi

This seminar aims to share emergent findings from the WISERD work package 2.3, which is concerned with Elites, Patronage and Power Relations. It pulls together two conference papers that Amy has delivered this summer. The first was at the People Place and Policy Annual Conference and the second was at the Voluntary Sector and Voluntary Research Annual Conference. The latter was awarded the Campbell Adamson Memorial Prize for Best Paper.

PART 1: The first part will consider exclusion from elite positions in civil society and examines institutional practices to increase inclusion. The theoretical framework draws on literature of elite reproduction, recognising differing forms of capital (Bourdieu 2018). In addition to formal equalities strategies, excluded groups utilise informal networks developing separate public spheres (counter-publics) (Fraser 1990). Yet, hierarchies of inequality exist due to resource variation or political salience.  These literatures are synthesised by asking; to what extent is privileged access to elite positions within Welsh civil society shaped by informal networks? How do formal and informal recruitment practices for elite civil society positions lead to civic exclusion and/or civic expansion? Emergent findings reveal institutional adaptations to increase inclusion in formal processes and informal discourses. Younger people’s inclusion dominated accounts, whilst gender equality was advanced through informal mentoring. Organisations sought to achieve ‘race’ equality, but there was a tendency towards reification. Resistance to formal equalities strategies was found through institutional layering. Inclusionary discourses concerning other protected characteristics were absent.

PART 2: This section will revisit the notion of elite reproduction, and consider how patterns of patronage play out in the context of urban and rural localities, and overlap with other aspects of cultural, economic, educational and political capital. Emergent findings reveal overlapping complexity in accounts of position allocation and individuals’ motivations raising the question around the direction of travel of elite reproduction between organisations and individuals. Interviewees’ accounts show that privilege and deriving benefits from senior roles have an inverse relationship, whereby the most privileged are attributed stronger moral authority. Position allocation is shown to be a resource deployed to reward volunteering and thus strengthen charities, therefore supporting the view that symbolic power is a reasonable tool which enables charities to sustain their work (Dean 2020). However, such patronage positions also provide social capital in the form of access to influential figures. These findings have implications for theorising the reproduction of capital and achieving greater equality in practice.

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