This article explores the complex relationship between transnational elites and civil society through examining the contrasting orientations of two cohorts of ‘elite graduates’ from Paris and Oxford. Both cohorts believe their privileged status has been earned through hard work and ability. But they are also aware that they have benefited from advantages not available to all. Perhaps because of this, they express the need to ‘give something back’. However, the means through which they seek to discharge their social responsibilities are very different. While the Oxford graduates seek to ‘give something back’ through volunteering and third sector engagement, the Paris graduates will ‘give something back’ through public service. The article discusses how the contrasting relationship between the state, civil society and the education system in these two countries may shape dispositions, and speculates on the extent to which these elite recruits’ commitment to ‘give something back’ will make a difference.
Published: January 2016