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 Panel on

‘Methodological Advances in the Study of Corporate Networks’ Fracturing and Concentration’

European Conference on Social Networks (EUSN) 2017, Mainz, Germany,

26-29 September




Eelke M. Heemskerk, University of Amsterdam, [log in to unmask]      

Lasse F. Henriksen, Copenhagen Business School, [log in to unmask]


Session abstract:

For long corporate control has been organized in dense networks of interlocking directorates and shared ownership. Such corporate networks integrate corporate elites within the board of the most powerful companies, in tightly knit ‘inner circles’. But at the turn of the century networks of corporate control started to decline (Heemskerk 2007). More recently, Mizruchi (2013) has argued that for the American corporate elite, the structure of ‘command and control’ in a highly concentrated, and thus hierarchical, corporate network no longer exists and that the corporate elite is now fractured. Chu and Davis (2016) register the ongoing thinning of the US network of board interlocks and come to the sweeping conclusion that ‘the findings of classic studies—on elite socialization and class consciousness, on political unity and pragmatism, and on corporate learning and isomorphism—no longer hold’. As a consequence, ‘previously discovered “facts” need reconfirmation’.


The fracturing thesis thus leads to pressing questions in scholarship. We take the fracturing thesis and the conjectures of its proponents seriously but also question the validity and generalizability of its claims. First of all, the burgeoning research comparing the structure and function of corporate networks in different countries and regions highlight the difference in network trajectories (Scott 1991; Kogut 2012; David and Westerhuis 2014). The relevance of the fracturing thesis may well be limited to the US (Cárdenas 2016; Heemskerk, Fennema and Carroll 2016). Second, in those places where corporate networks have been in decline it is indeed essential to revisit previous scholarship on for instance political unity and corporate learning. Different social structures may well foster elite socialization and group consciousness, albeit in a different manner than before. This is a particularly prominent question given the fundamental changes in national and international politics we face today. And third, there is growing evidence of concentration of corporate control in the hands of a few actors such as through passive investment funds (Fichtner et al 2016) and to some extend sovereign states. 


This panel aims to address these pressing issues concerning concentration or fracturing. In particular it calls for papers that use novel methodological and analytical techniques, fully exploring the potential we have today to develop new answers to old questions, and generate new questions on the role of corporate elites in today’s global political economy.


Suggested topics:

Papers may be inspired by questions such as:

- How widely applicable is the corporate fracturing thesis, and what cases provide support for it vs. contradicts it? 

- How does a network process of fracturing vs concentration look when detailed data is available to model it?    

- What might explain fracturing and disintegration vs enduring concentration and centralized control?

- What are the exogenous and endogenous mechanisms at play in driving fracturing vs concentration? 

- What techniques, models and visuals can help illuminate the underlying mechanisms of fracturing and concentration?  

- Retesting the findings of some key contributions in the corporate network literature on its consequences, using novel techniques and methods.


Please note that this panel is distinct from the related general ‘corporate network’ track proposal because of its clear topical focus. For any queries we can be contacted on [log in to unmask] or [log in to unmask].


Eelke Heemskerk & Lasse Folke Henriksen

Abstract Submission Info

Deadline: March 31, 2017

Max number of words: 500

Paper FAQ: http://www.eusn2017.uni-mainz.de/paper-and-poster-faq/

Abstract Submission Form at CONVERIA


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