New Delhi, India, 4-5 January 2016.
Elites can be broadly defined as “those who have vastly disproportionate control over or access to a resource”. The study of this privileged fraction of society currently experiences a revival that can partly be explained by the rising level of inequalities. The “Occupy Wall Street” movement of 2011 shed light on this renewed interest of scholars and activists, who make an extensive use of the latest researches produced by social scientists. More recently, the successs of Thomas Piketty’s book helped to shed light on the role this fraction of society plays in the production of inequalities. A whole body of quantitative and qualitative research has been produced by researchers over the last few years, including prosopographic studies of business leaders, Multiple Correspondence Analyses of the field of economic power, historical studies of the business elites, network analyses of corporate interlocks, qualitative studies of the formal and informal modes of sociability among the elite, ethnography of elite clubs, studies of conspicuous consumption, etc. From the early works of Vilfredo Pareto, Gaetano Mosca, Thorstein Veblen and C. Wright Mills to today’s researches, the sociology of elites can draw on a very rich and diverse body of works. Nonetheless, the scholarship on the elite in India is very limited. The well established traditions of studying social networks of the elite, their educational background, their biographies, their family life, their exclusive social clubs, their culture or their neighborhoods have not still been appropriated by scholars working on the Indian society and very few researchers are currently trying to fill this gap. This is all the more surprising as India is currently the World’s third economic power in terms of Purchasing Power Parity (and the 10th in terms of GDP nominal value). To give just one figure, according to the Wall Street Journal, in 2013, India had a total of 182,000 millionaires (in dollars). Continue reading