How to Study Elites’ “International Capital”? Some Methodological Reflections

Chapitre de Felix Bühlmann dans le livre « Researching Elites and Power » de François Denord, Mikael Palme et Bertrand Réau

Abstract: In this paper we discuss the methodological implication of the use of “international capital” or “cosmopolitan capital” in quantitative studies of national elites and national fields of power. In the wake of the globalization and transnationalization of formerly “national” elite fields, these concepts have become important to understand how international networks, international exchanges and international migration have come to reconfigure national elites. Following an overview of the conceptual approaches and uses of international capital, we discuss some definitional issues and show how international capital relates to other forms of capital in Bourdieu’s framework. In order to expose the problems and pitfalls of the quantitative measurement of “international capital” we rely a on string of studies on the economic elites, on top bankers and on academic elites in Switzerland and other European countries. We rehearse some methodological challenges related to the concept of international capital and discuss how its value can be best studied.

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