Sociology of elites

Just now reading Shamus Khan's review essay, "The Sociology of Elites," and it's great. Highly recommended. Khan's focus is the American elite, and, more specifically, how, and why, it has changed character in the period of the last thirty to forty years, and what this means for a sociology of elites, in general. In summary: 

First, present economic shocks notwithstanding, today’s elite are wealthier than any elite we have seen since before World War II (Atkinson & Piketty 2007). Second, increasingly elites are engaged in the finance sector. Looking at the Forbes 400, one can see that in 1982 finance was the primary source of wealth of only 9% of the world’s richest. In con- trast, by 2007 those working in finance made up 27.3% of the Forbes list. This superelite is also more international than 30 years ago, and it is increasingly likely that such superelites are self-made (Bernstein & Swan 2007). Such trends from a rather tiny sample of the Forbes 400 are in evidence among the broader elite: There has been a decline in dynastic wealth since the 1970s and a rise of self-made elites (Edlund & Kopczuk 2009), and elites are less likely to own capital and increasingly likely to rely upon earnings for their incomes (Piketty & Saez 2003). In brief, members of today’s elite are less likely to have inherited their wealth than those a generation ago (though this is relative), more likely to work in finance, more likely to rely upon earnings than ownership of capital, more global, and more diverse geographically and racially (Domhoff & Zweigenhaft 1999). 

The whole piece is here.