Board Interlocks and the Study of the Transnational Capitalist Class

Clifford L. Staples

Abstract


In a recent synopsis of theories and findings on transnational corporate ties published in this journal, Nollert (2005) argues that while there may be good theoretical reasons to hypothesize the emergence of a Transnational Capitalist Class (tcc), to this point there is relatively little empirical evidence, aside from Sklairs (2001) work, to support the claim that such a class exists or is forming. However, a few researchers have attempted to apply the study of interlocking directorates to the search for a network of transnational directors who might be in a position to form such a class. Drawing on empirical findings on the worlds largest transnational corporations and banks reported elsewhere (Staples 2007a; Staples 2007b), as well as additional analyses done specifically for this paper, I argue that studies that rely exclusively on transnational corporate interlocks dramatically underestimate the extent of the tcc network because such studies count only transnational connections between corporations and miss transnational connections within corporationsconnections that have grown more numerous in recent years as corporate boards have become more multinational, largely as a result of the concentration of global capital. Counting both between and within transnational capitalist connections points to a far greater level of capitalist transnationality than is suggested by focusing exclusively on between corporate connections, as has been done in this work so far. And while the existence of such a network falls well short of convincing proof that a tcc exists, it does show that capitalists from different countries increasingly have opportunities to interact as they work together to run the worlds largest corporations, and it is out of such interactions that we would expect a tcc to emerge.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5195/jwsr.2006.371

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Copyright (c) 2015 Clifford L. Staples

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