Few social researchers study elites because elites, by their nature, are very difficult to access. The contributors to this volume provide valuable insights on how researchers can successfully penetrate elite settings. As the authors reflect on their experiences, they provide constructive advice as well as cautionary tales about how they learned to maneuver and become accepted in a world that is often closed to them. This book's coverage includes three broad research domains: business elites, professional elites, and community and political elites. Although the studies focus on qualitative methodology, even researchers who emphasize more quantitative methods will benefit from this volume's thoughtful observations on how researchers gather data, construct interview strategies, write about their subjects, and experience the research process. A wide range of researchers in organizational studies, sociology, political science, and many other fields will find this volume to be an important guide to the many subtle and elusive features of conducting successful research with these groups.
Part I: Business Elites
Studying executives in corporations, Robert Thomas details some practical suggestions to counter the frustrations of getting past the myriad organizational gatekeepers. He insists on a clear agenda before going to the trouble of interviewing these “important people” whose accessibility is constrained not simply by elite status but also by rigorous time schedules. Thomas argues that the researcher needs to disentangle the executive from his or her office in order to get beyond formal corporate scripts and prepared public-relations responses. He turns status inconsistencies between researcher and subject into an advantage by phrasing questions in personal terms and by giving the subject an opportunity to play the teacher.
Michael Useem explains what he has learned (and how he has gone about learning it) in ...