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.
Chapter 10: “Surely You're Not in This Just to Be Helpful”: Access, Rapport, and Interviews in Three Studies of Elites
Social scientists too rarely “study up.” The list of names of sociologists who have written about upper-class elites is too short and too easily recalled. A documentation of research methods used in studying elites, like the present special issue, should facilitate more of this kind of work. Because it is my own view that a lack of knowledge about elites contributes to obscuring and therefore maintaining their position in society, a better understanding of methodologies for elite study may also play a part in challenging that position.
From the mid-1970s ...