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2020 2021 Lecture Series

Lecture Series

Andy Summers

A sociological analysis of the UK’s global elite: evidence from tax records

The UK has proved an attractive destination for the world’s top earners and high net wealth individuals. In 2017, around one quarter of the top 1% by income originally came from abroad, rising to one third amongst the top 0.1% and to nearly four in ten of those within the top 0.01%. Although many of these migrants settle permanently, the UK offers a special tax regime to those who maintain foreign connections, who are known as ‘non-doms’ (i.e. individuals not domiciled in the UK). In the popular imagination, non-doms epitomise a globalised economic elite, simultaneously exerting significant influence within British society, yet remaining weakly tied to the place where they live. We use administrative tax data covering every individual who claimed ‘non-dom’ status from 1997-2017 to provide the first sociological anatomy of this enigmatic group. We will present our initial findings on their national origins and the neighbourhoods within which they live, allowing us to explore the non-dom population on scales from the global down to local. We will also outline an agenda for further work on the sociology of elites in the UK.

Lecture Series

Walter Powell, Stanford

Seeing Like a Philanthropist: From the Business of Benevolence to the Benevolence of Business
Walter Powell

Over the course of American history, philanthropists have been both praised and pilloried, depicted as redeemers of democracy and a threat to it. Despite the shifting social terrain in which they have operated, philanthropists — and the organizations they create — have grown in number and influence, acting as a catalytic force in the genesis and development of the modern nonprofit sector. Philanthropic largesse has also played a powerful role in shaping civic life and political affairs. We argue that it is important to understand not only how philanthropists are seen, but also how they see. In narrating the development of American philanthropy from the late 19th to the early 21st centuries, our aim is to capture changes in what it means to “see like a philanthropist”—that is, to illuminate the meanings and ends of philanthropic wealth. We focus on three core influences on philanthropic visions: (1) the sources of philanthropic wealth, (2) its organizational embodiments, and (3) the criticisms leveled at its outsized influence. We examine the reciprocal dynamic between political challenges to elite power and philanthropic visions. We show that philanthropists have transposed the practices they used to earn their great fortunes into the organizational routines of their philanthropies and turned these into requirements for those who receive their funding. The actions of past philanthropists weigh heavily on future philanthropists, Consequently, the political might of philanthropy both channels and enables the critiques to which its influence is subjected. In narrating this long arc of history, we show how the super-rich’s perceptions of themselves and their role in public life have evolved as well as the myriad ways philanthropy has altered civic and political discourse.

“Economic action is ‘social’ insofar as its subjective meaning takes account of the behavior of others and is thereby oriented in its course.”— Max Weber