Center for the Study of Social Organization
Monday Mid-day Colloquium Series
U.S. corporations have shared members of their boards of directors since the early 1900s, creating a dense interlock network in which nearly every major corporation was connected through short paths and elevating a handful of well-connected directors to an influential “inner circle.” This network remained highly connected throughout the 20th century, serving as a mechanism for the rapid diffusion of information and practices and promoting elite cohesion. Some of the best-established findings in the sociology of networks sprang from this milieu. In the 2000s, however, board recruiting practices changed: we find that well-connected directors became less preferred. As a result, the inner circle disappeared and companies became less connected to each other. Revisiting three classic studies, on the diffusion of corporate policies, on corporate executives’ political unity, and on elite socialization, shows that established understandings of the effects of board interlocks on U.S. corporations, directors, and social elites no longer hold.
Please feel free to bring a lunch.
Johan Chu is an assistant professor of organizations and strategy at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. A large part of his research focuses on understanding sustained dominance in social, industrial, and cultural settings.