The De-coupling of National Economic Elites from Political Elites: Russia and the UK Compared

David Lane


The paper considers the effects of economic globalization on the relationship between national economic and political elites. It is contended that high levels of globalization lead to the de-coupling of economic elites from national political elites and that economic globalization also marginalizes the powers of dependent nation states. The thesis of this paper is that in economically globalized states there is a duality of power.  A political elite is legitimated electorally to a national constituency but excluded from the nexus of power by globalized processes.  The composition and balance between ruling elites diverge between nation states.  A comparison is made between the British and Russian economic elites.  The paper considers the composition of the boards of directors of twelve leading companies in the UK and fourteen in Russia. Attention is given to their national and educational background as well as their current or previous links with governments and economic institutions. On the basis of the biographies of directors and other company data, it is concluded that the economic elites in British companies are global in composition and decoupled from the UK’s political elites.  Globalization moves capitalism out of a nation state framework and neo-liberalism legitimates markets over states. Such de-coupling leads to increasing political weakness of national political elites and stimulates movements for economic nationalism. Russia is considered a hybrid system with many leading companies being closely integrated with the political elite but others are more autonomous and multinational in control and ownership. The economic structure is the basis of Russia’s economic nationalism.  Political leadership is considered a key variable in tipping the balance.


Globalization, Russia, UK, company boards, elites

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ISSN: 2062-087X

DOI: 10.14267/issn.2062-087X