Becoming Elite: Exclusion, Excellence, and Collective Identity in Ireland’s Top Fee-Paying Schools

  • Aline Courtois


Against the backdrop of the present economic crisis, the connections among various spheres of influence in Ireland have become the object of much criticism. Recent corruption scandals have brought to the forefront what is sometimes viewed as a collusion of political and business interests, leading to an increased concentration of wealth and power in the hands of a small minority (Allen 2007; Cooper 2009; O’Toole 2009; Ross 2009). The Irish business landscape is indeed characterized by high levels of interlocked directorships, and the political and business worlds are brought into close contact by numerous consultative corporate bodies, frequent crossovers from one sphere to the other, and consensus on the neoliberal ideology. These connections are often prolonged in social life: high-profile social events and exclusive golf clubs allow political, corporate, and social elites, old wealth and new wealth, to mingle informally. The terms “Golden Circle” or “Old Boys Network”—evocative of power elite theories (e.g., Mills 1956; Useem 1984 )—have been coined recently in the media in reference to a core group of Irish corporate leaders and politicians. However, the part played by education in the cohesiveness and solidarity of Irish elites has been left largely unexplored. This is partly due to the fact that there is no distinct elite third-level institution in Ireland, and as a result institutional mechanisms of elite reproduction are less visible than in some other countries such as France or the United Kingdom.


Social Capital Cultural Capital Collective Identity Elite School Class Cohesion 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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© Jon Abbink and Tijo Salverda 2013

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  • Aline Courtois

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