19th Century Global Elites:  A Comparative World-Historical Approach


Christopher Chase-Dunn & Thomas Ehrlich Reifer

Institute for Research on World-Systems & Department of Sociology, UC Riverside

Riverside, CA 92521

chriscd@mail.ucr.edu, reifert@mail.ucr.edu




            Numerous contemporary accounts of “globalization” highlight the increasing interconnectedness of transnational or global elites in the current period.  Indeed,  increased integration of global elites and elite organizations, many argue, augurs against another wave of global warfare that has been a recurrent feature of hegemonic transitions in the global system.  Others point out that the nineteenth century also saw waves of “globalization” and global elite integration, which did not however prevent the two world wars of the twentieth century.  Though the implications of elite integration for future global warfare are enough to establish its importance for ongoing research, the issue has much broader implications for the future trajectory of the global system, including the question of world political, economic, military security and stability.  And yet, while claims regarding the distinctiveness of the present era in terms of elite integration or “globalization” are often made, there has been much less empirical and theoretical inquiry into global elites before the twentieth century that could provide the basis for comparison within the framework of world-history.  This paper takes up this task, through an analysis of nineteenth century global elites within a comparative world-historical framework. 

This paper surveys the landscape of nineteenth century global elites in broad outline, with a view towards understanding waves of elite integration within the framework of comparative world-historical inquiry.  The development of transnational elites and transnational organizations of coordination and control during the nineteenth century are highlighted.  In order to establish a proper basis for world-historical comparison, particular emphasis is placed on the varied geohistorical trajectories of global elites and the implications of these for analyzing global elite integration over the longue duree of the modern world-system.  Finally, the importance of global elite integration for understanding cyclical and secular trends in the evolution of the global system as a whole is discussed.




            Submitted for the conference, “World History:  Research, Teaching, Agendas,” All-UC Multi-Campus Research Unit in World History, UC Riverside, May 18-19, 2002.