Is Wealth Thicker than Blood? The Social Order of Wealthy Families

Franziska Wiest

The intergenerational transmission of wealth in families is a major cause of increasing wealth concentration. However, it is only recently that there has been a growing sociological interest in the role of the family and kinship networks in cross-generational wealth accumulation. To understand the dynamics of long-term wealth perpetuation, the dissertation project analyzes social orders in wealthy families and their consequences for the reproduction of family wealth in times of increasing inequalities. It argues that these families are main drivers of capitalist development and the social orders they are embedded in and produce help us to understand how wealthy families react and adapt to social change. Drawing on in-depth interviews with members of super-rich German families along with legal, archival, and journalistic data of their family dynamics, the dissertation investigates how these families have succeeded or failed in establishing family and wealth continuity. By exploring how family dynamics are navigated, the dissertation contributes to the question of the economic embeddedness of the family in contemporary capitalism as well as to research on wealth and social inequality. This project is also part of the Research Focus Wealth and Social Inequality.

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