Business, Ownership, and Family Wealth
Current research on wealth in Germany shows that wealth is concentrated in the hands of a few families. These fortunes are often based on the success of one or more businesses owned and controlled by these families. These wealthy entrepreneurial families are the product and driver of the specific form of family-dominated capitalism in Germany, which is generally associated, however, with a somewhat romanticized notion of medium-sized family businesses that operate on a long-term basis and have regional roots. The research group "Business, Ownership, and Family Wealth" investigates the changing constitution of family capitalism in Germany with a decided focus on social inequality. It is assumed that private property is a constitutive feature of capitalism per se and that family capitalism is characterized by a dominating influence of families on the capitalist mode of production and economy. Such family capitalism represents the norm both historically and globally, but different configurations of family-dominated capitalism can be discerned in terms of the structural distribution and concentration of business ownership as well as the cultural attribution of the importance and legitimacy of this ownership. With regard to Germany, the key questions are: Why are owner families still dominant within the business population today, and how do some of them manage to reproduce control over their businesses over generations? How is the importance of ownership for the family and societal expectations of owner families changing? What is the relationship between owner families and governmental, institutional, or participatory owners? The research group's projects address these questions, contributing to a deeper understanding of the relationship between business, ownership, and family wealth in a capitalist economic order.