Corporate networks

Initiated and co-ordinated by Gerarda Westerhuis (Utrecht University) and Thomas David (University of Lausanne)

The power of corporate networks: A comparative and historical perspective

This project, bringing together researchers from European and non-European countries, covers one important aspect of a country’s economic organization: corporate networks. Corporate networks are formed by board interlocks , i.e. ties between companies created by directors sitting on more than one board. These interlocks are personal links and form social relation between two or more companies. These networks were at the heart of the functioning of national economies during the 20th century, but became increasingly questioned during the last thirty years, under the pressure of globalization and financialisation. The purpose of the project is to provide a unique long-term analysis of the rise, consolidation and decline of these networks. 

Social capital

The (in)formal organization of the political economy has a direct outcome on the economic performance of countries. Corporate networks form an economic and social institution which play an important role in the political economy’s organization of each country: they reveal the ways in which firms coordinate their endeavors and their complementarity with other economic spheres (financial system; corporate governance; industrial relations; education and training systems; inter-company competition) can explain the different national strategies and performance of firms (Hall and Soskice 2001). Moreover, corporate networks are clearly related to inequalities within and between countries. The density of the national corporate network can be considered as a measure of the mass of social capital that the economic elite in each country has created. Differences in density between countries indicate differences in the advantages and the control capacity that the network provides for its members.

Goals of the project

Several scholars from over the world have collected national data on interlocking directorates. The project on interlocking directorates seeks to promote cooperation among researchers active in this field and to archive the relevant information at one place. The aim is to extend the number of countries during the coming years in order to create a comprehensive dataset on corporate networks with a global coverage. Another aim is to extend the data in the following years with data on the economic elites. 

Corporate networks in 14 different countries

One of the first outcomes of the project is an edited volume published with Routledge entitled The power of corporate networks: A comparative and historical perspective. This volume covers the development of corporate networks during the 20th century and early 21st century in 14 different countries (forthcoming in 2013). Click here for the most up to date information on this volume.


For more information on the datasets and/or the participants see the Centre for Global Economic History.

Any queries about the project should be directed to: Gerarda Westerhuis (Utrecht University):