Skip to content Skip to navigation

"Fit to be king: how patrimonialism on Wall Street leads to inequality"

Megan Tobias Neely
Socio-Economic Review

The hedge fund industry is one of the most lucrative and powerful industries in the USA, yet it mostly comprises white men. To understand why, I turn to Weber’s theory of patrimonialism, which primarily has been applied to historical or non-Western societies. I argue that patrimonialism—activated through trust, loyalty and tradition—restricts access to financial rewards and facilitates the reproduction of the white male domination of this industry. Using data from 45 in-depth interviews combined with field observations at industry events over a 4-year period, I investigate how hiring, grooming and seeding practices within and among firms enable certain elites to maintain monopolies over financial resources. Applying the theory of patrimonialism to a context with few women and minority men in power-holding positions demonstrates how practices that reproduce elite structures are directly connected to inequality in the workplace.