Family Business Institutionalization, Governance, and Social Distinction Among Colombia’s Elite Business Families

  • Mariana Saavedra-Espinosa Assistant Professor of Global Commerce at Denison University

Abstract

While the institutionalization of some of Colombia’s largest family-owned businesses is often explained with reference to the global economic liberalization of the 1990s and the need for smooth intergenerational transference of property and management, this article connects the increasing popularity of these specialized managerial measures to long-standing structures of social hierarchy and group formation in the country. Drawing on twenty months of ethnographic research among members of industrial elite business-owning families, I argue that the increasing prevalence of these measures cannot be fully explained without attention to dynamics of symbolic social distinction in the country. I ground family business governance in its social context by considering it in light of three important forms of distinction: in-group and cosmopolitan connections, conspicuous industriousness and enactment of “modern” values, and the adoption of governance as a form of family lineage.

Author Biography

Mariana Saavedra-Espinosa, Assistant Professor of Global Commerce at Denison University
Mariana Saavedra-Espinosa is an economic and cultural anthropologist broadly interested in how human groups come to define the nature of their relationships. With the support of the Wenner Gren Foundation's Hunt Postdoctoral Fellowship, she is currently completing her first monograph, which analyzes the cultural significance of market practices within Colombia's racialized social order. She holds a Ph.D. from Cornell University and is currently an Assistant Professor of Global Commerce at Denison University and Faculty Affiliate at the College of Charleston. 

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Published
2020-11-30
Section
Articles