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Bruno Cousin, Sébastien Chauvin (2016)

Old Money, Networks and Distinction: The Social and Service Clubs of Milan’s Upper Classes.

Ch.8 in Cities and the Super-Rich, edited by Ray Forrest, Bart Wissink and Sin Yee Koh, Palgrave MacMillan, 2017.

Upper-class social clubs in European metropolises have mostly been described through isolated monographs. Instead, this chapter on Milan studies them relationally. Extending the Bourdieusian approach, we show that social (and some service) clubs in Italy’s economic capital city form a relatively coherent space of distinction.

Differences between clubs relate to historical origins, social composition, organisational features, and modalities for membership. But they also pertain to the particular criteria used by each institution to describe and legitimate its social capital – i.e. the links connecting its members with each other – as well as to distinguish itself from its competitors. We argue that part of the efficiency of social capital stems from the symbolic categories deployed to endow it with meaning.

 Keywords: aristocracy; Bourdieu; bourgeoisie; clubs; distinction; friendship; gender segregation in the elite; gentlemen’s clubs; Italy; Milan; Rotary; service clubs; social capital; social clubs; symbolic economy; upper classes.