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Back | Programme Area: Social Policy and Development, Transformative Social Policy

Business Elites in Panama: Sources of Power and State Capture


Business Elites in Panama: Sources of Power and State Capture
A well-established line of academic inquiry argues that state capture emerges in contexts of weak governance institutions. However, Panama is an outlier case featuring high levels of state capture despite strong governance institutions. To better understand state capture in Panama, this paper investigates the sources from which business elites draw their power—income control, business cohesion, political campaign contributions and revolving doors. Results show that state capture arose in Panama along with high income concentration among top elites, cohesion among a small cluster of family business groups, big businesses coordinating their electoral contributions, and appointments of businesspeople to strategic government positions. In closing, we suggest possible avenues of research to continue deciphering state capture, and provide some policy recommendations to reduce state capture in Panama.

Julián Cárdenas is Professor of Sociology at the Universitat de Valencia, Spain. His research focuses mainly on business elites and the social and political effects of business elite networks. Julián is editor of the Spanish Journal of Sociology (Revista Española de Sociología) and coordinator of the Research Network for Latin American Elites Studies (Red Elites América Latina – REAL). Personal website: http://www.networksprovidehappiness.com/; Contact: julian.cardenas@uv.es.

Francisco Robles-Rivera is a researcher at the Institute of Social Research and Lecturer at the School of Communication at the University of Costa Rica. He studies elites, inequality and media in Central America. He coordinates the Research Network for Latin American Elites Studies (Red Elites América Latina – REAL) and the working group “Elites” of the Consejo Latinoamericano de Ciencias Sociales (CLACSO). Contact: francisco.robles@ucr.ac.cr.
  • Publication and ordering details
  • Pub. Date: 23 Nov 2020
    Pub. Place: Geneva
    ISBN: 978 92 9085 116 5
    From: UNRISD