In her manifesto "Up the Anthropologist," Laura Nader called for social scientists to study not only the poor and disenfranchised, as sociologists and anthropologists long have, but also the powerful and wealthy. She referred to this as "studying up" and noted that in concert with studying down and studying sideways, it helped generate a full portrait of a culture. It also helps us understand how elites reproduce their privilege and what Antonio Gramsci called cultural hegemony.
Journalists and social scientists have often found it difficult to study cultural elites. Imagine what would happen if an anthropologist proposed to study the tribal ways of Goldman Sachs, for example. One of Laura Nader's students tried to do something similar and was rebuffed, sparking Nader's insights. Elites often do not welcome scrutiny. Privacy, secretiveness, and a code of silence are often an integral part of their power. Entering their world can be prohibitively expensive and time intensive.
Studying an elite group's beliefs and practices regarding money and sex can be especially tricky.
I am looking forward to reading Guardian journalist Jorin Luywndijk's Swimming with Sharks: My Journey into the World of Bankers.
Guess what he did?