Citadels of privilege: the rise of LLCs, LPs and the perpetuation of elite power in America

Matthew Soener, Michael Nau

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Corporations are typically identified as the primary organization for producing and redistributing resources. They continue to be important but are not alone. Since the early 1990s, there has been a substantial rise in the number of limited liability companies (LLCs) and limited partnerships (LPs) in the United States. These flexible legal-organizational forms combine the benefits of traditional corporations but with less public accountability and lower taxation rates. They therefore give elites reprieve from the New Deal era regulations placed on corporations. We bring these organizations to light by historicizing their emergence and document key trends around social inequality. Technocratic elites constructed these organizations from legal bricolage and they now contribute significantly to American capital accumulation. Moreover, the top 1 per cent owns the majority of LLC and LP assets–a group that is overwhelmingly white and male. Far from being neutral organizations, they reinforce the interests of dominant social groups.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)399-425
Number of pages27
JournalEconomy and Society
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 3 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • elites
  • finance
  • inequality
  • organizations

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History
  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Social Sciences(all)


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