«PHILIPP KOROM & JAAP DRONKERS Last update 12 October 2009 Paper presented at the invited workshop ‘Nobility in Europe during the 20th Century: ...»
We have used Hueck (2002) and the Genealogisches Handbuch des Adels to identify the noble title of the selected persons (simple nobility; baron or Freiherr;
count or Graf; higher aristocracy, like duke, prince, etc.) and the moment of first ennoblement of that particular family (before or after 1500). If the noble title was uncertain (various branches of the same family can have different titles) we gave the lowest rank. If the moment of first ennoblement of the family was unknown, we assumed that this happened after 1500. We could not make this distinction within the higher aristocracy, but the majority of these families are likely to have been ennobled before 1500.
4. Nobility in the Austrian Economic elite This section focuses on the comparison of the noble and non-noble members of the
Austrian economic elite. We mainly test our first three hypotheses:
H1 The percentage of nobles in the Austrian economic elite is above-average in comparison with nobles in the total Austrian population.
H2 The age and other individual characteristics of nobles in the Austrian economic elite do not deviate from those of the non-nobles in the Austrian economic.
Nobles can thus not be considered as residuals of a former Stand, whose members had distinctive features in common.
H3 Within the economic elites there is a significant concentration of nobles within the banking sector.
Table 1: Nobility in the Austrian economic elite frequency percent no nobility 16494 99,1 found nobility 60 0,4 likely nobility 88 0,5 Total 16642 100,0 Table 1 shows that 0,88 % of the Austrian business elite are descendent from a noble family. Compared with the relative size of the nobles in the Austrian population (0,014) the 0,88% mean a relative higher ratio of Austrian nobles in the economic elite compared to all Austrians (88/14= 6.2) The first hypothesis derived from Walterskirchen (2007) can therefore be accepted.
Table 2 Percentage of men and women among the nobles in the economic elite % of nobles N Male 0,90 15142 Female 0,73 1500 Total 0,88 16642
Table 3 shows that nobles among the economic elite are on average 3 years older than non-nobles (this is a significant difference). They differ also more among themselves in their age compared with non-nobles, which means that they might be both older and younger than non-nobles. Although nobles in the economic elite are older than the non-nobles, we do not consider this as a rejection of our second hypothesis because of the larger variation of age among the nobles.
Table 4 shows that the nobles among the Austrian economic elite have significantly higher level academic titles than the non-nobles. The strongest difference is to be found for the educational title “Dr.” (PhD). As the attainment of high academic titles was not a characteristic of the pre-1918 Austrian nobility, these findings do not necessarily imply that our second hypothesis is inappropriate.
Table 5 shows that noble members are slightly stronger represented in the category Aufsichtsrat (1,16% versus 0,89%), but underrepresented in the category of the Geschäftsführer/leiter (0,23% versus 0,89%). As these differences are hardly significant we regard the results as support for our second hypothesis.
Table 6 demonstrates that nobles do not have an outstanding preference for any given sector. The number of nobles within the financial sector only indicates a slight preference for nobles for finance-related business. Consequently there is only limited support for the third hypothesis.
The difference between firms of noble versus those of non-noble members in number of employees is not significant. Due to the large standard deviations the dissimilarity in turnover of these firms is hardly insignificant (0,06). However, nobles tend to be active in firms with a higher turnover and more employees. We consider these small differences as support for our second hypothesis.
The conclusion to be drawn from this section is that the noble members of the Austrian economic elite deviate from the non-noble members: they work in firms with a higher turnover and hold more often an academic title. Furthermore the noble members of the Austrian economic elite are three years older than the non-nobles and
5. The diversity of the Austrian nobility within the economic elite In this section we compare the noble members of Austrian economic elite among themselves, using the rank of the noble title and the moment of the first ennoblement
of that family as means of differentiation. In so doing, we test our fourth hypothesis:
H4 Noble ranks function still as stratifying devices.
Given the small numbers, significance testing is not very relevant. We therefore discuss only the substantial differences between nobles.
Table 8 shows that counts of families ennobled after 1500 are most frequent among the economic elites (28,4%), followed by simple nobility ennobled after 1500 (22,3%), aristocrats (Fürst or higher, in most cases ennobled at a lower rank before 1500;
14,9%) and barons, ennobled after 1500 (12,8%).
Compared to the distribution of titles in Hueck (2002), persons with the title count or higher are overrepresented in the noble economic elite of Austria, while simple nobility and barons are underrepresented. However, the Genealogische Handbuchs des Adels and thus Hueck (2002) contain both Northern and Southern German and Austrian nobility. Due to the religious and regional differences between the northern and southern parts of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation, protestant nobility concentrated mostly in northern parts sought less and/or received less often a higher noble title from their catholic emperor, whose power was more concentrated in the south (Margreiter 2005). By contrast the catholic nobility in the southern parts had better opportunities to obtain a higher noble title. This might (partly) explain the overrepresentation of counts and higher noble titles.
In table 9 there is no clear pattern to be found. More female elite members seem to stem from families ennobled after 1500 (thus less traditional families?), irrespective of their noble title, but the families with the count rank contradict this possible regularity. These confirming instances for the fourth hypothesis stay thus ambiguous.
There is hardly any variation in age between the noble members of the Austrian nobility, which is related to rank. Barons from families ennobled after 1500 are the oldest on average, but barons from families ennobled before 1500 are the youngest on average. Again, these mixed findings could be mere coincidence.
Simple nobility ennobled before 1500 has hardly any academic title (only 17%), while 42% of the counts from families ennobled before 1500 hold a doctorate, followed by counts from families ennobled after 1500 (38%).
Table 12 suggests that the higher the noble title, the higher the turnover of their firm.
The clearest distinction is to be found between counts and aristocracy on the one and the rest on the other hand. No such pattern is inferable for the number of employees.
Noble ranks are not clearly associated with positions within the economic elite.
Barons from families ennobled before 1500 are less often members of the Aufsichtsrat or the Vorstand, but more often the Geschäftsführer or the Geschäftsleiter, while Barons from families ennobled after 1500 are less often Geschäftsführer, but are more often in the Vorstand. Counts from families ennobled after 1500 are less often Geschäftsführer and in the Vorstand. Note that there is an even distribution across all categories for the aristocracy.
The main conclusion of this section is that there is no straightforward variation among the noble members of the Austrian economic elite according to the rank of their noble title and the moment of the first ennoblement. Sometimes there seems to be a distinction between aristocracy and counts versus lower nobility, at other moments between families ennobled before or after 1500, but altogether no solid pattern emerges. This suggests that the rank of a noble title has lost its significance in the 21st century, and that nobility has become a more homogenous social category. The fourth hypothesis is not supported by our data.
6. The Network of Nobles
In this section we test our last hypothesis:
H5 Nobles in the Austrian economic elite form an informal network within the Austrian economic elite.
Our analysis gives only a structural account of nobles’ position within the economic, nation-wide network. We are first interested in whether nobles do better in relational networking than non-nobles.
Table 14 shows that noble members hold on average more economic positions (the difference between the two groups is significant), but they do not have the highest number of relations.
We further tested whether companies with nobles on their boards entertain more ties.
In table 15 we refer to the degrees of companies, thus to the number of lines that are incident with a vertex (company) within the network of interlocked directorates.
We further expect similar people to interact more often among themselves than with dissimilar people (nobles vs. non-nobles). In order to test the phenomenon of “birds of a feather flock together” we first investigated whether nobles are to be found in the same companies. While Kadushin (1995) found out that dyadic friendship is not directly important in determining who sits with whom on what board, we found a pattern that contradicts this postulate. If nobles are to be found on the same board, then there are always dyads. Table 16 shows that these dyads are only to be found on the level of supervisory boards (and not for example on the level of executive boards).
We are not able to tell whether ties of friendship preceded these business relations.
The issue of elite integration (or the lack of it) plays an important role in the sociology of elites (Useem 1984). Do companies with nobles on their boards form a structurally delineated subgroup?
There is no evidence at all that would suggest that companies are connected to each other through the principle of homophily (being part of nobility). Even in the rare cases in which companies with nobles on their boards are linked to each other, these ties are not established by nobles themselves. We can thus conclude that nobles do not form an informal network within the Austrian economic elite.
7. Privat foundations in Austria– the Fideikommiß of the present The German Fideikommiß, thus entailed property, arose when a property owner undertook legal action to restrict the power of later owners to sell, mortgage or make testamentary transfers (Beckert 2008). The purpose of the Fideikommiß was clearly to maintain large-scale proprietorship. Entailed land could not be sold during the owner´s lifetime and was required to pass at the owner´s death to the eldest son (or otherwise according to the rules of primogeniture). Due to transfer and inheritance restrictions the land thus remained within a family. As the Fideikommiß in Germany and Austria was abolished by law in 1938, nobles were stripped of a legal institution that successfully prevented a fragmentation of land by equal sharing among multiple heirs based on the succession laws. However, since the Private Foundation Act came in effect in September 1993, Austrian nobles have again a financial instrument at their disposal that helps to avoid the splitting up of family businesses and family estates.
Differently to other European countries private foundations in Austria are only very rarely charitable in nature. They are easily set up by a notarised declaration and formally come into existence upon entry into the Austrian register of firms. The grantor must endow his foundation with assets of at least 73.000 euros. Private foundations in Austria benefit from a number of fiscal advantages, as for example tax exemptions for certain types of income from direct investment. The gift tax amounts to only 2.5. per cent and the land deposit into the private foundation is even exempted thereof – another reason why they might be attractive to nobles.
Austrian news magazines report that there are currently more than 2500 private foundations (Privatstiftungen) located in Austria, that hold assets that are altogether worth between 20 and 45 billions (Manager Magazin, 05.08.2004). The largest foundation was established by Friedrich Karl Flick, a German industrialist, with assets totalling about 6.1 billion euros (Trend, 01.07.2004). According to the Austrian Association for the Protection of Creditors (Kreditschutzverband) Franz Mayr-Melnhof-Saurau invested 1.981 billion, Karl Johannes Schwarzenberg 207 millions and Ulrich Stepski 166 million into their private foundations. All of them are clearly of nobility. In our list of firms that are headed by nobles ( appendix II) 21 private foundations are registered. All these pieces of evidence suggest that private foundations have displaced the old Fideikomiß. This change was initiated by an “exogenous shock”, namely the reformulation of the legislative framework. The reorientation of nobles towards private foundations is an illustrative example for the successful adaption of nobles to modernization, as old traditions are continued to be carried out with the help of modern institutions.