Accepted Paper:

Not so easy to be wealthy? Rich elites and the fears they have to deal with  


Lucia Orviska (University of Fribourg, Switzerland)

Paper Short Abstract:

Wealth is often associated with power and self-confidence, however, it can often be a secret burden. Especially in times of crisis, wealthy people are more often than usual exposed to different doubts and can have the feeling of being marginalized. The paper seeks to answer the following questions: What do they fear? Who do they trust? How does this shape their social interactions?

Paper long abstract:

Wealth in general is associated in society with power, self-confidence, and status advantages. Rich people are considered to be the „strong ones". Social scientists and the general public usually give the attention to marginalized, poor or „weak“ groups, in accordance to the classical top-down approach. However, recent developments during the economic and financial crisis have once again pointed out the fact that financial and wealthy elites are also a marginal part of the population, which can be vulnerable to social changes.

Based on the findings resulting from regular close interactions with wealthy elites in a professional framework of private banking as well as in a personal one, this paper will investigate their different fears and how these shape their social interactions. Furthermore, during times of crisis, these fears are even more exaggerated and enhanced by apocalyptical scenarios they can read, hear or imagine in their minds. How do they deal with this? How does it influence their social relations, general social structures and the hierarchical order of our society?

Anxiety is something that the wealthy are not proud of but is an inherent part of their human characters. From the most expected fears like losing power, control, money, status or being hunted during the crisis, we get to the more profound and personal ones of being isolated, cheated, not being recognized as competent at work, losing a sense of life purpose, being anxious for their children, having bad friendships, or not being loved for who they are. Perhaps it is not so easy to be wealthy after all. Is it?

Panel IW006
Anxiety at the top (EN)