I'm working on an article about political systems, which are composed of various elements, including government, media, law enforcement, military, etc.

But I can't think of a name for another element I want to include. I tentatively coined the term "public-private power networks," but I'd like to know if a word or phrase for this thing already exists.

Basically, I'm referring to the power structure where corporate interests, law firms, politicians and other corrupt entities network via board memberships, etc.

For example, there's a shady organization here in Seattle called the Alliance for Education that lists fifty people among its board of directors and "directors emeritus." They include Microfsoft, Boeing, Weyerhauser, several law firms and people who call themselves "community volunteers."

Many of these same people sit on other corporate boards. Some have been appointed to government agencies or "citizens' committees." Some may hold key positions in environmental groups. Many have spouses, relatives or close friends who have similar positions on various boards.

I'm basically talking about cronyism. However, my focus is on the high-level cronyism that generally shuts out ordinary citizens. For example, my cousin might help me get a job with a particular employer, but he could never get me appointed to the Alliance for Education or any other organization with such "star power."

Anyway, can anyone tell me if there's a name for this phenomenon? I'm particularly looking for a noun or phrase, but would welcome verbs as well.

P.S. I should also emphasize the fact that the networking I'm referring to acts as sort of an interface between the private sector (e.g. corporate interests) and the public sector (e.g. government).


Al Maki added a new term to my vocabulary - interlocking directorates. That's probably the best answer so far, but it's a little too restricted for the context I've described, in my opinion. Cronyism is a good suggestion, but it's way too broad; cronyism can occur just about anywhere, and it's hard to think of an adjective that really makes it work.

I suddenly realized that the term shadow government might work. Everyone knows that corporations (and the super rich) run the government, and they probably make most of their decisions at board meetings. So shadow government could be a euphemism for the de facto government.

I haven't posted it as the answer, though, because I don't think the rules allow us to coin new terms. So this question officially has no best answer.


"Interlocking directorates" comes to my mind.

  • Wow, I wasn't aware of that term. It doesn't exactly match what I'm looking for, as it doesn't really include public officials, "community volunteers," etc. But it's a great term to add to my vocabulary. – David Blomstrom Jan 21 '16 at 23:52

White-collar, or corporate nepotism, perhaps.

  • It may not exist as a standard term, but white-collar nepotism is a very good suggestion because it is self-explanatory. – Mari-Lou A Jan 29 '16 at 9:00

The way you describe it, I can't think of anything other than phrases that include the word "cronyism."

Elitist cronyism, high-brow cronyism, uppity cronyism, stuffed-shirt cronyism, managerial cronyism, etc.

I'll keep thinking, and I'll continue to watch this thread: you got me interested.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.