The Old Families
The Old Families
This chapter shows how pre-1980s federal policies allowed local business owning families, or “the old families,” to maintain their position of public prominence in Prairieville. Using archival records and oral histories, the chapter shows that the old families were central to a social system similar to Marcel Mauss’s account of a total gift exchange: they accumulated resources and rose in prominence by giving gifts, either to concrete individuals or an abstract public of business-minded citizens. Keynesian-era policies encourages this local system by preventing corporate mergers, allowing a sector of locally-owned firms to emerge in places like Prairieville. Federal bureaucrats also operated a banker government, which transferred social service and urban development funding to local bodies, thus allowing community leaders to put their plans into action by establishing control over these bodies. Employing a social network analysis of membership in 1970s-era community organizations, the chapter shows that, consequently, the same group of local business owners was central in local economic life, civic associations catering to the tastes of the well-to-do, local political bodies, and the Republic party.
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