Social Power and Conversion of Capital: Sune Ebbesen of Zealand

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In course of the twelfth century the structure of the Danish power field saw perceptible changes. Economic growth, religious reform, strengthening of royal authority, incipient institutionalization, and recurrent dynastic feuding combined to differentiate and concentrate the resources or forms of capital which shaped positions and hierarchies among society’s dominant groups. Taking the trajectory of one particular magnate, Sune Ebbesen of Zealand (1120s-86) as example, this chapter discusses how members of the elite navigated these transformations. Specific attention is paid to conversion strategies, i.e., strategies aimed at translating traditional assets such as inherited wealth and bonds of family and friendship into new forms of capital such as profitable royal benefices, monastic patronage, and formal education. As the case of Sune Ebbesen demonstrates, social power - defined as the capacity to establish and control social relations and networks - remained the necessary key converter in such processes by which elites not only adapted to reconfigurations of the power field, but also - in a kind of self-propelling circularity - created the very changes they strove to adapt to by co-promoting centralized authority and increasing the value of religious and educational capital.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationNordic Elites in Transformation, c. 1050-1250, Volume II : Social Networks
EditorsKim Esmark, Lars Hermanson, Hans Jacob Orning
Number of pages19
Publication date1 Jan 2020
ISBN (Print)9780367901950
ISBN (Electronic)9781000037289
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2020
SeriesRoutledge Research in Medieval Studies

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