This article develops a model to explain the incorporation of new groups into the political elites in oligarchic societies. In this model, factions within the traditional power-holding group compete, and as their conflict escalates, they recruit the support of groups traditionally excluded from politics. This mechanism changes the ruling class’s social composition without the need for a substantial push from lower-status groups. I apply this model to analyze sequential changes in the social composition of the Chilean Congress from 1834 to 1894. To identify old versus new elites, I use an original database of kinship ties among all Chilean ministers and Congress members. By combining social network analysis and historical evidence, I show that, in times of increased intra-oligarchic conflict, groups traditionally excluded from the inner circles of power – the bourgeoisie and the bureaucrats initially – made breakthroughs in their political representation.
- Elite renewal
- Kinship networks