Tribune. Analyzes of the crisis of "yellow vests" often pit the elites of metropolises against peripheral social groups, disconnected from the resources of globalization. If we have described the lifestyles of those who have revolted, we are less familiar with the worldview of elites and their way of thinking about their place in society. I had the opportunity to approach this question during an investigation of consultants from major international consulting firms (McKinsey, BCG, Bain ...). In a more general context of mistrust and criticism of the elites, the analysis of this particular group, which could be extended to other groups, may indeed help to understand some of the social fractures and inequalities of our contemporary society, all the more so. that the current French political elites are more and more coming from this elite of the business world.
"It's not the job that defines the home group, but the prestige of submitting to a demanding competitive device: working hard, being classified, withstanding stress"
These firms, as well as the Big Four (the four largest audit firms: KPMG, Ernst & Young, PwC and Deloitte), recruit among the best students of the French grandes écoles (HEC, X, Mines, etc.) and constitute a stepping stone to senior management positions. This survey shows in particular that employees join these firms less by reference to the profession than by attraction to the elitist idea of competition that ensures the superiority of the group. It is not the profession that defines the group of membership, but the prestige of submitting to a demanding competitive system: working hard, being classified, resisting stress are some of the modalities of the experience that consultants are attached to. despite the disappointments to which they expose themselves, because it is these signs of superiority that manifest their belonging to an elite.
The observations reveal how much they owe this orientation of their relation to work to their school socialization (the preparatory classes and the grandes écoles), where merit is a principle of regulative justice which grounds success (even if it is partly biased) and where competition is a method of distributing access to these advantageous positions. The model of the meritocratic school competition is applied to the career system within these firms, called "up or out", in which employees are evaluated and ranked against each other each semester so that the best are promoted and the least good guests to leave the firm.