| Elitism is the belief that government by a small
ruling group is normatively desirable (p. 137). Of course, elites
and establishments can arise in any organisation, from a football
or darts team to a national government, and the mechanisms for this
are probably similar - perhaps they are even part of human nature.
However, in the Elite theories we are examining here, the theorists
go beyond the "everyday elites" to look at them as the
dominant factor in a State.
A number of distinct 'styles' or 'flavours' of elite
in the State have been proposed:-
- Democratic elitism, where the elite are elected
- The 'social closure' variant of mechanistic models,
where professional and managerial cadres have control
- The 'business control' variant of mechanistic models,
which business elites and capitalists control
- The autonomous models, where control is by elected
or un-elected officials (this occurred in many communist states)
- The liberal corporatist model, where the national
interest is paramount, and policies are the result of bargaining
between many elites.
Dunleavy and O'Leary report that, even dating back
to mediaeval times, there is a considerable literature on the
rise, competition and decay of elite groups, and on the capture
of power by such groups. Much of European history can be seen
chiefly in these terms, and also much of current political process.
The study of elites inevitably focuses on power and domination,
collusion and exclusion. Inevitably, elites can be studied from
inside, from outside, or from a "neutral position" (which
may itself be a mythical concept). It seems that there is a continual
problem with elites, in that the members of the elite inevitably
seem to require more status, recognition and reward for their
skill and commitment than other members of the society are willing
to give. This seems to inevitably lead to corruption of one sort
or another (or suspicion of corruption) unless very strict controls
are put in place.
The Central Ideas of all elites is that "they couldn't
manage without us", and also that leaders should play a symbolic
and subsidiary role.
There is a Mythic Idea dating back to Aristotle of rulership
by elites being a natural state, and that some people are "born
The Negative Stereotype is that without the elite, there
would be inefficiency and maladministration by the inexperienced.
(there is also a negative view of elites, such as "the freemason",
Jesuit or other secret society manipulating affairs only for their
own benefit, or with their own agenda)