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Elite theory

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SY3 WJEC Sociology A-level.
Description and evaluation of elite theory; classical elite theory, power elite theory, examples of sociologists to use.

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Elite theory

  1. 1. Elite TheoryClassical Elite Theory 1) Very critical of democracy and socialism (egalitarian ideas). It feels they go against human nature. We are unequal. 2) Elite rule is desirable as it reflects the in equality of human nature. Power is in the hands of a wise or enlightened minority. Against the vote for all. 3) Elite rule is inevitable even after a revolution (some needs to be in charge). All that changes is the composition if the elites. 4) Iron law of Oligarchy. Democracy in society disguises oligarchy. A Direct democracy still isn't a democracy as there has to be someone who over rules. 5) Very pessimistic about socialism. Power Elite Theory 1) Explains elite rule in the hope of changing it. 2) 3 elite positions: business elite, political elite and the military elite. These are all highly inter connected, forming a unified system of power. 3) These elites are of a similar back ground and have the same ideology. 4) Revolving door theory, all can move from one elite to the other. 5)The two main political parties still have elitist leaders, with similar ideas. 6) Elite rule isn't inevitable, but is down to political and economic structures. Evaluation of Power Elite Theory -Lack of evidence to support Mills theory of the power elite. -There is only demonstration of potential for control, not actual control. -Marxists argue that power derives from the ownership of the means of production in capitalist societies. Evaluation of Classical Elite Theory -Too simplistic -Doesn’t make distinctions between the different types of political systems. They are all regarded as oligarchs. -No criteria is described as to what we can measure the elites by. -It just assumes they are the elites and the masses are under them. Sociologists to use: Mills- writer of the power elite; defines 3 levels, business, political and military and shows how they are inter connected. Pareto- two psychological types of leaders. foxes (cunning) and lions (dominators) Mosca- in all society two classes appear, a class that is ruled and a class that rules. Michels- iron law of oligarchy- tendency for all organisations to be oligarch. Burnham- argued that a ‘managerial class’ dominated all industrial societies, both capitalist and communist, by virtue of its technical and scientific knowledge and its administrative skills. Jarecki- When you look at what keeps the contracts going and the policies in place It’s not two links, it’s three. It’s the military, and industry, and Congress. And these together form the basis for the national security policy of the United States. Phillips and Moore- document the special relationship between the president, the economic organisations, uncritical mass media and the political embellishment in America.

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