Political Elites

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ECPR Press, 2005 - Political Science - 160 pages

Elites have been described both as the bulwarks of democracy and its very antithesis. Political Elites, first published in 1969, reviews the literature on the role of elites in politics. It deals with both the 'classic' elite theorists - Mosca, Pareto, Michels, Burnham and C. Wright Mills - and with many of the empirical and theoretical works on elites by modern political scientists and sociologists. It seeks to clarify the central terms of elite discourse, some of which have entered the everyday political vocabulary - 'elitism', 'power elite', 'establishment', 'elite consensus', 'iron law of oligarchy' and 'mass'. 

It explores the ways in which the descriptions of power relationships can subtly be infiltrated by the values of the observers. For this ECPR Classics edition Professor Parry has added an introduction reviewing significant new developments in elite political science.


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Page 30 - Instrumental are those powers which, acquired by these or by fortune, are means and instruments to acquire more, as riches, reputation, friends, and the secret working of God, which men call good luck. For the nature of power is in this point like to fame, increasing as it proceeds; or like the motion of heavy bodies, which, the further they go, make still the more haste.
Page 29 - ... party, these tendencies often give rise to manifestations which border on tyranny. We have seen that the replacement of the traditional legitimism of the powers-that-be by the brutal plebiscitary rule of Bonapartist parvenus does not furnish these tendencies with any moral or aesthetic superiority. Historical evolution mocks all the prophylactic measures that have been adopted for the prevention of oligarchy. If laws are passed to control the dominion of the leaders, it is the laws which gradually...

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About the author (2005)

Geraint Parry was the WJM Mackenzie Professor, now Emeritus Professor of Government at the University of Manchester. His research interests are in democratic theory and practice, political sociology and the history of political ideas. He is the author of John Locke (1978) and, with G Moyser and N Day, Political Participation and Democracy in Britain (1992). He has edited Participation in Politics (1972), Democracy, Consensus and Social Contract (1972, with P Birnbaum and J Lively), Democracy and Democratization (1994, with M Moran) and Fundamentals in British Politics (1999, with I Holliday and A Gamble). His recent publications have been on the history of the relationship between political theory and educational thought. He has been editor of Government and Opposition, the Journal of Comparative Politics, and is a former President of the UK Political Studies Association.

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