UPSC SOCIOLOGY Syllabus :
Paper 1 – Chapter 6 – Politics and Society:
(a) Sociological theories of power
(b) Power elite, bureaucracy, pressure groups, and political parties.
(c) Nation, state, citizenship, democracy, civil society, ideology.
(d) Protest, agitation, social movements, collective action, revolution.
- The term Elite refers to ‘those who excel’. Elite theory developed in part as a reaction to Marxism.
- It rejected the Marxian idea that a classless society having an egalitarian structure
could be realized after class struggle in every society.
- The leading contributors to the theory were Gaetano Mosca, Vilfredo Pareto, and Robert Michels.
- These writers attacked classical democratic thought and also Aristotle and Karl Marx. Majority rule, they insisted, is impossible. Every society is divided into those who rule and those who are ruled; and the rulers constitute only a small minority of any society.
CIRCULATION OF ELITES
- Elite theory argues that all societies are divided into two main groups a ruling minority and the ruled.
- This situation is inevitable. If the proletarian revolution occurs it will merely result in the
replacement of one ruling elite by another.
- Italian sociologist Vilfred Pareto claimed in his ‘Mind and Society, 1935’ that personal qualities separate rulers and the ruled and they are same at all times. According to Pareto there is a ‘ruling minority’ and ‘the ruled majority’.
- According to him, this situation is inevitable as even in the communism such polarization takes place where a section of ‘the have nots’ occupy dominant position.
- According to Pareto there are two types of governing elite – lions and foxes (he borrowed this concept from Niccolo Machiavelli).
- Lions rule by force (e.g. – dictators) and foxes rule by cunningness (e.g. – Chanakya and Chandragupta, 19th century European democracies etc).
- They replace each other in a process which Pareto calls as ‘Circulation of Elites’.
HOW ELITES LOSE POWER?
- Elites rule over the masses of people because they are dominated by non-rational forces and lack rational capacities.
- This is the reason that the masses are unlikely to be a revolutionaryforce.
- Social change occurs when the elite begins to degenerate and is replaced by a new elitederived from the non-governing elite or higher elements of the masses.
- All elites tend to become decadent.
- They ‘decay in quality’ and lose their ‘vigor’ as they become complacent. In this situation, the other elites seize the power.
- Each type of elite lacks the qualities of its counterpart, qualities which are essential to retain the power in the long run.
PARETO, MOSCA AND C W MILLS
- Classical Elite Theory was propounded by two Italian sociologists Pareto and Mosca. Both
- Pareto and Mosca believed that personal qualities are basis of power and they rejected communism as a utopia and Marxism as an ideological bias.
- Gaetmo Mosca in his ‘The Ruling Class, 1939’ like Pareto believed that a minority rule is inevitable, but unlike Pareto he didn’t believe that qualities of elite remain same all the time and in all the societies.
- Another Elite theory is given by C W Mills in his ‘The Power Elite, 1956’.
- According to him power among elites in US is today institutionalized and is not psychological and hence rejected the view that some members are superior to others in terms of qualities.
- Institutes today wield the power and those who are at the top of these institutes, monopolize the power.