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September 17, 2008 / C H Thompson

Elite theory

by Sam Cook a former student
Elite theory explains the power relationships in modern society as one held by a tiny elite. It argues that a small minority, consisting of members of a social elite who hold power no matter what happens in elections in a country because of their innate characteristics. For Pareto it is the psychological traits or characteristics of elites which separates them from the masses. He classified elites into two types – those with the power or traits of ‘lions’ who use force to gain or retain power like military dictators and those who had the traits of a ‘fox’ using cunning and guile to get their own way. While this classical elite theory is often criticised for its simplicity.

Elite theory stands in opposition to pluralism in suggesting that democracy is a utopian ideal. It also challenges any theories which argue the state acts as an autonomous institution. Before you read the more ‘academic’ explanations of elite power, it’s worth looking at recent comments on the power of elites by The Guardian’s Owen Jones  and the power of Whitehall civil servants who run the UK like Sir Humphrey Appleby as discussed by The Times’s Rachel Sylvester.

Elite theory is explained in general elite-theory1. The work of C. Wright-Mills is explained in greater depth the-power-elite while this link explores the relationship between Weber and C. Wright-Mills with the middle-section providing excellent resources on the power elite. Recently ex Prime Minister John Major discussed the extent to which C Wright Mills ideas are being played out in contemporary UK society.

John Major argues a power elite is running Britain and undermining social mobility. It’s important to note that for Stanworth and Giddens, John Major represents their concept of elite recruitment which makes Major’s comments largely paradoxical. At the same time Tony Blair’s son, Nicky Blair has already established himself as successful football agent, therefore the question is which version of elite theory best explains this meteoric rise?  In contrast this Guardian report examines the power of elite civil servants in the UK today.

Through positions in corporations, public schools and other social networks a small group of people run the country (rather than one individual). Their power comes from social privilege being passed from generation to generation mainly through inherited wealth and participation in privileged forms of education. To understand the extent of their privilege, take a look at Eton College here. and now read the influence and power of such social networks with The Times’ article Politics and the Oligarch here

Other sociologists (Stanworth and Giddens) have looked at the how members of elites are recruited into the network of elites, rather than it being a closed network as C Wright Mills suggests. Their research suggests too much emphasis has been placed on social-class and the influence of privileged backgrounds. Instead Stanworth and Giddens elites networks are open to all. Political leaders like Thatcher and Major came from ordinary backgrounds and neither attended fee-paying schools. However it’s worth pointing out David Coates argue social class still plays an important role in elite recruitment especially in politics which is evident in this House of Commons report mps-background

So extensive is the hold of elites on the top jobs that in January 2009 the government has proposed to tackle the issues as so many top professions are dominated by elites even though academically they might not be as strong. Take the incident of Chelsy Davy, Princeharry_chelsy Harry’s girlfriend who got a placement at a top legal firm while ‘only’ attending Leeds university to study law. You can read about this and more here.

In contrast Ian Budge’s fragmented elite model suggests (unlike C Wright Mills’ view of a cohesive elite) there’s a number of elites in Britain all competing with each other for power. This is evident with Cameron and Clegg having similar backgrounds but heading different political parties (the recent coalition does challenge this perspective and adds more weight to C Wright-Mills).

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21 Comments

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  1. Pete Warner / Oct 8 2008 11:20 am

    1. Identify the key differences between elite pluralism and Elite Theory
    Elite Theory:
    Powerful people control society, they use their status (often intential) to protect their interests by working with similar people.
    Elite pluralism: Some groups in society have more power than others but there is a plurality of there groups.

    2. What in essence was Paretos’ view of elites?
    He said the elites characteristics made them supiror to the masses and enabled them to gain and hold power.
    3. Why was social networking fundamental to C.Wright Mills view of elites?
    He believed this was fundamental because it could reproduce the inequalities through the different areas. In the government, army and major co-orporations. They could divide the classes how they wanted through prestige clubs.
    4. What evidence is there to support the notion that elite recruitment still exists in Britain today?
    There is evidence of this in Eton colledge. The students are being socialized with wealthy parents and there habitats. Such as going for a meal they will go to the top places, wereas everyone else may go to a pub.
    5. How might elite pluralism challenge Elite Theory?
    This could challenge them because the elite theory is talking about the individual people and the elite pluralism is talking about the groups. So the members that are mentioned in elite theory may not be able to do exactly what they want but as part of a group. Like a priminister and a member of the liberal demercrats.

    6. Using the House of Commons Report answer the folowing: To what extent are MPs representative of the people who elect them? (look at social-class, gender, ethnicity). And why might the social background of MPs be so important?
    The social background of the PM’s are not evenly spread out, they are mainly well payed and highly quallified jobs. This is because they need to protect there interests, and they will do this by having more middle-class people who are also well educated and think the same as the MP’s. There are considerably less numbers of females to males in every category. They probably have to have some females, so not to look sexist but then have have a small enough number so that the men can still have the final say, to enable their views to stay at the top. The ethnicity is also biased so there are more white males than coloured people, out numbering them largly. In one case 409 white people to 9 non-white people. This could also be to protect the interests of the white-middle class males.

  2. Grace / Oct 9 2008 8:34 am

    1. Identify the key differences between elite pluralism & elite theory?
    Elite Theory- explains the power relationships in modern society as one held by a tiny elite.
    Elite Pluralism – is a criticism of Dahls idea of power. This idea is prompted by David Marsh.

    2. What in essence was Paretos’ view of elites?
    Pareto felt that there was two types of elite people, the incisive lion & the cunning fox. He also emphasised the importance of the psychological character.

    3. Why was social networking fundamental to C. Wright Mills view of elites?
    It was fundamental as the saying goes ‘its not what you know, its who you know’. These elites must all in some sense share their powers to create alliances with some to help build up their own empires.

    4. What evidence is there to support the notion that elite recruitment still exists in Britain today?
    Studies have shown the high levels of recruitment.
    MP’s build up members from the business elite.

    5. How might elite pluralism challenge Elite Theory?
    Elite P may challenge Elite T because it has inside availability to MP’s although the elite T make up the MP’s.

    6. Using the House of Commons Report answer the following : To what extent are MP’s representative of the people who elect them?
    Over the years there have been more female MP’s, different ages & ethnic minorities. However small these percentages are there is more variety for civilians to choose from. To the extent that there is more choice of MP and more of a representative number of gender, age and ethnic minorities.

  3. Emma Martin / Oct 9 2008 9:51 am

    1. Identify the key differences between elite pluralism and Elite Theory
    Elite theory- The power of the individual is passed form generation to generation so they can protect their own interests.
    Elite Pluralism –Some groups in society have more power than others but there is plurality of these groups.
    2. What in essence was Paretos’ view of elites?
    He developed the idea that there is classical elite which is in opposition to the Marxist theory. Pareto emphasized the importance of the psychological characteristics of the elites which made them superior to the masses and enabled them to gain and hold power. (Foxes and Loins)
    3. Why was social networking fundamental to C.Wright Mills’s view of elites?
    As a unified group C.Wright Mill’s found that the social networking of the elites was fundamental due to the fact they were able to exercise the power over a divided and passive mass of the population.
    4. What evidence is there to support the notion that elite recruitment still exists in Britain today?
    Borthwick 1991 examined the educational backgrounds of the conservative MP’s and found that in 1987 over half had been to public school and 44% had been to Oxbridge. One example of this can be seen of the children that attend Eton collage.
    5. How might elite pluralism challenge Elite Theory?
    Dahl (classical pluralism) argued that Mills ideas only showed that elites in the USA only had the potential to exercise their power in order to control things. Dahl also argued Mills didn’t study the decision making to see if they ever won the issues. Other pluralists say Mills ideas ignore the power of pressure group leaders (elite pluralism)
    6. Using the House of Commons Report answer the following: To what extent are MPs representative of the people who elect them? (Look at social-class, gender, and ethnicity). And why might the social background of MPs be so important?
    The social background of MP’s is not evenly spread out they are mainly well paid and are in highly qualified jobs. This is because they need to protect their interests and they do this by having/employing more of the same like minded middle class people who are of the same social background. There are considerably a lesser number of females to males within the political system. They employ enough women to rule out any sexist allegations and enough women to have the final say. Ethnicity within politics is also biased as there are more white males than any other ethnicity. In one case there were 409 white people to 9 non-white people within the political system, thus protecting the interests of the white middle classes

  4. Sophie Lankester / Oct 9 2008 10:43 am

    What in essence was Paretos’ view of elites?
    Pareto came up with the “20-80 rule” this meant that 20% of the population controls 80% of the wealth. Pareto thought that “The population that owns a small amount of wealth per person is rather high, and then decreases steadily as wealth increases.” So he belived the small proportion of wealthy people are in control and hold control of the majority of poorer people.

    Why was social networking fundamental to C.Wright Mills view of elites?
    He believed that military, corporate, and political elements of society suggested that the ordinary citizen were relatively powerless. Because of their high status and charismer they are able to own power without being wealthy.

    What evidence is there to support the notion that elite recruitment still exists in Britain today?
    Britain has schools such as eaton where only the future leaders and buisness owners go to get educated. Parents send their children their because they want to look after their own inheritance so they remain at the top.

    How might elite pluralism challenge Elite Theory?
    Elite pluralism (dahl) argued the marxist view of elite theory (mills) that elite theory doesn’t look at decision making to see if they ever won the issue.

    Using the House of Commons Report answer the folowing: To what extent are MPs representative of the people who elect them? (look at social-class, gender, ethnicity). And why might the social background of MPs be so important?
    MP’s are white middle class respectable leaders, which means they aren’t like the majority of working class people that populate the country, so to get into power they have to manipulate the majorities views by appearing as one of the majority. MP’s having a middle class social background means they are very well educated and can mix with their people but also are able to change the desires of the majority meaning they can get to the top with votes.

  5. Adam Turel / Oct 9 2008 11:59 pm

    Identify the key differences between elite pluralism and Elite Theory
    Elite pluralism is where groups in society e.g. pressure groups having more power over others such as the CBI.

    Elite theory, on the other hand, is concerned with non-economic power, for example Prime Ministers, and so the families are protected with generations.

    What in essence was Paretos’ view of elites?
    Pareto believed that it was the importance of psychological characteristics of elites which make them superior to the masses and enabled them to gain and hold power.

    Why was social networking fundamental to C.Wright Mills view of elites?

    C. Wright Mills argued that there were a power elite which had power through key positions or command posts, which led to networks being built around these institutions. Therefore they are connected through movement of individuals between elites, a similar education background and membership of the same prestige club.
    What evidence is there to support the notion that elite recruitment still exists in Britain today?
    At Eton College there is evidence of this still happening in the UK. The educational background of Conservative MPs supports this as over half have been to public school and 44 percent have studied at Oxbridge.

    How might elite pluralism challenge Elite Theory?

    Dahl argued that elite theory only showed that the elites had the potential to exercise their power in order to control things. Dahl argued that Mills didn’t study the decision making process to see if they ever won the argument. Also, elite pluralists argue that Mills didn’t take into account the power of pressure groups.

    Using the House of Commons Report answer the folowing: To what extent are MPs representative of the people who elect them? (look at social-class, gender, ethnicity). And why might the social background of MPs be so important?

    In 1987, there were very few women MPs which looks incredibly biased towards ben as 50 percent of the population are women. After women took a greater interest in politics and due to the rise of feminism, the figures rose to 20 percent after 2005. Ethnicity also comes into focus as a very small percentage of MPs are from an ethnic minority background. Even after the 2005 general election, only 2.3 percent of MPs were of ethnic minorities, compared with the UK population being 8 percent. Statistics show that a third of MPs are from fee-paying schools, when there is only 7 percent of the population attending them, which puts forward the argument that the people in power are white middle class leaders, and elite theorists argue that it is the interests of them to protect this trait.

  6. Charlotte Amor / Oct 10 2008 7:19 am

    1. Identify the key differences between elite pluralism and Elite Theory

    Elite pluralism (Dahl) is groups of people in society with power which have plurality e.g. CBI has more power as a pressure group than Greenpeace as they have connections etc.
    Elite theory (Mills) is when power is passed down from generation to generation.

    2. What in essence was Paretos’ view of elites?

    Paretos’ view of elites was the “lion and foxes” view, where certain characteristics enable power, this gives them an advantage over those who do not hold these characteristics.

    3. Why was social networking fundamental to C.Wright Mills view of elites?

    Social networking was fundamental in Mill’s view of elites as it could reproduce inequalities. The classes could be divided into sections through prestige clubs. Power and wealth.

    4. What evidence is there to support the notion that elite recruitment still exists in Britain today?

    Eton colleges students tend to be from upper class backgrounds with parents in top jobs and well connected. Therefore, the students would be socialised that this was normal e.g. going for dinner in the top restaurants with celebrities or them popping over etc. This helps to run power down from generation to generation and keep families at the top.

    5. Using the House of Commons Report answer the folowing: To what extent are MPs representative of the people who elect them? (look at social-class, gender, ethnicity). And why might the social background of MPs be so important?

    People who are employed share the same characteristics and backgrounds, white, middle class, males, who share the same opinions and can therefore express these (like-minded). This is to protect their interests. There is a small percentage of MP’s from ethnic backgrounds however these are in the minority. This is to stop racism allegations. There is also a small percentage of female MP’s, 20% are female, enough to stop sexist allegations.

  7. Harriet Chappell / Oct 10 2008 8:05 am

    1) Identify the key differences between elite pluralism and Elite Theory.
    Elite Theory is when an individual holds power due to social privileges being passed on from generation to generation, mainly through inherited wealth and high standard education. This power is shared amongst an ‘elite group’ who look out for their own interests.
    Elite pluralism is the idea that some groups in society (i.e. pressure groups) have more access to the government than others, and therefore hold more power due to their connections. There is still plurality amongst these groups.

    2) What in essence was Paretos’ view of elites?
    Pareto emphasised the importance of psychological characteristics that elites hold to give them more power. These characteristics such as force and cunning made them superior to others. They are known as Foxes and Lions characteristics.

    3) Why was social networking fundamental to C.Wright Mills view of elites?
    Mills believed that elite’s power existed through ‘inter marriage’ – where they all shared the same educational background/prestige hobbies and so had shared ideologies that they could exercise to gain power.

    4) What evidence is there to support the notion that elite recruitment still exists in Britain today?
    Because colleges such as Eton still exist today who only accept the people with elite power – who come from a privileged background and have money.

    5) How might elite pluralism challenge Elite Theory?
    Dahl argued that Mills didn’t study the decision making process to see if they every won the argument. other Pluralists also argue that Mills didnt take into account the power of presure groups.

    6) Using the House of Commons Report answer the folowing: To what extent are MPs representative of the people who elect them? (look at social-class, gender, ethnicity). And why might the social background of MPs be so important?
    Most MP’sare white middle class and well educated. they hold power because many of them come from an elite background of wealth and power. therefore they all share the same ideologies and can exercise this power.

  8. abigail ball / Oct 10 2008 8:06 am

    1. Identify the key differences between elite pluralism and Elite Theory
    2. What in essence was Paretos’ view of elites?
    3. Why was social networking fundamental to C.Wright Mills view of elites?
    4. What evidence is there to support the notion that elite recruitment still exists in Britain today?
    5. How might elite pluralism challenge Elite Theory?
    6. Using the House of Commons Report answer the folowing: To what extent are MPs representative of the people who elect them? (look at social-class, gender, ethnicity). And why might the social background of MPs be so important?

    1) The key differences between elite pluralism and elite theory are that;
    Elite pluralism means believes that inside pressure groups hold power in relation to outside pressure groups such as the CBI where as Elite Theory believes in non-economic power and that it is due to innate characteristics, generations, networking and backgrounds.

    2) Pareto’s view of elites was that it was due to the psychological characteristics of elites, which makes them superior to the masses and enables them to gain and hold the power. For example a lion is known as an elite in the animal kingdom because of its particular psychological characteristics.

    3) Social Networking was fundamental to C.Wright Mills view of elites because he believed that key positions or command posts in three institutions held power, the positions where connected through intermarriage movement of individuals between elites of a similar educational background and membership of the same prestige clubs therefore networking proves important to C.Wright Mills.

    4) In the UK studies have found high levels of elite self-recruitment i.e. most people who are recruited to elites are from elite backgrounds themselves.

    In the 1997 election, labour MP’s background was more varied, but labour included members from the business elite- Geoffrey Robinson and Lord Sainsbury

    5) Elite pluralism say mills ideas ignore the power of pressure group leaders (elite pluralism) Dahl argued that mills ideas only showed that elites in the USA only had the potential to exercise their power in order to control things Dahl argued Mills didn’t study decision making to see if they ever won issues.

    6) House of commons report states that ‘Around one-third of MPs had been to fee-paying schools. This proportion varies by party –
    from 18% of Labour MPs to 60% of Conservative and 39% of Liberal Democrat. By
    comparison, 8% of pupils aged 11 and over in UK schools are in non-maintained (feepaying)
    schools.2 Around three-quarters of MPs elected in 2005 were graduates. Onequarter
    were from Oxford or Cambridge universities’ From this example we can conclude that the elite MP’s are from privileged backgrounds where they went to leading schools and have a good education each of the MP’s are of similar ethnicity, social class and gender. Elite theorists would argue that they would all share the same ideologies, such as meritocracy, due to their backgrounds are all similar this would in turn mean that they hold power and can keep it because of this and can reflect these messages onto the public.

  9. Emily Easthope / Oct 10 2008 11:19 am

    Identify the key differences between elite pluralism and Elite Theory
    Elite pluralism is the criticism of Dahl’s classical pluralism, believing it is to simplistic. Marsh believed that rather than society being equal, some people were at an advantage to others and were therefore the elite. This is shown in pressure groups where although they are all pressure groups, it is then separated into inside and outside, inside having more power and influence.
    However elite theory is the belief that the people who are in power have a distinct character and upbringing that allows them to become the elite. They then keep this power within a tight circle through intermarriage, similar educational backgrounds and memberships to similar clubs. Eton is an example of how the elite are educated in the same environment in order to only allow for a few powerful people.

    What in essence was Paretos’ view of elites?
    Pareto believed that the elite were born with certain psychological characteristics that allowed for them to become the powerful members of society that they are. He believed that an elite was born with the ferociousness of a lion and the cunning of a fox meaning that they were equipped for different situations that they may face.

    Why was social networking fundamental to C.Wright Mills view of elites?
    C.Wright Mills believed that there was a power elite, and these held their power through three key positions in institutions. These were the major co operations, the military and the federal government. Through intermarriage, similar education and membership to similar clubs, these powers remains connected meaning that they will all remain in the same social network meaning that as an unified group they are able to exercise power over a divided and passive mass of the population.

    What evidence is there to support the notion that elite recruitment still exists in Britain today?
    One of the most obvious pieces of evidence of the elite recruitment theory that is relevant in today’s society is that of the House of Commons. It is these people that are in power and research in 1991 showed that in 1987, 44% of Conservative MPs had been to Oxford and over half had attended private school.

    How might elite pluralism challenge Elite Theory?
    It has been argued by Dahl that Mills did not take into account who won the argument in his studies and rather than actually exercising any power, elites in the USA only had the potential to control the masses.

  10. Laura Smith / Oct 12 2008 2:06 pm

    1 – Elite Theory explains the power relatinshships in modern society as being held by a tiny elite, the power being monopolised by this group. It argues some people will hold power regardless of what happens in elections because of their innate characteristics. Powerful people use their status, which is often inherited to protect their interests by working with similar people.
    – Elite pluralism (Marsh) is a modification of Classical Pluralism (Dahl). Marsh identified that within the elite, there is also more than one group / political party fighting for supremity. It recognises that their are insider and outsider pressure groups, and example of Elite Pluralism being Insider pressure groups. They also believe there are multiple centres of power in society, power is not monopolised by one group.

    – Pareto believed that the psychological make up of certain people in society made them innately superior, and therefore the holders of power in society. These unique characteristics enable them to hold the power they inherit. Pareto identified the 2 key characteristcs – the ferociousness of a lion – hold power through the use of incisive action and force, and the cunning of a fox.

    – Social Networking was fundemental to Mills view of elites as he identified 3 institutions in which the power was held, and integration and movement of individuals of /between these three institutions was how power was passed on. As a unified group they are able to exercise power over a divided and passive mass population.

    – One key piece of evidence of the elite recruitment theory in todays society is the House of Commons. Research in 1991 showed that in 1987, 44% of Tory MPs had been to Oxford, and over half had attended private school.

    – Dahl argued that Mills didnt take into account the decision making process to see if the elites always won the argument. Also pluralists say that Mills ignored pressure groups when discussing elite theory.

  11. Jessica Cooper / Oct 12 2008 11:46 pm

    1. Identify the key differences between elite pluralism and Elite Theory
    Elite theory explains the power relationships in modern society as one held by the elite. It argues that power is held by a small minority, who hold power no matter what happens in the elections, due to their innate characteristics for example lions achieve power through incisive action and use force, and foxes rule by being cunning. However Elite pluralism suggests that all members of society do not share the same amount of power, they don’t concentrate on the first face of power, and they see elites-the leaders of groups, as the main participants, suggesting, that there is a plurality of the elite.

    2. What in essence was Paretos’ view of elites?
    Pareto emphasized the importance of the psychological characteristics of elites which made them superior to the masses and enabled them to gain and hold power. He saw measurable traits through psychological evidence of characteristic traits. Pareto suggested elites have characteristics of either lions or foxes. Elites circulate with lions being replaced by foxes and foxes being replaced by lions.

    3. Why was social networking fundamental to C.Wright Mills view of elites?
    C.Wright Mills in the 1950’s in the USA argued there was a power elite, which had power through holding key positions or command posts in three institutions; major corporations, the military and the federal government. These three effects were connected through intermarriage, movement of individuals between elites, a similar educational background and membership of the same prestige clubs, As a unified group they were able to exercise power over a divided and passive mass of the population.

    4. What evidence is there to support the notion that elite recruitment still exists in Britain today?
    Borthwick 1991 examined the educational background of the conservative Mp’s and found that in 1987 over half had been to public school and 44% had been to Oxbridge. For example the children who attend Eton.

    5. How might elite pluralism challenge Elite Theory?
    Elite theory is different to pluralism as it suggests that democracy is a utopian ideal. Elite pluralism challenges any theories that argue the state acts as an autonomous institution. Dahl said the Mill’s did not study the decision making to see if they ever won the issue.

    6. Using the House of Commons Report answer the following: To what extent are MPs representative of the people who elect them? (Look at social-class, gender, and ethnicity). And why might the social background of MPs be so important?

    Most Mp’s are white middle class and well educated, they hold power because many of them come from an elite background of wealth and power, therefore they all share the dame ideologies and can exercise this power. The social background of MP’s is not evenly spread out they are mainly well pad and are in highly qualified jobs. This is due to them having to protect their own interests, which leads them to employing like minded white middle class males from the same social background. The is a considerable difference between the number of male and female MP’s, as there are a lot more males, however they do claim to employ enough women to rule out any sexist allegations. There is also a biased about ethnicity within politics, for example there were 409 white people to 9 non white people, this will consequently lead to protecting the interests of the white middle classes.

  12. Rudi / Oct 13 2008 11:31 am

    1.Elite Pluralism is the idea that classical pluralism is too simple. Its not just about two groups having an argument, the argument isn’t fair in the first place because insider pressure groups have an advantage against the outsider pressure groups as they have lobbied MPs and so the issues they raise are more likely to get heard than those of an outsider pressure group. Elite Theory is the idea that the “Bourgeoisie” keep all capital within them. The rich employ the rich to ensure that only generations of rich individuals succeed their businesses etc. they are a very small elite that control the country and the money is passed down through privileged families to their children.
    2.Pareto’s view of elites was the idea that the elites are either “lions” or “foxes” in the sense that they are ruthless like a lion (they wouldn’t think twice about firing someone) and they are cunning like a fox (they don’t mind stabbing someone in the back in order to succeed).
    3.C. Wright Mills’ view of elites was the idea that power is rooted in organisations not in individuals. For example, if a person wins £9m on the lottery they are not powerful as it is “new money”. Power only lies in money than has been built over time and passed down from generation to generation, “old money”.
    4.Evidence to suggests that elite recruitment still exists in modern Britain today is the fact that the past 4 Prime ministers or party leaders (John Major, Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and David Cameron) have all been to Eton. Of the recent Olympic Games, 3 out of 4 rowers were from Eton. Members of the elite, only tend to marry members of the elite, Prince William is set to marry Kate Middleton (part of the aristocracy).
    5.Elite Pluralism could challenge elite theory because it could argue that you do not have to be a member of the bourgeoisie to have power over political issue. They do agree however that low status can make you have less power
    6.MPs aren’t very representative of the people who elect them as they tend to be white, middle-class, well-educated males. This doesn’t represent women, mixed race people or ill-educated working class people. This means that the issues discussed in parliament don’t reflect the true issues of society as the MPs will do what’s in their best interest not what’s in the interest of society. The social background of MPs is very important as they are supposed to make an informed decision on political issues and also they must have status in order to become a respected MP.

  13. Becky Cooke / Oct 13 2008 3:37 pm

    1. Identify the key differences between elite pluralism and Elite Theory
    Elite pluralism regarding pressure groups is the theory that there are ‘elite’ pressure groups which have more power over others, however, elite theory is that there are ‘elite’ people with more power due to their innate social characteristics and networking, which has nothing to do with economic power, which elite pluralism suggests.
    2. What in essence was Paretos’ view of elites?
    Paretos’ theory was classical elite theory, which emphasises the importance of pyscological characteristics rather than social, in which the ‘elite’ use force, incisive action and cunningness to gain and hold power.
    3. Why was social networking fundamental to C.Wright Mills view of elites?
    Because the top institutions who have the most power, major corporations, military and federal government are connected through social networking and therefore become a unity, not allowing others to join their group, and so they therefore hold power over others.
    4. What evidence is there to support the notion that elite recruitment still exists in Britain today?
    The evidence that most students who achieve places at Oxbridge come from public schools and therefore are ‘elite’, and that over half of Conservative MPs also went to public school, proved by Borthwick.
    5. How might elite pluralism challenge Elite Theory?
    Dahl challenged Mill’s ideas in that elite’s only have the power to control things, but has not taken the issue method into consideration, and therefore ignores Lukes 1st face of power, decision making, so it is not evident if elites always won the argument. It also ignores the power or pressure group leaders.
    6. Using the House of Commons Report answer the folowing: To what extent are MPs representative of the people who elect them? (look at social-class, gender, ethnicity). And why might the social background of MPs be so important?
    The elected MP’s on the whole are not representative at all as they are mainly white males from middle class backgrounds, as the majority are well-educated with top professions. Therefore they will share the same ideologies, and so do not represent pluralist views of the British population. The social background of MPs is extremely important, as if they are all mainly middle class, then this means that the inequalities of social class’ will continue to be reproduced, as the working class do not have the power to be heard. This means that the working class will continue to be exploited, as the middle class have the power to manipulate them, (Lukes 3rd face of power).

  14. Sarah Butcher / Oct 13 2008 4:20 pm

    1. Identify the key differences between elite pluralism and Elite Theory
    Elite theory: explains power relationships in society as ones held by a tiny elite. It argues that a minority of members of the economic elite have power no matter what happens in elections because of their characteristics.
    Elite pluralism: theory by David Marsh, critical of Dahl- that some people have more power than others. E.g. insider and outsider pressure groups.

    2. What in essence was Paretos’ view of elites?
    Pareto emphasized the importance of specific characteristics of elites which made them superior to others, and enabled them to gain power, such as the lion and the fox.

    3. Why was social networking fundamental to C.Wright Mills view of elites?
    C.Wright Mills argued that there was a power elite who had power through holding key positions in three institutions: Major corporations, the military and the federal government. Studies found that most people recruited into elites are from an elite background already.
    4. What evidence is there to support the notion that elite recruitment still exists in Britain today?
    Studies have shown there are high levels of elite self recruitment. In the 1997 election, Labour MPs backgrounds were made more varied, but even they included members from the business elite. Geoffrey Robinson and Lord Sainsbury.
    5. How might elite pluralism challenge Elite Theory?
    Dahl argued that Mill’s ideas only showed that elites only had potential to exercise their power in order to control things. Other pluralists also say that Mill’s ideas ignore the power of pressure group leaders. Dahl said Mill’s did not study the decision making process to see if the elites ever won issues.

  15. Josh Billinge / Oct 13 2008 8:15 pm

    1) Identify the key differences between elite pluralism and Elite Theory
    The main differences between elite pluralism and elite theory are that Elite pluralism means that insider pressure groups hold power compared to an outside pressure group such as CBI however Elite Theory believes in non-economic power and that the causes are natural through older generations passing it on to younger generations.

    2) What in essence was Paretos’ view of elites?
    Pareto’s view of elites was that it was caused by the psychological characteristics of elites which causes them to be superior to the people and allows them to gain and hold the power.

    3) Why was social networking fundamental to C.Wright Mills view of elites?

    Social Networking was fundamental to C.Wright Mills view of elites because he believed that key positions in three institutions held power, the positions were connected through where the top institutions who have the most power, major corporations, military and federal government are connected through social networking and then become a unity, refusing to allow others to join their group, and so they hold power over others.

    4) What evidence is there to support the notion that elite recruitment still exists in Britain today?

    The evidence that most students who achieved places at Oxford and Cambridge come from private schools and this makes them ‘elite’, and that over half of Conservative MPs also went to private school.

    5) How might elite pluralism challenge Elite Theory?

    Dahl argued that Mills didn’t look at the decision making process accurately to see if they ever won the argument. Other Pluralists also argued that Mills didn’t take into account the influence that pressure groups had.

    6) Using the House of Commons Report answer the folowing: To what extent are MPs representative of the people who elect them? (look at

  16. Jack / Oct 14 2008 7:25 am

    1. Identify the key differences between elite pluralism and elite theory.
    Elite theory – powerful members of society (elite) control it by working with similar members, groups etc. This power is passed from generation to generation.
    Elite pluralism – the idea that certain pressure groups hold greater power over other groups because of factors such as connections e.g. the government/cabinet.

    2. What in essence was Paretos’ view of elites?
    Pareto created the ideology that the elite society possess a greater and more powerful, psychological characteristic, to which we feel inferior to. (Foxes and Lion theory – incisive and cunning).

    3. Why was social networking fundamental to C. Wright – Mills’ view of elites?
    Social networking was fundamental to Wright – Mills’ work as it represented the possible divide in inequalities and the possibility to reproduce them through groups e.g. prestige clubs.

    4. What evidence is there to support the notion that elite recruitment still exists in Britain today?
    Students from Eton are socialised with the ruling class and its cultural capital from a young age e.g. dining at top restaurants, socialising with celebrities etc. This creates a sense of power in the student which is passed from their parents (generation to generation).

    5. How might elite pluralism challenge elite theory?
    Dahl criticised Wright – Mills theory, stating he did not take who won the argument into consideration, however, he did demonstrate how American pressure groups and elites have potential to control the masses.

    6. Using the House of Commons report answer the following: To what extent are MPs representative of the people who elect them?
    Within the House of Commons, percentages show attempts to abolish stereotypes e.g. racism, sexism. For example, MPs from ethnic minority backgrounds represent seats in the House of Commons, as do women (20% of MP population). However, this is solely present in the elite – the general public are mixed races, genders and classes.

  17. Ricci Symohns / Oct 14 2008 8:52 am

    1) Elite pluralism is the idea that there are both elite and non-elite pressure groups within society. This means that elite pressure groups are influential and well connected, and can get what they want to happen, whereas normal pressure groups have a very limited power and influence within government to make things happen. Elite theory is the idea that the bourgeoisie pass on their ruling class status through the generations. They do not allow outsiders within their network and continually network with one another to keep their children in power.
    2) Paretos’ view of elites was that elites are born with attributes that he related to foxes and lions. He said lions have ruthless power, and foxes are cunning and those elite’s posses both these qualities which help them succeed in life.
    3) Social networking was fundamental to C. Wright Mill’s view of elites as he believes that it is power and not wealth that makes people elites. While the wealth normally comes hand in hand with the power that elites possess, the money is not as important as the people you know or the power you yield. For this reason if someone won the lottery, they wouldn’t become an elite, as they have ‘new’ money and no power. You have to have power or ‘old’ money to become elite.
    4) Elite recruitment still exists in the UK today, and evidence of this is that the past two prime ministers of England both went to Eton or the Scottish equivalent. This shows that there is still elite recruitment as it is no coincidence that both prime ministers and also most rowers in the Olympics and finally most political party leaders all went to top ranking private schools.
    5) Elite pluralism challenges elite theory in the way that elite pluralism says that people can have power without wielding any ‘proper’ power, such as non-elite pressure groups, e.g. Greenpeace. Elite theory would say that only elites can wield power within society.
    6) MP’s are not fully representative of English people, as MP’s tend to most often be white middle class males. This means there is no one to represent ethnic minorities, women or even children. This also means that within the houses of parliament, the issues being discussed will be the ones that the middle class consider important and not what the working class consider important.

  18. Laura / Oct 14 2008 8:59 am

    1. Elite theory is the belief that power is held by a tiny elite group – a group of individuals who hold power regardless of elections because of innate characteristics. Marsh, an elite pluralist, recognised that classical pluralism is far too simple. He argued that their was more to power than two groups arguments, as one will always begin with more power than the other. An example of this is inside and outside pressure groups; they can both argue their position, but the inside pressure groups will always have the upper hand as they have the ability to lobby MPs and so the issues are more likely to be listened to and applied.
    2. Pareto created a likeness of the elite to foxes and lions. The idea represents that the elite are ruthless like a lion and cunning like a fox.
    3. C Wright Mills believed that power belongs to organisations not individuals. Anyone could win a large some of money in the lottery tomorrow, but it would not make them powerful, just wealthy. In contrast, a separate individual could have the same some of money but is a lot more powerful through social networks of their family.
    4. It is evident that elite recruitment still exists in Britain today as many of our most recent political figures are from Eton College. Examples being; Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, our last 2 prime ministers.
    5. Elite pluralism challenges Elite theory because it recognises that you do not have to be a member of the bourgeoisie to have power over a political issue.
    6. MP’s tend to be white, middle class well educated males, who have the best interests of the middle and ruling class as to the working class who elected them.

  19. Pippa Donnelly / Oct 14 2008 10:11 am

    1. Identify the key differences between elite pluralism and Elite Theory
    • Elite pluralism (Marsh) recognizes the setting of the agenda however, unlike the Elite Theory, it does not recognize that the powerful ruling class an monopolize power and use it to their own advantage. Elite theory explains that small minorities of economic elites always have and always will hold power due to their innate characteristics. On the other hand, elite pluralisms believe that power is widely dispersed and does not take the view that the economic elites will always hold the most power.
    2. What in essence was Paretos’ view of elites?
    • Pareto emphasized the importance of the psychological characteristics of elites which made them superior to the masses and enabled them to gain and hold power. Pareto saw measurable traits through psychological evidence of characteristic traits.
    3. Why was social networking fundamental to C.Wright Mills’s view of elites?
    • Elites are unified through intermarriage, movement of individuals between elites and a similar educational background and membership of the same prestige clubs, this means that they always have power and do not let other people in to their social network.
    4. What evidence is there to support the notion that elite recruitment still exists in Britain today?
    • Most MP’s are from private schools and the majority that attend Oxbridge universities are from a private educational background. These are the people that are part of the elite.
    5. How might elite pluralism challenge Elite Theory?
    • Dahl would argue that the ideas of elite theory only showed that elites in the USA only had the potential to exercise their power in order to control things. Furthermore, elite theory ignores the power of pressure group leaders.
    6. Using the House of Commons Report answer the following: To what extent are MPs representative of the people who elect them? (Look at social-class, gender, and ethnicity). And why might the social background of MPs be so important?
    • It is not representative due to the fact that the majority of MP’s attended private school and are white, middle class males. The social background of MP’s is so important as they only tend to represent one view- that of the ruling class, and those of the working class are ignored.

  20. Hannah Easterbrook / Oct 14 2008 10:13 am

    1. Elite theory – people with power, whom control society, pass down their power generation to generation and use this power to protect their own interests.
    Elite pluralism – Some groups in society have more power than others but there is plurality of these groups.
    Elite theory stands in opposition to elite plualism as it suggests that democracy is a utopian ideal.
    2. He believe that the elites characteristics gained them power as they were made superior to the masses. He believes that the smaller minority of people who are wealthy hold the power which controls the majority of people who are not wealthy.
    3. He believed that corporate and political elements of society, also including military, have the ability to gain power and have control without necessarily being wealthy. They do this through their high status.
    4. Eaton College is a good example as parents send their children there so that they may recieve the best education and socialize with the wealthy. Therefore they have the ability to reach the top just as they have done, and in addition they look after their own inheritance.
    5. Elite pluralism argues that Mills (elite theory) does not look at decision making and whether or not the issue is being won. Other pluralists say that Mills appears to ignore the power that pressure group leaders have.
    6. MPs are representative of the people who elect them because they will employ people with similar backgrounds and characteristics to them such as social class, ethnicity, for example white, middle class men. They do this to protect the interests of the white, middle classes therefore they tend not to employ females or people from different ethnic backgrounds.

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