Elites and the masses - Fundamentals of Sociology and Political Science

Elites and Weights

The current state of political life shows that the majority of the population usually not only does not attach much importance to politics, but also hardly participates in it (or they participate occasionally). This raises the problem of the relationship between ordinary citizens and the ruling elite.

Elite (from the French elite is the best, best part) is the highest, relatively closed stratum of society that dominates all other layers because of its predominance in terms of economic, political or cultural capital. In other words, the elite consists of best people on the basis of wealth, prestige, birth, merit, position in society, education, etc. Usually, the elite is given economic, political and intellectual. Political elite are people who occupy the best positions in the sphere of state power and dominate on this basis over all other people (the masses). The peculiarity of the political elite is that, when it is political power, it closely interacts with the elite of other spheres of public life, integrating and directly influencing these spheres. The very political elite in relation to power is divided into elite ruling and not ruling - counter-elite.

Hierarchical types of elites

Fig. 5. Hierarchical types of elites

United States philosopher NA Berdyaev (1874-1948) in his time brought out the elite coefficient : the ratio of the highly intellectual part of the population to the total number of literate. According to his calculations, the coefficient of the United States elite in 1913 was 6%. According to Berdyaev's theory, if the coefficient of the elite is less than 1%, there is a stagnation in the society, instability is growing in the state. The coefficient of the modern United States elite, according to Western estimates, is less than 0.5%.

Elite and masses are paired categories: they lose their meaning without comparison. Really best part people can be identified only from their total mass (if there was not this mass, then there would be no one to compare). Because of this, the opposition of the elite to the masses is the basic methodological principle of all elitist theories. In addition, many theories of this type use an additional principle of opposing the elite to the class, the social-professional group, the party and the movement.

As you know, best part can be allocated in any community of people. In this sense, we can talk about the business elite, military, miners, party, trade union elite, regional elites, etc. As the "best" are allocated from a significant number of people on the basis of this or that type of capital, and capital is converted, then the economic, political and intellectual elites can "mix" between themselves. Thus, the ruling elite actually consists of representatives of these three types of elites, each of which is dominated by economic , political (influence) or cultural (special knowledge and skills) capital. At the same time, in order to enter and admit to the circle of ruling persons, a person must in one way or another master the symbolic capital to win the moral right to rule over people. Only in this case will the ruling elite accept him as a "man of his circle", i.e. circle of power.

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