The elite theory of democracy has emerged out of two major concerns of its precursors: no theory of democracy until now has given leadership the importance it ought to have, and none has really settled the issue of whether the common man is up to the task of governing a modern and large society. From empirical facts, some theorists have argued that every single modern society is ruled by a class that knows better and has better skills to govern: the elite. Primarily aimed at explaining the on-going structure of our societies, the elite theory of democracy can also result in some normative statements. Indeed, the participative form of democracy is clearly rejected by the theorists, who argue that too much participation would actually weaken democracy rather than reassert it. They argue that masses are incompetent, and thus unable to act "in default of an initiative from without and from above".
[...] New York : Atherton Press Peter Bachrach, The theory of democratic elitism : a critique , Washington, D.C. : University Press of America, c1980. Jean L. Cohen and Andrew Arato, Civil Society and Political Theory, Cambridge, Mass. ; London : MIT Press Geraint Parry, Political Elites, London: Allen & Unwin Kenneth Prewitt and Alan Stone, The Ruling Elites : elite theory, power, and American democracy, New York : Harper & Row Robert D. Putnam, The Comparative Study of Political Elites, Chapter 6 “Elite-Mass Linkage”, Englewood Cliffs, N.J; London : Prentice-Hall, c1976. [...]
[...] What is at stake here is to determine to what extent the elite theory of democracy permits a smooth functioning of a democratic system, and to establish whether its normative implications can reasonably be accepted. This essay will at first attempt to define what is meant by the elite theory of democracy, and in a second part criticizes some incoherence in its core assumptions. In a third part, the theory shall be considered as a tool for empirical studies and assessed in this respect. [...]
[...] In other words, while the elite theory focuses on the kind of policies issued, the classical theory is more concerned with human flourishing which is understood as including the opportunity for an individual to contribute to the solution of problems relating to his or her own actions. Political participation is then expected to be part of the interests of the mass: classical theory opposes to the one-dimensional view of interest fostered by elite theorists a two-dimensional one –interest as end results and interest in the process of participation. [...]
[...] In sum, isn't the elite theory of democracy likely to foster systems that turn into a political equivalent of market cartels –where political parties would be the powerful firms? One last assumption that happens to be empirically hard to meet is the open circulation of elite. Michels pointed out that non-elites insulate themselves from the masses they represent in the very process of becoming part of the elites. Rapid turnover could be a solution, but then knowledge and expertise that come only with experience” would be sacrificed, and the quality of elites would be altered. [...]
[...] Lipset cited in Peter Bachrach, The theory of democratic elitism : a critique , Washington, D.C. : University Press of America, c1980. See Bachrach, ibid. Chapter 3 “Revolt from the masses”. Mosca E. Etzioni-Halevy, Elite connection. Problems and Potential of Western Democracy” (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1993) p.108. Mosca (1939) cited in Bachrach (1980) Vilfredo Pareto cited in Bachrach (1980). Mosca (1939) Ibid. The political and non political elites issue shall be discussed thereafter. Ruostetsaari p.7. Ruostetsaari p.14. Schumpeter cited in Bachrach (1980). [...]
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