Democracy and Elites

Daniel Gaxie

Abstract


From a sociological point of view the elitist phenomenon must be examined from two angles: the question of renewal of the elites, and that of their unity. When it comes to the question of renewal, internal mobility needs to be distinguished from structural mobility: that is to say, the replacement of one type of elite by another one. For example, could professional politicians give way in the future to amateurs because of the profound mistrust that affects them? Internal renewal is currently limited by the predominantly school-based mode of reproduction that is well demonstrated for the political elite, including the populist political elite, and produces selection effects. About the problem of unity of the elites, there are two distinct questions: are the various elites united, and each one cohesive? The monist hypothesis is faced with difficulties when it is applied to "modern" societies, characterized by a structural differentiation of their sectors of activity. The struggles between elites open up opportunities for the representation of interests of groups outside the elites. Political elites are divided along individual and collective interests and their divisions echo social cleavages. They must be defined and analyzed by their political and ideological tendencies and their links with various groups, but also by their relative positions within political fields. Such hypotheses highlight the distrust in established elites and the populist phenomenon in times of crisis.

Keywords


political capital; elites’ struggle; establishment and marginality; professionalization; confidence; populism; social divides; school-based legitimacy

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.14267/cjssp.2017.3S.02

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ISSN: 2062-087X

DOI: 10.14267/issn.2062-087X