Political Elite

There are three pioneers of elite analysis, Gaetano Mosca, Vilfredo Pareto and Robert Michels, who are the key to the development of the political elite approach (Bill et al, 1981:144,145).
It is said that all political systems are divided into two categories – the ruler and the ruled. Those who rule are classed as the political elite and they are the most important aspect of any political structure (Bill et al, 1981:144).

Hippolyte Taine and Ludwig Gumplowitcz both influenced the way Gaetano Mosco thought about the political elite and its approaches (Bill et al, 1981:146). Mosco distinguishes a military elite, a religious elite, an economic elite, and a merit elite based on that particular society’s stage of growth (Bill et al, 1981:149).

For Vilfredo Pareto the elite are simply a group of people who have the highest knowledge in their particular area of expertise. This group of elite can be divided into two: the governing and the non-governing elite (Bill et al, 1981:151).

Robert Michels believes in intellectual superiority within an oligarchy. He emphasizes that an important characteristic of oligarchies is that they become “self-perpetuating” (Bill et al, 1981:155) and often nepotism becomes widespread among the elite (Bill et al, 1981:155).

Mosca believes in five reasons for an elite to sustain power:   1) close identity of life-ways 2) use of political formula 3) imitation 4) circulation of the elite, and 5) support of the army (Bill et al, 1981:150). Of the five reasons given, Pareto believes in the circulation of the elite to maintain power (Bill et al, 1981:152). Michels gives 4 reasons for maintenance of the ruling elite which are: 1) the use of “general ethical principle” 2) financial independence 3) avoiding irresponsibility and internal conflicts, and 4) the capability to take in new ideas from the masses (Bill et al, 1981:155).

From this it can be deduced that the political elite has different classifications and often abuse their power...