Elite theorists argue that power is concentrated in the hands of a small minority. How useful is this view?

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In order to assess how useful this view is, we must first look at the differing factions operating within the framework of elite theory. On doing this it will become apparent within the scope of Government, that this view is outdated and riddled with flaws.

Elite theory originally developed from the work of Gaetano Mosca and Vilfredo Pareto, two italian sociologists writing at the turn of the last century. Pareto argued that, in the course of history, different leadership qualities are required in order to adapt society to changed circumstances. Essentially, two types of person can be distinguished, 'lions' and 'foxes', the former, according to Pareto are stolid and forceful, willing to use violence. The latter are basically sly, 'wheeler-dealer' types. One or other type will rule as long as it can cope with the political and economic problems facing it; but in certain circumstances their particular qualities will be insufficient for the task in hand, and they will be deposed by the other group.

Pareto describes this process as 'the circulation of elites', which rise and fall through a combination of psychological aptitudes and historical circumstances, irrespective of the economic or social structure of society. There are many flaws in Pareto's work, but the main ones must centre on his inability to explain the origins of the elites rise to power, and his classification of people into two -and only two-psychological types (S.MOORE,1995).

The belief that a superior group forms a ruling elite underlies Mosca's(1939) writings too, and it is this superiority that he sees leading the elite to power in the first place. Once there, the elite continues to rule, not solely because it is superior but also through its relatively small membership, which makes it far better organised than the mass of the population. Pareto fails...