Elite Power Theory In American Democracy

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“If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants” – Issac Newton

Newton’s quote strikes at the heart of all academic learning – which is that knowledge is built on the success of those who come before us. Throughout this course we’ve surveyed the literature in comparative politics to gain a greater understanding of the world and how the giants that came before us laid the foundation for the field of study. So in relation to understanding the factors that determine whose preferences are represented in Democracy, we turn to these authors to highlight the critical – and often dissenting – opinions on interest representation. To be clear, I will argue particularly that Elite power theory as first posited by C. Wright Mills
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Mills proposed what we refer to as elite power theory, specifically defining the elite those “who have the most of what there is to have”. Power, influence, and affluence are all resources that these power elite have. Moreover, these individuals often move and interact only within the same social sphere (ie with other elites), which inevitably leads to incredibly insular views with an insidious type of nepotism. These are elite leaders in Private Companies, the Military, and Government. Mills, and others, later find that there is a great deal of overlap between elites, as those who are elites in one particular sector are more often also elites in others. Thomas Dye (2001) at Florida State University later confirms much of Mills theoretical position with empirical analysis, particularly that elite consensus is unresponsive to elite demands. But more than that, this is evident in even basic observations of the types of families that have long dominated American politics – names like Rockefeller, Kennedy, and Bush have permeated through the barriers between Government and …show more content…
Dahl specifically uses the transformation of the political landscape in New Haven, Connecticut to demonstrate the importance of pluralism. The cycle began with the ruling political made of patrician elites who largely ignored the will of the people, but did not need their popular support due to restrictive and draconian voting rules that allowed the punishment of dissent. However, as particularly voting institutions changed the wealthy business class rose to political prominence, however this did not last long. The Ex-plebian class developed the ability to tap into ethnic constituencies that allowed politicians to use patronage to induce support. However, this model broke down as New Haven moved into the 50’s as a broad range of issues moved beyond ethnic divisions. Most importantly, pluralist’s posit that everyone essentially has the ability to influence Democracy. But there is a clear reason to reject this proposition – as it is prima facie untrue. The ability to influence Democracy is clearly rooted not only in one’s ability to organize preferences (an issue we will discuss later), but only if they have the financing to back those

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