What is Elitism, What is Elitist Theory?July 1, 2021
Elitism defines the existence of an aristocratic and oligarchic order in the political and social literature that people with certain qualifications (a minority) are responsible for state administration. In this context, elitist thought has been shaped by the view that politics is autonomous and decisive (Vergin, 2003, p. 111).
The word elite (elite) was used in the seventeenth century to describe luxury goods of superior quality. Later, the usage area of this word expanded and started to cover upper social groups such as the first class military unit or high ranks in the nobility.
The concept of elite began to be used frequently in the social and political literature in the late nineteenth century in Continental Europe (Bottomore, 1997, pp. 7-8).
Although the establishment of the elitism movement in a theoretical framework and the development of some theories related to it became widespread after the nineteenth century, the idea of the rule of an elite minority is quite old.
In this context, one of the owners of the first elitist approach is Plato. In Plato’s understanding of the state, the ideal state is an aristocratic order that foresees the rule of a wise minority.
Bust of Plato in the Vatican Museum.
ELITISM IN THE HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY
There are three social classes in Plato’s ideal state. They are producers, protectors, and rulers.
According to Plato, there must be intelligent, valuable, and socially relevant people for state administration. Plato said either that philosophers should be kings or that those who are kings should be philosophers; He claims that this is how society will get rid of anarchy, chaos and other crises (Ağaoğulları, 2014, p. 100; Tunçay, 2006, p. 64; Göze, 2015, p. 21).
Those outside the ruling class; all the productive forces of the society are all those who work for the production and distribution of material products or goods that the society needs to maintain its existence (Arslan, 2006, p.
Writers such as Vilfredo Pareto, Roberto Michels, Gaetona Mosca, Joseph Schumpter and Wright Mills played an important role in the theorizing of the elitist approach, which was also seen in Plato and later in Aristotle (Vergin, 2003, pp. 112-120).
These theories, called “elite theories”, were systematized by liberal theorists against Marxist analysis of social classes and class conflict (Duverger, 1998, p. 160, Bottomore, 1997, p. 23).
Mosca was the first writer to develop a distinction between elite and mass. However, in Mosca’s works, there is not the concept of “elite” (elite), but the term “ruling class” or “political class”.
Mosca states that the social structure consists of two separate poles: the “ruling class/political class” and the “ruled class”. Mosca also states that this is a universal reality. Because, according to him, this situation is valid for every society and political regime.
The ruling class is in the minority in terms of quantity; but it collects the political system and the functions of the power phenomenon; has a say in the distribution and sharing of resources. At the same time, the ruling class legitimizes this concrete and practical situation with the help of a political formula. In this respect, its quality (quality) is high.
The ruled class, on the other hand, is in the majority in terms of quantity. This class is under the supervision and control of the ruling class; it complies with the existing normative rules (Vergin, 2003, pp. 116-117; Duverger, 1998, pp. 162-163).
Unlike Mosca, Pareto used the concept of “elite” instead of the concept of “ruling class”.
According to Pareto, history consists of the substitution and alternation of a certain elite group in a cycle, and in this respect, it is “the graveyard of the aristocracies” (Pareto, 2005, pp. 35-39).
According to this idea, which he theorized as “elite circulation”, there is a certain elite at the top of the political and social functioning in society (Vergin, 2003, pp. 113-114). This segment is the people who have the highest indexes or grades in their field of activity.
The class consisting of the student who gets the highest grades in a school, the highest performing employee in a company, or the politicians who win elections and seize power in a political system is the elite class (Bottomore, 1997, p. 8).
In this context, the elites in Pareto consist of two separate segments: “government/political elites” and “non-governmental/non-political elites” (Duverger, 1998, p. 161).
Elite circulation plays an important role in ensuring social peace and harmony. For it is not by lineage or other non-voluntary qualifications to participate in this cycle; Since it is according to individual characteristics, the lower layers of the society feed this cycle. Thus, every individual of the governed class is a candidate to be a part of the elite when he acquires the necessary qualifications (Duverger, 1998, p. 162).
Joseph Schumpeter, on the other hand, considers democracy as a method (means) rather than an end. Democracy; can be crucial to the realization of ideals such as human rights, freedom, equality and justice; but not one of these ideals, these ideals