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Introduction: Democratic Elitism Reappraised

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Chapter Summary

Early in the twentieth century Gaetano Mosca, Vilfredo Pareto, Robert Michels and Max Weber highlighted the disjunction between political elites and democracy. This chapter states that the democratic elitism is an overly simplistic rendition of how democracies, especially today's democracies, work. Though a "competitive struggle for the people's vote" occurs, political leaders and elites orchestrate this struggle. Indeed, democracies may be morphing into Weber's leader democracy, with strong plebiscitary thrusts that render "the people's vote" little more than a rubber-stamping of self-selected leaders and self-reproducing elites. It must be asked if democratic elitism is still a relevant and useful theory of democracy. Joseph Schumpeter described how representative democracy works in modern national states. Governing power is centered in some representative body or office and transferred from one political faction to another through open, periodic electoral competitions to dominate that body or office.

Keywords: democratic elitism; Joseph Schumpeter; Max Weber



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