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Is there a Ruling Class in France?

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image of Comparative Sociology
For content published from 1960-2001, see International Journal of Comparative Sociology.

The thesis of a ruling class in France, today or yesterday, is not validated by the empirical evidence. The arguments against such a thesis are the following: the overwhelming proportion of elite positions are not transmitted hereditarily; the elite circulation at the highest level is considerable; the professionalization of political careers, which is widespread, is incompatible with the concept of a ruling class; the recruitment of elites is marked by a shift from notables to a meritocracy; the elite configuration consists in multiple spheres and sector partitioning; the selective schools, based on academic competition, generate new elites at each generation; there is fault line between capitalists and the other elite categories; the number of entrepreneurs who have built themselves their company is enormous; the isolation of the cultural elite is astonishing; the subordination of the military elites is an historical fact; the periodical beheading of the ruling elites marks French history. Nonetheless, at the apex of power, a triad, composed of outstanding polictical leaders, of corporate managers and of highers State administrators — called "mandarins" — operates the wheelwork of the heterogeneous and complex French society and State


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