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Do Ruling Elites Degenerate? American and British Elites Through Pareto's Lens


Higley, J and Pakulski, J, Do Ruling Elites Degenerate? American and British Elites Through Pareto's Lens, International Journal of Comparative Sociology, 10, (6) pp. 949-967. ISSN 1569-1322 (2011) [Refereed Article]

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Copyright 2011 Koninklijke Brill NV

DOI: doi:10.1163/156913311X607647


Using Machiavelli’s metaphors, Vilfredo Pareto theorized that over time psychosocial propensities of ruling elites – manifested by predominant personality traits, mentalities, beliefs, and actions – are those of "foxes" or "lions". Either propensity renders a ruling elite, especially its leaders, prone to bias, closure, and cumulating blunders. This degenerative process leads to a severe economic-political crisis and wide elite circulation, during which groups and persons disposed toward the opposite propensity gain power. Pareto’s theory has much intuitive appeal, but its breadth and elasticity, together with the empirically elusive qualities of elites, risk tendentious applications. Taking this risk, we examine what through Pareto’s lens appear to be cycles of circulation and degeneration among American and British elites since shortly after World War II.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:ruling elites, elite circulation, Pareto, elite degeneration, economic-political crises
Research Division:Human Society
Research Group:Sociology
Research Field:Sociology not elsewhere classified
Objective Division:Law, Politics and Community Services
Objective Group:International relations
Objective Field:International relations not elsewhere classified
UTAS Author:Pakulski, J (Professor Jan Pakulski)
ID Code:75627
Year Published:2011
Deposited By:Sociology and Social Work
Deposited On:2012-02-07
Last Modified:2017-11-06
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