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Alfred de Grazia: Discovering National Elites





By "formal officeholders" is meant persons holding positions of leadership in elite institutions. Almost everywhere it is a simple matter to discover who holds the top offices of a government. The kind of information is available in the Statesman’s Yearbook and is widely circulated in other ways. The job becomes more difficult as one moves away from the center towards the still important offices that are not quite integrated or, as one discovers, move downwards towards the offices that hold decentralized power. Yet the identification degree of power, of formal officeholders is most useful to propaganda operations and other means than the most obvious must be sought to gather information on them and their power. Though it may be true that in a number of important operations, only the top elite are the targets, on some general campaigns and over a long period of time, it is well worthwhile to consider the larger leadership structure of elite institutions. Since the increment of power going to a formal officeholder accrues to him by virtue of his position, ordinarily a knowledge of the power inherent in an elite institution will give some idea of the power inherent in the man occupying a post therein.


X-1 Reference Works. There are certain basic reference works which deal with leaders of all countries. Most of the people cited are noted for the office they hold, unless they are powerful politicians or political intelligentsia. The most important of these references are the International Who’s Who, the Biographical Encyclopaedia or the World and World Biography. Of these, only the International Who’s Who is published annually. The other two were published last in 1948 and probably have not been published since. The International Who’s Who gives only the most elementary data for the most "important" personalities. It is not of much value in obtaining a full biography of a person. There are also Who’s Who for areas of the world such as Central Europe, and for individual countries. Frequently there is no generalWho’s Who and if there is one available it may consist of autobiographies which include, therefore, only what a man wants to say about himself, and sometimes just plain flattery. Ordinarily Who’s Who information is valuable only for certain tangible data for which there is no reason for the elite to fear the incurring of criticism, which cannot readily be concealed or distorted. One should not ignore the blue books published by many countries under various names. These are government or officially sanctioned documents or books giving some biographical data on the officials of the government, especially the legislators. The Statesman’s Yearbook is a good source of works of reference from which may be procured the names and positions of those who hold office in the key elite institutions. Many other biographical lists are cited in Appendix D-II.

X-2 The use of indexes to periodicals. Once some of the leaders of a country have been located from all these publications (the most important ones would be those whose names appear in most of the publications and have also been mentioned in the government files and by "old-hands" to the country), it may be well to consult the Reader’s Guide to Periodical Literature under the name of the man. There one will find a great many well-indexed magazines and can obtain references to articles about political personages. If the person is not listed by name in the index, one can also consult the listings under the name of the country. Although this index deals only with periodicals which appear in the United States, the "International Index to Periodical Literature" covers a variety of foreign periodicals, chiefly European. It is organized in the same way as that for the United States. Both sources naturally are available in the Library of Congress or in one of the better university of public libraries. They cover not only news magazines of the type of "Time" but also scholarly publications such as the Public Opinion Quarterly. In addition, the monthly publication Current Biography though concerned mostly with Americans, sometimes contains articles about men of other nationalities.

X-3. Biographical files. There are several agencies of the federal government which collect biographical information continuously. Most of the information is classified. The Department of State has a biographical division which collects personal intelligence on people in foreign countries who are important or are likely to become important A point to remember in this connection is that the different agencies collect biographical intelligence for their own varied purposes. In no instance will the purpose be exactly the one the operator will have in mind. In addition, the data are often sketchy, perfunctory and generally not very enlightening. Another problem is that most agencies record what they call "unevaluated data" i.e. bits and pieces of information on a given person are incorporated into the person’s file without evaluation, and the truth and meaning of items are left to whoever uses the file.

In addition to the biographical division of the State Department there are several area and country desks. Usually, they are staffed by people who have had experience in the appropriate countries and who generally can provide valuable information on personalities. In many instances this will probably be first hand information.

Another division of the federal government which collects information on a biographical basis is the C.I.A. Its information is usually highly classified. Only under unusual circumstances, and with special arrangements, would the operator have access to it.

The department of Commerce has information on foreign exporters to the United States, some of whom may have great influence at home. The large exporters are important, not only because they supervise large commercial enterprises, but also because they bring needed American dollars into their country.

X-4.Organization rosters and publications. Most formal groups of size and importance, unless they are clandestine, publish periodicals or other organs. The dullness of format or the absence of news should not convince one that they must be useless. The names appearing therein are selected to represent the formal leadership of the organization; Such publications are a good source for names of group leaders who may not be listed in Who’s Who or blue books. A magazine or even mimeographed bulletin, say of the postal clerks or fisheries division of government will provide names of leaders. House organs may be supplemented by union journals (a comparison of names here is useful - sometimes the house organ of a company will define a different union leadership than the union organ). The names appearing in publicity for causes also should be checked. The U.S.A. is not the only country where organizations are set up ad hoc to aid a financial or reform drive for one or another purpose. The appearance of a person’s name on the sponsoring list of several organizations is a way of bracketing him politically. The procedure is used commonly to discover whether a person is a communist or ‘fellow traveler." If he appears on one type of letterhead constantly, some presumption of connections is established and, at the very least, there is some notion of what political communication network he fits into. The collecting of rosters of all kinds is therefore recommended.

X-5. Building files. The building of a file of officeholders is recommended. Primary reference in many operations may be to certain functions or types of offices. Hence that knowledge would be useful. However, since the names may be in a general file of elite, or a file of formal and informal leaders discovered by techniques other than running down rosters and lists, the minimum entry in the larger file should contain information on the office held.

X-6. Job-turnover of office-holders. In working with formal officeholders, it is helpful to know something of the turnover of elite personnel in offices. The operator can sample a group of offices in each agency and calculate the average length of time the office is held, if no general study is available to help on this point. Informants may also be used - personnel officers of the agencies should have this kind of information on the ‘tops of their heads." Is turnover or mobility mainly within the organization or between organizations. If the former, special communications are more effective; the audience is more isolated, and self-communicative. If the latter, then the contrary. Apart from other knowledge of the character of the elite thus gained, one can learn from the turnover whether or how best to keep records on who holds what office. If the rate is too rapid in less important offices, one had best confine his precise inventory of officeholding to the top offices alone.

X-7. Indices of Importance of Office. The importance of the institution is transferred to the office, and that of the office to the institution containing it. If, in state dinners, the minister of army is closer to the chief of state than the minister of public works, both the institutions and offices are so graded on a prestige-power scale. Figure 5 (from U.S. News and World Report,) gives a concrete picture of power changes translated into protocol. Again the problem of tradition breaks into the picture: the more recent the ordering, the more realistic the precedence. Also, it is well to check whether the state affair is an ancient ceremonial or a modern one; if the latter then realistic precedence will probably hold. When examining the press for indications of the relative importance of offices, a check and count of all offices mentioned over a long period should bring to light the relative importance, assigned by the media and/or politicians reported on, to offices in the same agency, and, less plausibly, all the offices of the state. One should appreciate, however, that the some elite institutions are well reported, but not the offices in them, while the converse holds for competing institutions. For example, the military is often referred to as a whole, whereas the diplomatic process brings up the names of many officers not necessarily important. This is an inheritance from earlier ages of diplomacy. Also newspapers often mention in the U.S. individual pilots but not infantry officers, incidentally a practice much diminished since the bureaucratization of the Air Force. If possible, the length of mention of the office should be given weight as well. If, over a period of time, the operator is not conversant with the relative power quanta of 80 per cent of the offices mentioned in the press, he may suspect that he is operating far off target.



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