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Alfred de Grazia: Discovering National Elites





To reconstruct the theory of elites for understanding the problem of single or plural elites the following steps are in order:

a. The concept of identification: e.g. Mr. A. thinks through eyes of Group X.

b. How many groups does Mr. A. identify with?

c. What are the similar identifications of Messrs. B, C, D, etc. who are also members of the elite?

d. What groups so discovered are top level in influence?

    Then to discover whether one is dealing with a single or plural elite structure:-

e. What is the total communications map of these groups?

(That is to say, when it is known what groups exist and have power, it may be inquired how interdependent, how isolated, and how cooperative or conflicting are these groups in reference to those decisions of power in which the operator is particularly interested.)


XII-1 . Indices of interdependent elitists.

What are some of these indices of interdependence and cooperation or their opposites?

a. Number of groups interested in the same decision on the same level of operation. For instance, suppose both the army and the police are interested in the choice of a dictator. Thus are two groups interested in the same decision. Also, suppose both the general staff and the divisional staffs are interested in the choice of a dictator. These groups are on different levels of power and the lower level is likely to be interested as a reflection of the interest of the upper echelons, rather than independently.

b. Community of ideology of the groups interested in the same decision.
If the same symbols are shared, then the separation is likely to be less sharp, and the competition regarding the position less.

c. Interdependence of personnel leading the groups.

If the leading members of both groups share the same social, ethnic, and economic background, and there is a high rate of family interconnection among the group’s membership, the elite components in question can be construed as belonging to the same structure.

d. Evidences of co-operative decision-making.

If the leaders of the two groups intermingle in work and in leisure, they are unlikely to separate along group lines or to precipitate a crisis over the decision.

e. Tradition of caudillismo for personalismo.

Where individual leaders from political factions or followings along purely personal lines, violent separatism can exist within a fairly homogeneous general elite.

Application of discoveries regarding these indices to the group structure of the elite should allow of the conclusion that the elite is or is not a single structure with reference to the decision in question.

It should be noted:

a. That mere multiplicity of groups does not mean a plural elite.

A given elite element may have many faces. It may have numerous front organizations. Also, what seems to be a single elite may be basically divided or at least divided on half of the relevant issues. For example, one may speak of the international banking elite who agree on free exchange but who compete with one another for control of the finances or underdeveloped areas. Again the textile manufacturers of New England may join on some basic issues with those of the South, but are fiercely competitive on other questions.

b. That personality clashes can produce a plural elite even where other evidence shows a single elite.

c. That lower elites cannot be weighted with upper elites in judging whether an elite is single or plural.

Frequently, a lower elite with only modest power is in opposition to the dominant elite but is neither part of it nor a short term potential elite. Hence the elite may be judged under those circumstances.

d. That the example is given with reference to two groups and one decision.

Introduction of extra groups (practically always the case) and of another concurrent policy or decision under consideration in a slightly different area (again almost always the case) complicates greatly the analysis, and the analysis becomes increasingly complicated as more individuals, groups and policies, are considered.

Hence, the calculations are almost always rough, i.e. in terms of the major groupings, the major issue aggregates, and the major coalitions or discords among the groupings. From these the statement is made that the elite is single, double, or, more often, plural.

XII - 2. Utility of single - plural distinction.

From the standpoint of the operator, the utility of the distinction is apparent. It is the utter base for the most potent technique of divide et impera. It is also the base for isolating messages: i.e. messages that would do harm if they reached the ear of the balance of the elite. It also informs one of the ultimate limits of spread of the message.

XII - 3. Relations to other techniques.

The techniques for deciding the single or plural character of the elite are a combination of those mentioned elsewhere (see cross references below). That is, the determination required in this section is made from the information that the operator gathers in answer to numerous other queries. But one should keep particularly in mind the following tests:

XII - 4. The overlapping of names and references in sociometric interviews.

XII - 5. The overlapping of formal officers and formal organizations.

XII - 6. Overlapping of power, prestige, income group standings of elite members (i.e. extent of the agglutinative phenomenon)

XII - 7. Ratio of hostile to friendly intra-general elite symbols.

XII - 8. The extent of coalition-forming required by the issue differences with the elite (i.e. there are many special issue coalitions interlacing and cross-secting the elite)

XII - 9. Examination of skill, class and other social spectra to determine the community among the elite and also the community between elite and population, the latter in part to determine the possibility of contending or potentially contending elites.

XII - 10. Some measures of cohesion.

Do separate elite groups refer to intra-general-elite slogans in waging debate or determining policy? Do conflicting elite groups refer separatistically to the mass and try to cut off the other elite parts from the mass?

XII - 11. To what extent do elite members protect one another via immunities - legal or illegal, despite different group memberships? (Cf., e.g. the American Senate’s internal protection of members with the generally hostile open atmosphere of politics.)

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