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Alfred de Grazia: Discovering National Elites





XXIX-1. Utility of systematic records A system should be set up to insure the maximum usefulness of data collected about community, national, and international elites. Scattered information or unclassified data clutters agency files and over a period of time becomes useless. Isolated facts become meaningless out of context. Operators in the field are often called upon to report the activities of influentials in key areas of policy related to the development of national policy and specifically to policy matters of the particular agency effecting policy or affected by it. The procedures outlined here should be of help in such reporting, and effective work in ordering basic records as work proceeds, insures accurate and prompt reporting when data is urgently needed.


XXIX-2. Types of files. After the operator has collected data on influentials according to the suggestions in previous chapters and according to his own particular needs, it must be analyzed and put into usable form. Basic data may be kept in journal files (folders) and in card indices. Some of the data may be used as reference material. Other data may be kept in summary form, or in lists and be used in daily practice. It may also be coded and punched onto cards (See Appendix C). For example, much of the material gathered in journal form during the operator’s orientation period may be summarized and kept in a folder. Afterwards, familiar with the material and increasingly aware of various forces in the elite environment, he may gradually ignore his first recorded impressions of the area. On the other hand, a list of names, addresses, and positions of top influentials may be used daily.

The usefulness of records are enhanced by simplicity and accessibility. They must be complete enough to give essential information, but not so burdened with information that they become incomprehensible in daily use. All information may be valuable, of course, but proper classification increases the value of the most pertinent data. Data that does not seem momentarily relevant may be stored for future reference in classified form. The journal records illustrate the latter type of storage. Out of journals, card indices may be built for quick reference..

Folder files for clippings related to elite individuals and groups may be kept. Files of written documents, speeches by influentials, pamphlets and the like, may supplement library materials and the journal materials. Again excerpts and briefs may be abstracted from such materials to become a part of the analytical data that is accumulated. In an intelligence operation, no data should be allowed to escape scrutiny for possible leads to elite status, interaction or decision making.

XXIX-3. Special problems of journals. Journal forms of recording may be kept in chronological order as data is gathered. That is, each day, one records observations and places, excerpts of written materials and documents, into a running record - on letter paper - to keep a journal of events. Impressions, hunches and guesses may be recorded as one proceeds. The journal might contain impressions of the background of the elite, data on formal and informal institutional identification, listings of formal and informal leaders inside and outside these institutions, tentative analyses of elite networks, observations of power shifts, references to clipping materials, and any other information suitable to the purposes of the operator’s investigations. Such recording is a diary form of record keeping. It is omnibus in its content and relatively unregularized or analyzed. It is a record in chronological time rather than a systematic analysis, but it is the first step in getting data processed.

At periodical intervals the operator will need to summarize the journal data, take from it the facts that must be transferred to card indices, and draw tentative conclusions from his analyses. In the early stages of investigation this summarization procedure should be a weekly task. Otherwise, data get old, facts lose their meaning, and the cumulative task of analysis becomes overwhelming. During the early stages of elite investigation, the data will be recorded in greater volume and detail than at later stages. As one becomes familiar with the elite network, new information replaces old and the volume of recording can be cut down: but in the early period it is vital to record in minute detail and keep materials summarized to make it amenable to use.

XXIX-4. Dating and coding. It is important that all materials be dated. In summary recordings the dates of original recordings should be kept and the dates of events and happenings within the data should be noted. The sequence of happenings is most often important in a final analysis of data.

It is also good procedure to classify data by code numbers in the margins of summarized journal recordings. For example, all data related to key policy makers may be coded "100". Within the range of numbers from 100 to 200, qualifying data related to key policy makers may carry numbers within the series to designate such qualifications as one chooses to make. For example, one may with to designate policy makers as hereditary elites and given them the code "110" to differentiate them from self-made leaders who may bear the code "120". Such coding allows one to scan journal materials and pick out paragraphs that may be needed without having to read the whole manuscript. The system may sound complicated at first hearing, but once code numbers are established for data, the operator soon learns to use them and they save time. the same code numbers may be used for notations on card indices or for punching IBM or key sort cards if these are used for analytical purposes (see Appendix C).

Recognizing that the files are aimed at classifying data related to various elite groupings, large blocks of data may be classified under military, political, bureaucratic, religious, hereditary, business, intelligentsia, and other elite groupings of any territory covered in the analysis. Identifying information on individuals and groups may be coded from the journals on cards to be filed in a master file under the proper classifications, if machine or hand-sort card systems are not possible or practical. Such information as the name, age, sex, location, primary occupation and activities of persons should be noted. Supplementary data on club affiliations, clique identifications, hobbies, family connections, political affiliations, interests in public and private issues and/or projects may be noted.

As a power structure comes into focus in the analytical process described in preceding pages, data related to the characteristics of its group composition, action patterns, and individual interrelationships may be isolated from the bulk data for frequent reference. Lists of influentials may be kept. They may be kept in an order of ranking of power of various top elites and subordinates. At any rate, such listings should contain more than the names of the persons. They should have enough identifying data to enable the operator to locate the person by phone, letter, cable, or telegraph and by proper title. It is obvious, perhaps, that such lists and all other data gathered are of a confidential nature and should be protected from public scrutiny. In fact, it is wise to restrict information as to the very existence of files, since the idea of dossiers is unpleasant to most people.

XXIX-5. Keeping information up-to-date. No social grouping remains static. Leaders rise, gain top prestige and influence, lose it, die. The process of attrition in a stable elite may be slow, but movement in such groupings is perceptible and spot checks, to be outlined in the next chapter, must be utilized to make a running inventory of elite changes. Records must be changed accordingly. Clipping files on changes in elite membership composition are vital and must be kept up to date. It may be a serious mistake, for example, not to know that a person has been elevated to a new position, or that another has died leaving a vacancy in the elite structure to be filled by someone – perhaps someone already known to the operator.

XXIX-6. Evaluation problems. A record of informants may also be kept, properly dated and with identifying information, and some evaluation of the reliability of such communications as might be received from them. Informants may be members of other governmental agencies, they may be members of the local elite or sub-elite groupings. Evaluations of information may depend upon the operator, or in same cases, and in accordance with the nature of the information received, may be reviewed select staff members or by the staff conference method.

XXIX-7. Allowing for custodial change. Staff assignments change. Operators move. Thus the records left are often one of the key sources of information for an incoming staff. The adequacy of the information gathered in the initial phases of elite analysis insures a good backlog of information for ongoing operations and is in the best interests of the agency and the nation served by it. Staff change also requires making records collections impersonal: Their understanding and use must absolutely not depend upon the "mental files" of the user at a given moment.

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