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Alfred de Grazia: Discovering National Elites





Many suggestions compiled in this manual have a common failing – they take time to put in effect. And, in the interim, the operator will face his daily tasks. It would be poor procedure to postpone improving to hope that he could target intelligence until the many phases of gathering, analysis and evaluation which have been suggested are completed. The operator must cope at first, and in fact forever, with "emergency" target intelligence problems, on which both the amount of information available and the amount of time to get information are limited.

An example of such an "emergency" may be visualized. Suppose the operator is in the earliest stages of information gathering. Say he is presented with a directive ordering the immediate distribution of 1,000 copies of an important speech to the leading influentials of the area in which he is assigned. There is no escaping the fact that whatever solution reached under such conditions will be far from ideal. Likewise, there is no escaping the fact that immediate dissemination of the 1,000 copies to a list of persons which contains at least some of the important influentials is better than mulling the problem until the timeliness of the message has been destroyed.


XXX-1. The "pilot study" approach. The solution to the emergency problem posed above is essentially to do a two-hour or four-hour (or whatever time is available) "pilot study" of the elite in one or several of the patterns which have been suggested in this manual. The sources, to be sure, would have to be the most obvious. Classifications would have to be modified in accordance with the availability of information. Some techniques would have to be ignored for the moment. But in almost any conceivable situation, there will be several possible techniques available to the operator which will get the 1,000 copes in the direction of the desired target. The following suggestions are specific and any one may be impossible in given situation. What they seek to demonstrate is that the operator can use the retionale of the manual even in such "emergency" situation to good effect.

a. The operator might simply draw a random sample of 1,000 names from a Who’s Who of the target area. The Who’s who should contain most of the names of the influentials. The sample should contain some of them.

b. He might take the top names from official lists of office-holders, utilizing the formal institutional roles. To be sure, he would miss many influentials, but his 1,000 names would cover at least part of the target.

c. He might sit down with an American correspondent or businessman or resident and get as many names as one or several of them could provide. The biases of the individual sources would be reflected but to the degree that they knew the target elite, the final list would cover at least part of the target.

d. If language were not a barrier, he might go to a library and compile a list from a combination of sources. If the lists contained information making a subjective discrimination possible he could eliminate in this manner; if they lacked such information a direct sampling procedure would yield 1,000 names including a part of the target.

e. If the operator had enough information about the target to know its structural and functional organization, he could set up classifications based on this knowledge and fill in names.

f. If he had knowledge of elite organizations and could get rosters or officers, he would have another approach. If organizations were known, but officers not, he could sent his copies to organizational addresses, directed to the attention of officers.

g. If he had observed a geographical concentration of elite in a district of the community, he might simply deliver his copies to every residence in this elite area.

h. If the elite were concentrated in official buildings or offices, he might try to have a copy placed on every department head’s desk.

i. If there were a city directory which described occupations, he might select a sample of 1000 from among those individuals with the skills more likely to be found among influentials.

j. If use of telephones was restricted to upper income persons, a sample of 1,000 names from the phone book might be a solution.

XXX-2. Limitations of such approaches. It is not argued that any of these approaches is ideal; it is merely argued that one or more the them (or of analogous approaches) will be available in any target area and can be used in limited time. The most obvious limitation of these fragmentary approaches is that each is probably biased in its "description" of the elite. If the entire group is taken, the total bias will be present; if a sample is taken it will probably be no better (and may be worse) than the original.

Further, there is a danger in any quick "pilot study" that the original assumption which indicated that a particular technique be used, may have been incorrect. Thus, the preliminary structural-function analysis might have indicated that businessmen were important influentials and the list weighted to include more of them. Later information may show that their importance was more apparent than real. The same might go for assumptions made about possession of telephones or possession of official office.

Yet another limitation is that such approaches give the operator very little assurance that he is reaching the very center of the target. The informal influential may show up in none of the lists; top influentials may not have listed telephones; they may have power independent of office or organization.

XXX-3. Improving emergency procedures. Inevitably, the suggestion that emergency intelligence procedures be improved brings the operator back to the beginning point – he can improve them if he has more time. If he had time enough to study a given area, for example, he could surely pick out of the list of suggestions just recited those which would be effective and those which would not; in addition, he would be in a better position to use the appropriate ones.

But to keep within the framework of the emergency example, the operator would improve his emergency approach if he could use two of the suggestions proposed in XXX-1 rather than just one. The expectation would be that two procedures would give him the beginning of duplication of names, i.e. if he made two lists by method a) and by d) he would have less than 2,000 names because some of the same persons would appear on both lists. Even if he found very little duplication, the operator would not have engaged entirely in lost motion He could then sample from his larger list, with the expectation that the mixed group would have a higher percentage of influentials than the single group. (He also would have an indication that power-holding was relatively dispersed in the target.)

XXX-4. Utilizing the non-random characteristics of the population. All of this discussion has been based upon the original assertion of elite theory – that populations are not made up of randomly distributed individuals. They are grouped and many of the groupings relate to the power that individuals have. Thus, looking for the elite need never be like hunting a needle in the haystack.

To emphasize this point, one might change the setting of the emergency problem to an American community. Armed with nothing more than a general knowledge of American communities and a single aid – the humble classified telephone directory, one could select in a few hours the names of 1,000 persons, firms and organizations in a city of 50,000 with a good expectation that his list would contain a major portion of the names of the top influentials. The non-randomness of the community is well demonstrated in the classified section; utilization of this plus general knowledge of American communities would produce a list of influentials, without using any other source of information. To be sure, there would be biases and imperfections in such a restricted approach. For example, the use of "unlisted telephones" by influentials would bias the list, but even here many persons would be at least partially located through the selection of the names of business firms or elite organizations with which they are associated.

Such a handy clue to the constitution of the elite is missing in many foreign communities. On the other hand, there is no need to restrict oneself to a single device; there are many others which have been touched upon. All of them seek to utilize the non-random arrangement of the target population.

XXX-5. Specialized emergency targets. If the emergency target involves a specialized elite, the task is simpler. Such a problem would arise when the operator must get a delegation of visiting engineers or ministers or labor leaders into contact with the leading influentials in their respective fields in the target area. The narrowing of the target base will mean that gross numbers need not be dealt with and that sources will be more easily discovered. At the same time, there will also be a reduction in the total amount of available material.

Taking this into consideration, the solution is essentially doing what was described in XXX-1 within the framework of the specialization. Most often the problem can be solved by working with source persons or material directly within the special area, but sometimes the nature of the specialization will suggest the availability of peripheral sources. A search for labor leaders might well start by getting names from an employer; engineers might be located though talking to industrialists; educators through contact with municipal officials.

The special sections of this manual dealing with such groups as the bureaucracy, military, etc. will offer many additional suggestions which could be used even though the operator were faced with lack of knowledge of the special elite and severe time limitations.

XXX-6. Continuing emergencies. Finally, it should be noted that years of analysis and operation will not remove emergencies. Elites change composition. The non-relevant group of yesterday becomes the relevant group of today. Sub-elites challenge top influentials; obscure persons rise to power. Well-worn channels suddenly clog or lead to dead ends.

The Composition of the elite and its manner of operation is a dynamic thing, hanging as the result of many internal and external factors. While many of these changes can be anticipated by the operator, others inevitably will not be, and he will find "emergency" intelligence procedures necessary.

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