Home >> Political System >> The Classical Elite Theory

The Classical Elite Theory

Pareto places particular emphasis on psychological characteristics as the basis of the elite rule. He argues that there are two main types of governing elite which he calls Lions and Foxes.

Lion achieve power because of their ability to take direct and decisive action and as their name suggests they tend to rule by cunning and guile by diplomatic manipulation.Pareto believed that European democracies provide an example of this type of elite. Members of governing elite own their position primarily to their personal qualities either to their Lion like or Fox like characteristics.

Major change in society occurs when one elite replaces another a process Pareto calls circulation of elites. All elites tend to become decadent. They may become soft and ineffective with the pleasures of easy living and the privilege of power or set in their ways and too flexible to respond to changing circumstances. In addition each type of the elite lacks the imagination and guile necessary to maintain its rule and will have to admit the foxes from the masses to make up for this deficiency. Gradually foxes infiltrate the entire elite and so transform its character. Foxes however lack the ability to take forceful and decisive action which is essential at various times to retain power. Thus an organized minority of Lions committed to the restoration of strong government develops overthrowing the elite of foxes.

Like Pareto Mosca believed that rule by a minority of elite would be an inevitable feature of social life and societies in history were divided into two classes- A class that rules and a class that is ruled. The first class always the less numerous performs all political functions, monopolies power and enjoys the advantages that power brings whereas the second the more numerous class is directed and controlled by the first. Like Pareto Mosca believed that the ruling minority is superior to the most of the population because they possess certain qualities that give them material, intellectual and moral superiority. The content of these qualities may vary from society to society in some societies courage and bravery in battle provided access to the elite. In others the skills and capacity needed to acquire wealth were valued. For both Pareto and Mosca democracies are merely another form of elite rule.