Is Britain Dominated by a Political Elite
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“British Elite” is a combination of words, which causes lots of different questions. During many centuries it was researched and described by Robert Michels, C. Wright, Ralf G. Dahrendorf, Dahl Hewitt, Joseph A. Schumpeter, Harold D. Lasswell, etc. However, there are still lots of unknown aspects about the present situation and its influence on different spheres of British life. In this essay we are going to research more material and try to answer the main question: Is Britain dominated by the Political Elite?
Theories of Elites
R. Michels (1990) in his “The Sociology of political parties in a democracy”, examining the social mechanisms that give rise to elite society, concluded that the reasons are not sacrificed in people, but in the essence of the organization: any organized system requires the allocation of senior staff and inevitably plays oligarchy. The selection of elite groups in contemporary society, where a significant role is played by the party, was called the “iron law oligarchy” (Lipset 2000). According to Michels, elite is an active minority, which tends to go out of control of citizens, and subjects self-interest policy. In Britain in the past and present times, the minority group is ruling the mail influenced spheres.
The works of R. Michels were the basis of Machiavellian approach to the analysis of the elite. This approach is characterized by a consideration of the elite ruling class without regard to moral or other qualities of people, who belong to it. The focus is centralized on the role of the elite in a society.
For this, school elite is characterized as:
• Recognition of the inevitability of elite of any society;
• Consideration of the elite as a group of individuals, who have certain resources and produces tangible and intangible assets at maximum size. Thus, in the interpretation of the US political scientist H. D. Lasswell (1952), the elite are those who get more of what you can expect to receive.
Contrary to the Machiavellian tradition in the twentieth century, there were revealed other theoretical approaches to the understanding of the elite.
Those, who supported value approaches, developed the idea of Pareto (BI 2010) that the elite are people with special qualities. Elite is treated as a layer of society, united by concern for the common goods. There are outstanding individuals, who have proven their ability to put the public needs under their own, which have special moral and intellectual qualities.
There is a liberal approach, which combines the political elite with ordinary citizens. It is represented in various theories of democratic elitism. The essence of this approach is expressed in the formula: “If the elite rules, the power of people will survive.” Democracy is understood as the rule of elites, which is approved by the people. This understanding of democracy foundations was created by M. Weber (1962) in the early twentieth century. According to his interpretation, elite is a layer of professional politicians who enjoyed the confidence of the people. Elite through the election depends on the population, and therefore seeks to win over those who direct.
In the second half of the twentieth century, the discussion about elite composition was added to debates about their nature. There are two approaches:
The concept of the elite pluralism includes the following provisions:
• Elite are not uniform, and consist of a few elites. The influence of each of them is limited to a well-defined area of activity. Pluralism of elites is determined by the variety of social groups: economic, professional, religious, demographic;
• The society is represented by a set of interest groups policies, each of which gets its own control;
• The division of the elite and the mass is indicative. Elite is “open” for inclusion in its ranks, those, who are the most active, capable and successful representatives of the masses;
• The competition between elites prevents monopolization of power by one of them;
• Political power is diffused among all the competing teams.
Critical (left-liberal) concept of elites is associated with the name of an American political scientist Charles Wright Mills (1963). Opposing to supporters of a pluralistic approach, Weber put forward the thesis of uniformity (homogeneity) elite, which has become his main idea. Elite is a layer of people, who occupy the strategic command posts, consisting of politicians, business and the military. The homogeneity of the elite is defined by the proximity of the biographies, the common way of life and a shared value system. Mills drew attention to the means of consolidation of the elite, as the marriage bond, and education, which are representatives of the elites in the same prestigious private schools and then universities, friendships, membership in the aristocratic clubs. Major decisions, according to scientists, are taken mainly in informal communication. Political scientist concluded the impossibility of the “open” elite: the elite recruitment is carried out from their own environment. Mills rejected the argument of supporters of a pluralistic theory about the power’s dispersion between groups.
Each of the reviewed theories was criticized by many political analysts. Extended positions do not always adequately reflect reality, but it would be unjustifiable disregard of many provisions from these theories in the study of the phenomenon of elites from different countries.
Thus, the importance of a comprehensive study of the functioning of the national and international image of the British elite and its leaders in the modern political process is supported by the general state of development of this problem in the literature, which has showed an obvious interest in the subject of scientists from different scientific fields, and at the same time, the lack of basic research, revealing its features in a global society and the common information space, in which that society exists.
A Present Britain Political Elite
At the process of researching the British ruling political elite, there must be noted that the burden of historical traditions of political culture determines the methods of political activity, political consciousness and behavior of the new wave of “British reformers”, which naturally do not perceive other methods of action except those, which have been successfully used by themselves as well as by their predecessors (Nairn 1964).
It is a fact that the political culture consists for eyelids and it is impossible to change it in a short time; that is why the current political development in Britain has taken a familiar character, with few hints of liberalism, while, at the moment there is a clear need for new ways of development of political relations.
Nowadays, the state power in Britain is characterized by three main features:
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1. The power is indivisible and cannot be displaced (in fact, it can be called “hereditary”);
2. The power is completely independent, and it is absolutely outside of the society control;
3. There is a traditional connection between the possession of the British government and the disposition of property.
These essential characteristics of the British government are the etalon for the principles of liberalism, which are adjusted in a monarchy, which is absolutely being transformed into its opposite side. Nowadays, the central problem of the British political system is the realization of power (especially its separability and displaceability). The historical experience of the British parliamentary system (its development) confirms an interesting feature: the opposition and even a violent conflict between the executive (as a leading power) and the legislative authorities. Suppression or destruction of one government branch is actually assigned to the absolute power of the other one, which, however, is leading to the defeat of the current regime. Harmony between the branches of government cannot exist, but it provides a clear separation and control of society over the state power (Harkhverdian 2010).
In the United Kingdom, the so-called public schools (Eton, Winchester and Harrow) are the main training centers of the political elite. It is known that only Eaton graduated 18 prime ministers.
Analyzing historical experience and current state of one of the oldest democracies in the world (the Great Britain), there can be made an intermediate conclusion that the absence of a tyrannical form of government does not make people free from the tyranny of the information, which is manifested in the possibility of manipulation, that is hidden, coercion in the interests of the power elite groups, which are also owners of the apparatus of coercion - the media and communication.
Information, which is protected by the laws on freedom of speech, has weaker control from the outside, but more from the inside, causing no less powerful influence than the tyrants of antiquity or the dictators. It is particularly important in the global information revolution, that the dictators may exercise their power in the non-stop mode, passing space limitations, seeking unification of individual societies in a single system, which helps them to achieve political and financial goals. Thus, the globalizations of mass communication and the transformation of media systems change the nature of international relations.
Due to the power of the analyzed processes in modern society, there is a beginning of a rapid loose of its sacred quality, the reliance on faith and authority. There are created new images of rulers, which do not meet the traditional mythological representations, but founded in a negative-derogatory manner. It meets the requirements of the present media group installation, but entails a transformation of the elite image through the destruction of reputation of its individual members, which is emerging to be a threat to British democracy.
There can be emphasized the negative role of provocative appeals to public opinion. The process of getting some scandalous information, causing a reaction of indignation among ordinary citizens, at the same time, creates a greater sense of fullness of the political process, because the person sees himself as a judge under “guilty” politicians, forgetting about their own responsibility for the quality of the choice of their representatives in power.
Thus, the scandal, as an extraordinary social and political phenomenon, serves as a strategy to change the social consciousness. This effect is particularly important for the Great Britain, as it is the consequence of the fact that national identity becomes one of the major pillars, which has been preserved (from the times of imperial colonization) a faith in its country as a bastion of traditional cultural and moral values, the global symbol of the fight for the ideals of kindness and justice.
For the Great Britain, a very important feature of the present time is that the national elite, becoming part of the international elite, was related with it through political and mainly economic spheres (Evans & Andersen 2006). However, English society, which is a different traditional placement, is not ready to accept the internationally oriented policy as the dominant, defending the priority of the state. This state of affairs makes the British elite preserve influence in the country to strengthen and develop its national image. Using the power of the media, the elite persistently emphasizes its national focus and commitment to Britain.
Finally, in the Great Britain, the authorities lose its sacred quality and reliance on authority, thus losing one of the most important objects of national pride and a symbol of national identity and representation in the world, which is the perception of the country as a world leader in the fight for justice and the preservation of moral values.
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