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Elites in the New Democracies

Matevž Tomšič

The book deals with the analysis of key political actors in the ‘new democracies’ from Central and Eastern Europe. It is focused on character of elites, particularly political ones, and their role in the process of societal change. The author argues that elite configuration in terms of relationships between different elite factions as well as their cultural profile has strong impact on developmental dynamics of these societies. Although – at least in some countries from the region – political elites have managed to build the institutional foundations of systems of a market economy and a parliamentary democracy, with only small chances of any reverses taking place, they have been much less successful in establishing mechanisms for society’s self-organisation.
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I. Elites in modern societies

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I.  Elites in modern societies

1.  Elites as social phenomenon – between power and knowledge

Organised and influential minorities with evident traits of different forms of social life have existed throughout the history of human civilisation. Whether a community is big or small, rich or poor, simple or complex, there are always some members who stand out as very important, very powerful or very prominent (Keller 1991, p. 13). Therefore, issues related to the phenomenon of elites, particularly the question of who are or ought to be those individuals and groups that have or should have the leading role in society, have represented one of the most important areas of interest for different social thinkers, from the antique times of Plato and Aristotle till the era of modern sociology and political science. The very term ‘elite’ appeared in the 17th century and originally referred to different goods of extraordinary quality. Later, its usage expanded in terms of the labelling of superior social groups, for example prestigious military units or higher strata of nobility, and it was no earlier than at the end of the 19th century (and even later in the United Kingdom and the United States) that it became widely known and applied in the social sciences (Bottomore 1993, p.1). In this context, it has to be mentioned that, as in the case of many other sociological concepts, there are great divergences amongst representatives of different theoretical paradigms in the analysis and...

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