Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Elitism vs Pluralism


Elitism is the belief or attitude that some individuals, who form an elite—a select group of people with a certain ancestry, intrinsic quality or worth, higher intellect, wealth, specialized training or experience, or other distinctive attributes—are those whose influence or authority is greater than that of others; whose views on a matter are to be taken the most seriously or carry the most weight; whose views or actions are most likely to be constructive to society as a whole; or whose extraordinary skills, abilities, or wisdom render them especially fit to govern.[1]
Alternatively, the term elitism may be used to describe a situation in which power is concentrated in the hands of a limited number of people. Oppositions of elitism include anti-elitism, egalitarianism, populism and political theory of pluralism. Elite theory is the sociological or political science analysis of elite influence in society—elite theorists regard pluralism as a utopian ideal. Elitism also refers to situations in which an individual assumes special privileges and responsibilities in the hope that this arrangement will benefit humanity or themselves. Elitism is closely related to social class and what sociologists call social stratification. Members of the upper classes are sometimes known as the social elite. The term elitism is also sometimes used to denote situations in which a group of people claiming to possess high abilities or simply an in-group or cadre grant themselves extra privileges at the expense of others. This form of elitism may be described as discrimination.

Attributes that identify an elite vary; personal achievement may not be essential. As a term "Elite" usually describes a person or group of people who are members of the uppermost class of society and wealth can contribute to that class determination. Personal attributes commonly purported by elitist theorists to be characteristic of the elite include: rigorous study of, or great accomplishment within, a particular field; a long track record of competence in a demanding field; an extensive history of dedication and effort in service to a specific discipline (e.g., medicine or law) or a high degree of accomplishment, training or wisdom within a given field. Elitists tend to favor systems such as meritocracy, technocracy and plutocracy as opposed to radical democracy, political egalitarianism and populism.
Some synonyms for "elite" might be "upper-class" or "aristocratic," indicating that the individual in question has a relatively large degree of control over a society's means of production. This includes those who gain this position due to socioeconomic means and not personal achievement. However, these terms are misleading when discussing elitism as a political theory, because they are often associated with negative "class" connotations and fail to appreciate a more unbiased exploration of the philosophy.

Academic elitist
Elitism in the context of education is the practice of concentrating attention on or allocating funding to the best students, or those students who rank highest in a particular field of endeavour. For example, a politician who promotes advanced classes for students deemed to be highly intelligent might be accused of elitism, even if this were argued to promote an egalitarian goal, such as curing disease. Elitism in education could be based on conventional assessment of learning ability, knowledge, or other abilities. However, an "elite" school can also mean a school which is wealthy, or hard to enter.

Main articles: Populism and Pluralism (political theory)
The term elitism, or the title elitist, are sometimes used by people who are (or claim to be) not a member of an elite organization.[2] In politics, the terms are often used to describe people as being out of touch with the Average Joe. The implication is that the alleged elitist person or group thinks they are better than everyone else; and, therefore, put themselves before others. It could be seen as a synonym for snob. An elitist is not always seen as truly elite, but only privileged. The definition may have different appreciations depending of the political contexts. Since elitism may be viewed as something necessary for creating patterns of good intellectual or professional performance, it can be used also for maintaining conditions of lack of competition and privilege.

Elitism endorses the exclusion of large numbers of people from positions of privilege or power. Thus, many populists seek the social equality of egalitarianism, populism, socialism, or communism. They may also support affirmative action, social security, luxury taxes, and highly progressive taxes for the wealthiest members of society. All of these measures seek to reduce the difference of power between the elite and the ordinary.

Pluralism is the belief that public policy decisions are or should be the result of the struggle of forces exerted directly or indirectly, by large populations (workers, consumers, retirees, parents, etc.). This contrasts with elitism, which is the belief that decisions are, or should be, made essentially according to the ideals of the elites.

Chapter 9: Who Wins, Who Loses: Pluralism Versus Elitism
Pluralism Is a Group Theory of Democracy. People participate in politics by their membership in groups, and these groups, through competition and compromise, create public policy.
There are four key concepts in the pluralist argument:
-Fragmentation of power. No one group is dominant, therefore all must bargain. Power is divided, though not equally.
-Bargaining. The government acts as a referee in this process. The government will make sure the rules of the game are followed and can intervene to help weaker groups.
-Compromise. The inevitable result of the competition among relatively equal rivals is a series of compromises. Accommodation is made easier by the fact that most individuals are members of many groups.
-Consensus. Underlying the entire process is a basic agreement on the general political ideals and goals of society. Agreement on rules and results is the "cement that holds society together." Specific examples include agreeing on the importance of civil liberties and the goal of equality of opportunity.
Examples of Pluralism. When major environmental groups decide a new law regulating air pollution is needed, they raise funds from their members and seek compromises from chemical companies. The press weighs in, public opinion is heard, as is EPA in hearings before Congressional committees. The resulting legislation reflects the relative power of the groups. Similarly, Robert Dahl's book Who Governs? concluded that there was no single elite that made important decisions in all areas of New Haven politics, but rather several different groups.
Criticisms of Pluralism. Many feel that consensus on democratic ideals masks the real inequity of economic and social distribution of benefits, that the majority of people have no part in the political game, and that powerful elites prevent issues from ever reaching the public. Other critics point to the political inflation of too many groups choking government with too many demands (hyperpluralism).
Power Elite Theory 
The decision-making positions in America are occupied by members of a unified and nonrepresentative elite who look after their own interests.
How the Power Elite Rules. Power is centered in institutions. Therefore, key leadership positions in these institutions are reserved for the elite. These positions are open only to the ruling class of the nation. This class controls the economy and preserves the economic status quo. Decisions are the result not of consensus, but of conflict between the haves and have-nots and reflect the domination of the former. This elite secure the important decision-making positions for its members while encouraging powerlessness below.
Examples of the Power Elite. In C. Wright Mills's The Power Elite, the classic statement of the theory, the movement of leaders between the three dominant areas-business, the military, and government-is described. The Council on Foreign Relations is pointed to as an elite Establishment institution controlling key foreign policy jobs and issues among its members.
Criticisms of the Power Elite View. Although it is true that the number of persons in positions of power is limited, their unity is exaggerated, and the elites do compete among themselves, and democracy consists of people choosing between them through the vote. Some say the elite are better suited to positions of leadership than are the masses. Often these views veer into conspiracy theories that do not analyze politics, but only assert secret cover-ups that encourage apathy and cynicism, as well as fundraising by demagogues.
The Debate 
Both approaches agree that only a small number of people participate directly in politics, and therefore the real question is how competitive and representative these elites are. The book's case studies show how difficult it is to fit all "real" politics into one theory or the other. Recent modifications have discussed a plural elitism. This modification stresses that politics is divided into different policy arenas. Different political conflicts are understood by different approaches: for example, small-town politics may be best studied using a pluralist approach, and foreign policy through the elitist model. These models also reflect differing political ideals. Pluralism seeks to maintain the existing political structure while power elite theorists maintain that basic changes are needed for the United States to become a true democracy.
We do not have to be non-participants in the political game. People (including our students) can affect the outcome of politics but they must, at the least, decide to join the game.

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Elitism is the belief or attitude that the people who are considered to be the elite — a selected group of persons with outstanding personal abilities, wealth, specialised training or experience, or other distinctive attributes — are the people whose views on a matter are to be taken the most seriously, or that these are persons whose views should be regarded as carrying the most weight, or, more simply, these people are best fit to govern or whose views and/or actions are mostly likely to be constructive. Alternatively, the term elitism could be used to describe a situation in which power is in fact concentrated in the hands of an elite, whether rightly or not.

Pluralism is, in the general sense, the affirmation and acceptance of diversity. The concept is used, often in different ways, in a wide range of issues. In politics, the affirmation of diversity in the interests and beliefs of the citizenry, is one of the most important features of modern democracy. In science, the concept often describes the view that several methods, theories or points of view are legitimate or plausible. This attitude may arguably be a key factor to scientific progress. The term pluralism is also used, in several different senses, in the context of religion and philosophy
When we look at the basic premise behind our founding fathers design to create our government, we are looking at democracy. We can view democracy in many different ways. The most basic principle is that we have a government that requires many different people and groups with contrasting ideas to make the most important decisions. To study the backbone of our government, democracy, we must look at the theories that contrast how we view ourselves as a democracy.
As in any political debate, the two main theories, elitism and pluralism present numerous conflicts. Firstly, elitism defines all governments as systems that divide the people the few people that make the important decisions (the elite) and those who do not (the majority). Pluralism, on the other hand, defines democracy as a balanced system of government that is achieved by many well-organized large groups that individuals participate in the reach a compromise on issues. In elitism, no social organization can form with out elites to lead and make all the decisions for the organization. Contradictory, pluralism holds that majority will always prevail regardless of any leader¡¯s personal view.
Through the views of elitism, leaders will always have a different perspective than the members of their groups. The opposing pluralist view portrays that members of the same group form the group because they share the same views and subsequently choose a leader as a voice for the group.
While elite leaders have their own voice, mainly focused on their own interests, they do not necessarily oppress the people, but may show a genuine concern for the welfare of the majority.

Elitism and Pluralism are belief systems that are opposite to each other and constitute a way of looking at a political system. This attitude system allows one to analyze the political system including the institutions such as government, army, parliament etc. Despite ostensible differences, many people seem to confuse between elitism and pluralism. This article attempts to highlight the system of looking at power equations and struggle in a political system through belief systems called elitism and pluralism.
In every country, there are select groups and individuals who enjoy clout with their views being heard with rapt attention and given due weightage before taking any major decision. These could be people having taken birth in privileged class or having special attributes like extraordinary talent in a field or long experience in a particular field. The views and opinions of such people and groups are taken seriously, and they are regarded as the elite part of the population. Sometimes only wealth can be criteria of regarding people as elite. This is a system where elite remain over and above the rest of the population and power to control the country remains concentrated in the hands of the elite.
Pluralism is a belief system that accepts coexistence of different power centers and, in fact, an ideal system where no one has dominance over others. Decision making is based upon participation, and discussion and views of all are heard before arriving at a decision that is acceptable to the majority of the population. This is also a system that echoes the sentiments of the majority. Hence pluralism is close to the concept of democracy.
In reality, except dictatorships where the rule of a select few is observed based upon their power or elite background, pluralism is seen in the form of democracy in most of the political systems around the world. However, even in the purest of democracies, there are elites in the corridors of power and in the battleground during elections to decide government formation and later policy making. The premise that real power in democracy lies in the hands of the masses does not hold water today with elite groups and individuals holding the key to power equations and the delicate balance of power.
-What is the difference between Elitism and Pluralism?
• Elitism accepts that, in every society and political system, there are certain individuals and groups who are powerful and their views are taken seriously in higher echelons of government.
• On the other hand, pluralism refers to acceptance of diverse views and opinions and decisions are taken on the basis of consensus.
• Elitism is closer to dictatorships while pluralism is closer to democratic political systems.
• No political system, however, follows either of the two belief systems exclusively as the elitism remains existent, even in the purest of democracies around the world.

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