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Elite Mobility and Elite Rule

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According to Putnam,1 the analytical model of classical elite theorists, such as Mosca, Pareto and Robert Michels, consists of five elements:

  1. (1)

    Political power — like other social goods — is distributed unequally.

  2. (2)

    People fall into only two groups: those who have ‘significant’ political power and those who have none.

  3. (3)

    The elite is internally homogeneous, unified and self-conscious (shared group consciousness, coherence and common intentions).

  4. (4)

    The elite is self-perpetuating and is drawn from a very exclusive segment of society (self-recruitment).

  5. (5)

    The elite is essentially autonomous (answerable only to itself).

These criteria appear to apply in large measure to Japan’s contemporary power elite, Japan’s top 2000 decision-makers who comprise some 0.0001 per cent of the country’s population. With Michels’ ‘Iron Law of Oligarchy’ applying universally, in Japan from students’ clubs and ikebana associations to punk rock bands and gangster syndicates (all strictly hierarchical with well-circumscribed and well-known roles for chiefs, Indians and slaves, ranked according to criteria of seniority and of merit) it is almost a platitude to observe the same phenomenon at the macro-societal level.


  • Political Elite
  • Corporate Sector
  • Power Elite
  • Elite Rule
  • Business Elite

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  • DOI: 10.1007/978-1-349-22993-2_11
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  1. Robert D. Putnam, The Comparative Study of Political Elites (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1976) pp. 3–4.

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  2. John A. Cicco Jr, ‘Japan’s Administrative Elite: Criteria for Membership’, International Review of Administrative Sciences vol. 41 (1975) pp. 179–84, esp. p. 383.

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  3. Karl F. Zahl, ‘The Social Structure of the Political Elite in Postwar Japan’, Transactions of the Asiatic Society of Japan, vol. 11 (1973) pp. 128–44.

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  4. Peter P. Cheng, ‘Japanese Cabinets, 1885–1973: an Elite Analysis’, Asian Survey, vol. 14 (1974) pp. 1055–71.

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© 1993 Albrecht Rothacher

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Rothacher, A. (1993). Elite Mobility and Elite Rule. In: The Japanese Power Elite. Palgrave Macmillan, London.

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