Elite Theory and the American Political Directorate

  • David SmitEmail author


In this chapter I argue that Elite Theory rather than Marxism is the most appropriate framework for understanding our ruling elites during the period. I survey the basic tenets of American Elite Theory: that ruling elites maintain their legitimacy by promoting an ideology that justifies their rule, by embodying to some degree the values and aspirations of those below them in the class system, and by rejuvenating themselves to some extent by being open to new members. And I explain my key concepts: “power” as a function of influential social roles and the “political elite” as dominated by members of the top three social classes: Old Money, New Money, and the upper-middle class. I argue that while the various factions of our ruling elite represent very different interests and are thus not strictly speaking a hegemonic oligarchy, until recently they have tended to share power and not directly attacked their opponents’ interests. However, beginning in the 1970s, reactionary factions of the Republican Party began to work systematically to take control of the political directorate.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Kansas State UniversityManhattanUSA

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