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The Elite, its role and significance in society


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The elite, its role and significance in society

The present study aims to explain and make clear the significance and fundamentals of the "elite" concept. It attempts to clarify the concept's very meaning. In so doing, it investigates the conditions and mechanisms under which some social group, a so-called "elite", is formed and operated with a view to organize the knowledge about the "elite" and bring the concept closer to those interested in its role and momentousness in societies, especially contemporary ones.

Eventually this issue can be related, somehow, to other issues, including the great importance attached to "power elites", whose impacts are increasingly influencing the whole society, and sometimes even various societies. Henceforth the seriousness of the study emerges particularly if we keep in mind that certain personalities or persons appeared on the last twenty five years of the twentieth century - titles included among others, "leader of human development", "father of home land", "father of the nation". Meanwhile most of the leaders led, in a way or another, their countries and societies to poverty and degradation.

Concept of Elite and its Significance.

The word "elite" is derived from the French "Elite" which originally meant "the good" or a "selected community". But in the seventeenth century, the meaning developed referring to both people and commodities. In the nineteenth century, the English language borrowed the French concept, denoting a good selected group. In this latter sense the concept became quite common in social and political literature [1], especially in W. Pareto writings - the first who theorized idea of elites. Meanwhile the contemporary concept has acquired two close meaning. The first signifies useful people who excel in specific specializations; such a meaning is in fact very close to the concept of officials in the Latin sense of the word. Whereas the second (as dealt with in sociological and political sciences) applies to the knowledgeable and professionally distinguished persons among a group of people in some society, according to certain social tests.

Early beginnings, in this respect, date back to Greek studies where Agathos referred to the ideally mannered gentleman of noble birth. Then Platoon argued that the more knowledgeable persons should lead the utopian society which realizes comprehensive and complete conditions for the development and stability of society. The knowledge here indicates philosophers.

Therefore it is necessary to take into consideration the sociological characteristics of the phenomenon because these characteristic totally determine the phenomenon's features, details, types and motives.

the "Elite Theory", apud W. Pareto, is divided into two parts. One part, the general concept, embraces all those persons who excelled in certain fields like science, arts, and sports in their societies. Thus, they become more distinguished than average or less-than-average people. He relied upon the idea that social differences generate differences in work, activities, persistence and patience. The second part of the theory deals with power elite. Pareto seemed to be influenced by G. Mosca who, in turn, categorized society into ruling elites and a public deprived of authority.

From this perspective, I disagree with Pareto for there is more than one elite type in society. Even the publics differ and vary from one individual to another. From a sheer sociological point of view, minorities enjoy a remarkable prestige in, for instance, economics, politics, science, culture, etc., and they are nominated according to certain principles derived from customs and traditions, not to mention those who inherit prestigious social positions, real estate owners, descendants of cultural heritage and the like, I can also add people of high rank, power or good reputation to the list.

Two types of those distinguished individuals are to be recognized:

Men of influence or actions; and

Men who work for important organizations or departments in their societies; they are unnecessarily appointed in an official way.

There are, undoubtedly, considerable differences between elite and the public. Jose Ortega y Gasset argued from a moral perspective, that "In Modern societies, one can identify two basic groups: a large group called the public or the peoples and a small group called a selected minority. The public are average undistinguished persons having no special values in the positive or negative sense of the word; and they are quite happy with this. Whereas the selected minority sets certain duties for themselves and is exposed to danger. They have specific values and feel, continuously, distinguished from the first group, the public". Ortega further assumed that even some intellectuals may be classified under the category "the public".

Here arises the question: under what conditions may an individual belong to the elite? Advocators of the social class's concept assume that an elite has the highest values and some specific physical and psychological features. Pareto defined these values as someone's cultural values. (While Robert Michael and Max Weber, who put forward the Charismatic Leadership Theory, considered the psychological condition the most crucial in belonging to this class. Though the literature does not agree all along on the elite phenomenon, Weber thought that elites have something in common, i.e. the biological and psychological factor, and exceed the social and economic factor [2].

Harold Lasswell, the first who explained the phenomenon sociologically, linked it to individuals holding particular sociopolitical positions in society. (That's to say, the elite is associated with the sociopolitical position. Then Wright Mills developed the concept, assuming that belonging to the elite class is attributed to the person's position in the economic, social, political, or scientific structure etc. [3]. Personal values, he added, ranks second [4].

Contemporary sociology differentiates between various meanings of the elite concept as follows: elite is a group of people who hold key positions in authority structure. They influence social life and social institution in society. They perform the functions of governmental authorities, political parties or social economic or cultural organizations, etc. Prestige and authority, here is linked to the person's true position in relation to the 'elite' or in the institution where he works.

a)      Elite is a group of people who hold the highest position in authority or have special prestige in society. They, mainly, get the social approval necessary for their primary existence and have dominating qualifications and characteristics.

b)      Elite is a group of people who hold the highest positions according to authority and prestige standards in a local society. They have certain traditional values, being local elites or some customary groups. Dahrendorf attempted to define the concept comprehensively. "The elite is a group of people who hold high position in political, economic, educational, legal, army, religious institutions, in society [5].

Elites appeared in old-time societies in the form of groups formed according to the nature and size of those societies. In some societies, elites consisted of elders; in others of religious men or tough fighters. As societies were developing, elites became more distinguished from the societies and individuals according to the degree of economic and social development. At a more advanced stage, aristocracy, moral leaders or leader ship guards - pushing some people towards authority or forming an authority body - raised and became elites later.

When societies developed, to a certain degree, especially the most industrial, the phenomenon of separating administration from the church - not only in industrial companies, but also in the complex bodies of the state which started to demand professionals in all fields - turned to the more appealing. Influenced by these shifts and by the increasing labor struggle for rights, the methods and means of managing the industrial centers and countries changed as well, here comes the contradiction between the industrial oligarchy and the founders of democratic bourgeois. At this point, the inevitable question is raised: what are the practical opportunities required to overcome such obstacles and contradictions?

First, consider the following rules:

(1) Legal knowledge about the equal opportunities available for the participation of all the educated and politically efficient citizens in public life should be widespread.

(2) Large groups of professionals should be qualified to become leaders capable of defining the entire social goals and demands; these goals are set by the most influential groups under the public's and society's eye of course.

Intelligent, active, leading groups can be selected from all social classes and categories according to professional standards and moral social indicators. Thus we aim to prevent permanently the negative phenomenon which Pareto related to the "elite circulation". This causes an important value shift and substitution in leading positions.

Elites Models and Features.

The standards and criteria required to join such elites or elite groups are:

(1) The candidate should have a ceremonial title given by a cultural authority or by a religious authority.

(2) He may inherit a socially privileged position or have a land or other property that entitles him for one of the above-mentioned titles, or the like.

(3) He may have strong, wide connection with authority in economic, political, scientific, or cultural fields, so he can take decisions which fundamentally influence on the social life in his society.

(4) He has special values higher than the average person's and respected in society.

(5) He has values and things useful for certain elites, and thus he becomes acceptable by and useful for those elites. Take for instance, a charismatic person or one who is distinguished in an applied or theoretical field.

According to these criteria, we may identify the following elites:

a)      Elites with ceremonial titles (e.g. Lord, Baron, etc.);

b)      aristocratic elites (by inheritance);

c)      Elites having accomplished useful and necessary achievements for society)(6).

Such factors, which actually disagree on determining the person who belongs to the elite, do not necessarily imply that intelligent people - like the demagogues - cannot join authority or elites. In fact, since the Byzantine times some people have participated in authority for unknown reasons. Bokassy, for example, simply announced and appointed himself a king! Every now and then, groups of people are recognized as elites because they have certain characteristics stuck to them, though they are neither important or efficient, nor morally useful for their societies. While other people elected as party leaders influence authority.

Reflecting on the bases of the elite concept introduced by Pareto, we can conclude that he privileged the elites created by people's activities in social fields. They get high positions and consequently play a leading role in certain spheres. Then they join the power elite through elections. shortly after, Mannheim developed the elate classification concept In the liberal society, (he identified the main models of elites: political elites, managers and organizers, intellectuals, artists, reformist moralists and men of religion. While the political and organizational (managerial) elites aim at the integration of the big individual goals, the cultured, artistic and religious. "Elites" role relies upon calming down the psychological energy which the society could not comprehensively relieve in everyday struggle (7).

Harold Lasswell and Arthur Caplan classified ideal elites - where distinguished elites and general values, and authority giving are clearly manifested - into:

"(1) An elite that practices an official authority. Elite is based on a pyramid-like, bureaucratic - and somehow closed - system, to protect authority.

(2) An Aristocratic noble elite. Elite is originally based on old concepts. I.e. best types of people belong to noble mythical families. In this case the supreme value is given on birth, nobility and fame.

(3) A just elite. He holds official authoritative position and depends on moral values spiritual people come under this category.

(4) A public elite. Elite play on public feelings for support. Thus the public falls onto the politicians trap. Demagogues who push the public towards a specific goal are considered public elites.

(5) A brave / bold elite. Elite practices Power through his energy, boldness and man ship. This takes place in some primitive societies and tribes dominated by tough fighters, and principally in societies living on murder and robbery. The Roman state's authority, for instance, relied basically on terrorism and violence.

(6) A rich elite. Elite depends on the power of money as a primary factor in, an authority tool of, and a method towards forming and shaping the political behavior of certain people.

(7) A technocrat elite. Elite is a professional, a technician or an expert, who tries to impose his views on others. To this end, he depends on his excellent qualifications in one of the various fields of social, economic, political, practical, and cultural life. These elites are said to be the dictator of the professionals.

(8) An ideological elite. Elite tries to link religion with ideology and give titles and characteristics to some persons so that they become extremely distinguished. Here arises what is called ' a worship of the individual" [8].

Those models have become quite known in European societies, as well as others. Simplify stated, some categories of individuals lead economic, political, cultural, scientific, and religious life and the rest of the whole social life spectrum. They are generally called elites and represent a pyramid, where political and strategic elites engage the top.

In the American society, new classifications have appeared following the studies made on that society. Right Mills' prominent classification of elites from bottom to top is similar to the idea of the pyramid as follows:

"(1)A Local Society's elites. Elites include those who have a great prestige and authority in local societies, like cities and districts. They are classified into small groups, a matter which weakens their importance though the Small numbers do not prevent their very existence" [9].

(2) The 400 colonizer families. This type of elites exists in New York and possibly in remote countryside.

(3) Celebrity elites. They are famous individuals like businessmen and film, stage, screen, and sport starts they need no introductions because the public already know no introductions the radio and T.V.

(4) Average rich elites. Being wealthy, those elites practice limited authorities which secure their money and keep their places in the U.S. social, political system.

"(5) VIP manager elites. They are distinguished elites, who started their career as excellent professionals in managing big companies and took over decisions from the capitalist owners of the companies - as the later lacked, in fact, the necessary managerial knowledge. Then they became a separate group due to the development taking place in the size, wealth and organizational structure of their institutions or companies. Therefore, a respectable civilized management began to be inevitably obligatory.

(6) Cartel rich elites. They secured their property and privileges in the U.S. society's most vital, permanent institutions - extremely huge economic bodies indeed. Not only the elites have a significant impact on social and economic fields, but also they influence the American political life.

(7) VIP military elites. They are a group of generals and admirals who lead the complex, huge, military mechanisms and forces, and the affiliated economic institutions. The large numbers of staff commanders in the various armies manage the complex military industries which support the state authority and sovereignty.

from top-to-bottom classification of elites represent a pyramid whose top is occupied by political leadership, i.e. rich businessmen, top VIP army and marine officers, and VIP politicians there is nothing like it the whole history of human beings .

Power elites are not unified or integrated. It is not similar to a Aristocracy which emerged due to inheriting nobility, as Mills said. Power elites are united by means of personal, official connections, and have something in common, namely the common life style or awareness of interests in such a way that a common psychological obligation is created. Elites, here, do not necessarily participate personally in decision-making. Instead, an internal circle contributes to this, provides information and bear direct responsibility in the end. Another group which does not attempt to take over top political positions can be added to this class of elites.

Power elites don't represent a permanent, specific, official club for its members. Studying the foundation of this type of elites, we may argue that some of the members are moved from inside, due to a free game of powers played by the three partners (officers, businessmen and political leaders). In spite of the objective critical attitude towards the elites, Mills conceivably maintained that power elites are not equal partners because capital has the strongest impact. Businessmen have a remarkable impact on officers and political leadership. Furthermore, some governmental institutions like legislators, judges, scientists, ideologists, etc.) serve power elites and are subject to VIP businessmen's influence. Meanwhile there exist closed elite groups creating and forming "money sharks" or grand companies.

The studies focused on the elite concept, distinguished features, social and demographic characteristics specific to the sample elites and the development of an elite theory.

It is noteworthy, here, to refer to some of the important issues posed in the above-mentioned studies:

(1) The demographic analysis of an elite indicates his personal formation, functions, social position, stability and the classification processes.

(2) The individual development and progress towards the top of the pyramid (i.e. the phenomenon of individual circulation) within the elite group are clearly apparent in the changes taking place to his functions and social position. Amongst the development factors, one can mention the social indicators of profession within the group, and the phenomenon of VIPs' social detachment and its conditions.

(3) The elite's awareness and culture are particularly assessed by means of values such as his ideology, true moral values, etc.

(4) There are rules for understanding within the framework of elites (e.g. work formation and mechanism in pressure groups).

(5) Power and prestige conditions in some societies, are dealt with, and so are the elites true impacts on changing their societies.

Elites in Modern and Contemporary Societies.

Elites perform various functions, which differ in subject - matter, the field, and importance.The importance of any elite, in society, is determined first of all by social, economic and cultural development. That's why the elites' importance is vary from one to another, though they play the same role. In some societies, "importance is accorded on the technocrats, in others on the military elites. While Ideological elites have become unimportant especially after the technological revolution, the age of experts [10]. Unfortunately, some societies still attach importance to magic and superstition. But in highly developed societies as in Western Europe, elites who lead economy and the process of the scientific, technological revolution are deemed the most important. Hence many people think of an economic, technical or practical job rather than a spiritual profession; which accounts for the disappearance of spirituality (religiousness) calls. While in underdeveloped societies, ideological elites, miracle markers, and spiritual contemplators rank first - they are interested in aristocratic descendants, party leaders and ideology, and, less interested in qualified persons.

Hardly if ever, have societies existed, and will never do, without the presence of some elites. However, this does unnecessarily mean that the same groups of leading elites exist in societies because of their features or types (there are special societies too), the varying degrees of civilization. Actually societies differ is terms of the level of material, cultural and spiritual development (i.e. the organizational aspect of social and political life). In societies which participate effectively in the technological scientific revolution, distinguished elites should inevitably exist. In non-industrial and least-developed societies, elites of different types exist.

In modern societies, the fundamental social couch includes not only educated people, but also intellectuals who represent an upper class of specialists in different fields. But, could all those pursing post-graduate studies be identified as an intellectual class? Do they have long-term enlightened ideas? In fact, some are nave and their knowledge is restricted to specialization. Many others have a high degree of awareness. According to, Ortega argued that although there is a large number of educated persons and intellectuals today, they are generally less aware than those living in the nineteenth century - and in spite of the increasing population [11].

Power Elites and Public Opinion Groups.

Public society participated in public consumption and in industrially organized production, in terms of man's psychological needs. Moreover, modern mass media - like radio, TV and internet - have developed. At a public level, a phenomenon like the process of thought formation, principles human behavior and organization prevailed. Away from critical thinking, public societies (i.e. mass communication, propaganda, and material production propaganda) produced the public human being. He has a stereotype personality; and he is programmed according to mode and taste because different producers direct him towards the higher standard brand new goods that meet his psychological needs. Thus, modern elites, individuals rising above the average public, emerged.

In every complex-structure society, one notices a small or large leading team in terms of the size of the social structure. In a model complex-structure society, in particular, the leading team constitutes the power elites. Whereas in democratic societies, a group of the power practitioners who assume power in a rotational way may be called power elites or elite pluralism. How does social selection, which leads to elite's formation, happen?

The present study focuses on these issues for many reasons. In democratic societies, power elites are either authority practitioners or candidates - now opposition represents a strong shadow government for the future government authority. That's to say, we are talking about strong really authoritative elites in democratic societies. Therefore, autocratic power elites are found in hereditary monarchies where the king and feudal families occupy the top of the pyramid, assume the highest power positions, and are supported by VIP men of religion. Such elites also comprise a group of individuals (like poets, writers, journalists, etc.) favored by the monarchy and utilizing their own influence on the ruled class in order to foster the government authority mechanism and operation. In democratically developed countries, the number of power elites in continuously increasing as a result of elite circulation and ideological, political, intellectual and economic distinction, and due to the opposition's alternative more attractive and rather exciting program (to replace the current authority 'elites' program). In this case opposition seems to be absolutely ready and mature enough to assume authority powerfully.

Again in democratic systems, power elites exist in the wide and narrow sense of the word. They include elected authority practitioners who work in different parts of the government structure (state structure). Besides, using the concept of "elites", power elites, in the wide sense of the word, implies those who do not practice authority directly; rather they have a limited impact on political life in the country, such as leaders of opposition parties, the moral (religious) leaders generally, and the prestigious and morally authoritative individuals participating in social and political life. To assume authority in these societies is to associate you with the society's full support, and more accurately the voters - they vote for the establishers of power elites.

Public opinion-producing groups consist of professional individuals who formulate beliefs and opinions about economy, politics and sociology, vital for societies which experienced agitation, war and crises, therefore aiming to create and provoke readers alike, intellectuals become interested in beliefs, awareness, religion, morals, culture, and science most. The formation of people's opinions and thoughts is, undoubtedly, a complex process where Public opinion occupies a fundamental position. Public convictions and beliefs, from which behavior, social basics and moral principles are formed, rely heavily on such a process.

Generally, public opinion is defined as "thoughts accepted by people in a certain social environment or society. Then thoughts turn into their convictions and beliefs. In other words, public opinion is deemed as particular thoughts of various public groups, to be received by mass media. Had it not been for journalists or public opinion and mass media specialists, there would not have been any public opinion'. Since old times, the importance of journalists and public opinion / mass media specialists (engineers of spirit) has been evident in practicing propaganda, provocation and excitement. They have utilized their potentials very well in this field. "Every power elite group attempts to have its own natural, not necessarily loyal, supporters from writers and intellectuals - of course in return for certain compensations" [12]. Few of the latter may join power elites to increase the public (especially the middle class) confidence in political elites. An increasing development of the relationship between the elites who produce culture and opinion, and power elites supports the power elites and enhances their prestige. Consequently theses intellectuals and journalists keep silent about authority mistakes.

Elites and Democracy.

who has the right to take decisions, the elites or the public? Official and public ideology was overwhelmed by this controversy. In fact, the word "public" worked as magic at the public level in socialist countries; thus "elite" was unflavored or used, particularly in historical materialism studies.

"Public" as used in so many changing concepts and with different meanings that it included all working classes and categories in a socio-economic system that associated with the history of societies and of material productions. This concept differs, of course, from the concept of "public" in sociology which refers to a large group of people working with each other indirectly, i.e. The divided gathering, it's not a descriptive, normative concept, let alone being burdensome emotionally.

Criticizing the public, Ortega argued that every society constitutes a moveable unit of two contradictory elements, a minority and a majority. On the one hand, majority comprises distinguished, skilled and efficient individuals characterized by many respectable and highly valued features in the various fields of social life; among them one can mention the officials who derived form the elites. On the other hand, and regardless of stimulations, majority consists of groups that have nothing distinguished about their public life style; here the individual feels bad because he is not like others. Majority embraces average people who feel unable to change their life style. It enjoys a fundamental power in contemporary societies. Ortega thought that majority endangers contemporary societies as it tends to destroy every thing distinguished or thinking differently. Therefore in majority societies, the individual should approach majority cautiously and with full awareness so that he is totally identified with them.

Ortega noticed the new categorization of contemporary societies into a majority and elites. While Pareto indicated that elites are creators and determinatives of development is society. "His idea was harshly criticized by representatives of historical materialism. The word elite was despised and almost considered a crime. Only studies on the bourgeois society - particularly the role of both individuals and the public in history - used the word. Elites has instinctively associated with elite as a concept expressing the opinion that in every society there are distinguished positions in need of special efficient individuals" [13].

They belong to various elites and will form power elites, from whom ruling elites would be selected and appointed. But does the growth of elites in contemporary societies threaten democracy?

To answer such a question, we should take into consideration the fact that in contemporary societies there are overt and covert elites - the latter being very dreadfully growing in size and importance. Covert elites affect all fields of the social, even political, life they have legitimate and illegitimate forms. Belonging to the overt type, high power elites and social work leaders play a main role in controlling and supervising the societies or state's agenda. The leaders of the different mafia groups (called the confronting mafia which leads and heads distinguished organizations of this model) are members of the illegitimate covert type of elites. One can find undoubtedly and clearly, personal deeds overwhelmed by corruption and crime, common among legitimate and illegitimate covert elites. Practicing authority is linked to certain interests. So many individuals run after authority, with a view to be power elite's. Representatives of overt elites, who joined the power elite group through democratic elections in democratic societies and who belong to different political, economic, scientific, or cultural elites, seek these interests too. During electoral campaigns, they become in need for huge financial support from others. Sometimes they offer services to the public, like building kindergartens or playgrounds, or providing their local societies with facilities. That's why they are supported by covert elites, like mafias or lobbies. The matter, which in turn, deforms the image of opposition candidates and spreads a negative idea about them. Hence, mafias expect to get the necessary approvals for their legitimate and illegitimate actions, e.g. to sell alcohol, to be backed, not to be chased by the police, etc.

Democratic systems are weakened by their fragile mechanism of social control and supervision. The link between overt and covert elites is expressed in different publications which reveal the connection net between politicians and businessmen on the one hand, and the world of crime from the other hand. In terms of these publications, individuals who have collected money through criminal ways are extremely useful for authority persons. Eventually they remain outside the punishment circle. For example, the true assassinator of J. Kennedy has not been punished in a country that considers itself democratic modal covert elites can smuggle weapons, being secretly approved by power elites. Top politicians are well-connected to businessmen and mafias in such a way that big scandals have shaken Italy.

Do elites threaten democracy in contemporary societies? According to the general concept of elite, the highly developed societies should be led by excellent qualified, minutely specialized, knowledgeable and well-aware people, sometimes called manager elites. Such kinds of people have never threatened democracy, because specialized elites have been found on all the known historical societies. Admiring them does not endanger democracy.

"Elites from gigantic businessmen, who increasingly control and supervise the socio-economic life with the help of money, are the ones to threaten democracy indeed. They crucially affect the ruling and power elites, at the national and international levels. Christopher Launch successfully referred to this danger. He claimed that businessmen representatives fund artists, mass media men, politicians, journalists, athletes, etc., to attract them. The growth in financial elites increases the riches of the rich and poverty of the poor. The rich does not care about the society hardships or needs, he thinks only of himself, their secured money, accumulated in banks, puts them above law, without any punishment even in the most democratic countries. Elites threaten democracy if public supervision vanishes" [14].

''The great threat to democracy in our time'', Ortega demonstrated, "comes from commercial business elites, instead of the public because these elites have some secret powers (i.e. money) which increase their grasp at the world". There is no threat to democracy in truly democratic political systems that care about the society's problems and worries. Elites change and public supervision is exerted through democratic institutions which protect democracy. A real optimism about the future may, in my opinion, lead to democratic development in Europe, and perhaps the whole world. At the beginning of the twentieth century, Europe was controlled by totalitarian systems, the destructive Fascist, Nazi, and even Bolshevik systems were formed, and collapsed by the end of the century. The operation and functioning of victorious democracy have not reached the level of the idea and concept (of democracy); yet this is much better than the opposite.

Political Elites in the Arab Society.

the concerned concepts, terminologies and theories are relatively new to the Arabic dictionary: political elites, democracy, political pluralism, secularism, socialism, capitalism, etc. They rather suit political discourse or articles, and are absolutely detached from the real Arabic political and social life. However, we may refer to the concept of political elites as deemed by some Arab writers.

There is no Arab Theory on elites; one theory came as a response to the concepts of Marxism and democracy. Of course there are democratic or Marxist systems in the wide sense of the word. To refute the two concepts, the word (or concept of) elites was utilized to refer to those who have the keys to political authority in their hands without associating it with priority, excellence or privilege. For instance, it's sometimes said that there are political elites, military elites, religious elites or cultural elites.

In his book 'Political Sociology', Al Husseiny attempted to link elite analysis to democracy - "a group (or groups) of people control the high political decisions. The common issue is the existence of a minority dominating political and economic decisions, and a majority to obey these decisions, despite the democratic methods which aim to express the collective will' [15].

Whereas Mohammed Al-Nakou, a thinker, used the expression 'Al-Saffwa' (the cream of society) instead of elite. In Arabic - and more precisely the holy Qouran - "Al-safwa" is derived from selection and distinction. He identified "Al-safwa" as a powerful minority able to influence its surroundings. This is a natural phenomenon that exists in any society, however civilized it is, and it is a crucial requirement for those social systems to function well. He classified Arabs elites into: prophets; prophets companions; philosophers and scholars; political leaders; and other skilled people [16]. The religious impact on Al-Nakou's thinking appears clearly in this classification.

Ishmael Ali Saad identified the concept of elite more accurately than Al-Nakou. He explained that "the elite is a minority in society, a highly influential group who takes (political, religious, cultural, and economic) decisions" [17]. It's called political elite in the Arab region; political elites have their own social characteristics derived from the nature of society - force relationships and the nature of the society's social and cultural structure and believes. Any change in the society, definitely affects the elites, their nature and function i.e. such a type of elites is unstable, and so are their attitudes and characteristics.

Hence, the French society elites are not similar to the Chinese societies; the Japanese political elites are not similar to the Italian or Egyptian societies. The Egyptian political elites during Nasser's time differ from the present ones. Elites go through quick and slow circumstances and transformations. For this reason, the Arab political elites are associated with the characteristics of the Arab society in terms of structure, cultural heritage and religious beliefs. Elites, there, can be classified into: a) traditional, tribal, religious authoritative elites, elites that tend to be modernized; b) regional elites; c) nationalistic elites; d) religious elites; e) secular elites; f) democratic elites; g) revolutionary elites; and h) military elites. Therefore, elites are characterized by ambiguity and instability due to the revolutionary military and military coup d'etat among others. More often the revolutionary and military forces, which control authority, are explicitly attached to the public goals, and then they become publicly-recognized, political elites Sometimes they change into stubborn domineering category which does not allow the public to participate in political activities.

Despite the explicit: discrepancies, the Arab political elites share common features, such as:

"(1) They are changeable elites due to external and internal pressures associated with democratic trends and public awareness.

(2) They are mixed elites consisting of various forces (secular, radicals, traditional, civilized, etc.).

(3) They are force elites, necessarily dependent on army and security to remain in authority.

(4) They are experiencing a state of conflict with the public and religious / ethnic forces.

(5) They reach authority through inheritance or military force, and seek the legitimacy of their existence.

(6) They are mostly affiliated to foreign forces; their decisions do not come from internal considerations, if not entirely made abroad- particularly in regard to foreign policy.

(7) They do not work according to a clear-cut strategy because they are busy practicing daily life affairs and keeping their positions in authority" [18].


The present study reviewed, so far, the concept of elite the traditional and contemporary theories on (especially political) elites, elite characteristics, and the Third World (especially Arab) elites and their structure .

The following remarks can concluded:

(1) Elites, especially political ones, represent a minority in proportion to the total number of population. Power allows elites to have the upper hand over taking political decisions.

(2) Neither does the word elite mean the one person or dictatorial rule, nor implies the military rule, it's a small numbered group that can express the interests of the social categories.

(3) Usually elites are explicitly or implicitly appreciated and respected by most of the public for their distinct on.

(4) Elite positions are unsecured. Power elites today could not be so tomorrow, for any change in the social structure will affect power relations in society. Consequently, elite ascendance or descendance, in terms of elite circulation, will be affected too.

(5) Elite circulation in democratic societies is usually so quick that a kind of co-existence between elites and democracy theory is created. Besides, it's really bad, slow, and sometimes semi-ceased in non-democratic societies where it applies to the concept of oligarchy.

(6) The presence of political elite group(s) does not imply the homogeneity of its individuals politically or ideologically. Rather, we can easily spot competition and conflict between the ruling elites and elites outside authority waiting to replace the former.

(7) Elites (especially political elites) are formed in different ways, e.g. by elections, inheritance, force, tricks, the support of invisible groups called pressure groups, mafias etc. Then they try to legitimatize their existence.

(8) The major role played by invisible organizations (like the mafias, overt / covert pressure groups, gangs) in the world, particularly in democratic countries, has started to delineate an opposite image about elites there. They work for the interests of these groups instead of the publics. Thus the contradiction between the public and elites has been firmly established in minds.

At the Arab level, we may refer to the various imbalances found in the elite-public relationships, talking, more specifically about political elites. This state is attributed to the dominance of regional elites over national elites, together with the absence of women's role from elite activities which influence the public interests. Elites are formed in different, often unacceptable publicly, ways in the Arab society.


1 Dennis s. Ippolito, Thomas G. walker. Public opinion and responsible democracy. - New York, 1976, p.122.

2 Robert Michels. Political parties. - New York: Free press, 1959, pp.69-70.

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