What Is the Ruling Class or the Elite?
What is a ruling class or Elite? How do the elite maintain power? The elite is minor group of people in a country that is involved in the decision-making of the state. Everyone might be involved through elections but the term elite refers to the minority that is at the top, with enormous power recognised by the society as a whole. According to the elitist theory (Hague, & others, 1992: 76), the elite regulate authority and power is concentrated in this group. It is their power, economically, politically and sometimes social that gives them the space at the top.
However, no matter the amount of power, they still have to maintain it. To maintain it, they use the ‘circulation of elites’ (Hague, & others, 1992: 76), the army, law and the social contract. The elites accept new members in the group periodically so they give the chance to other rising leaders and legitimise their rule in the eyes of the masses, for example leadership programmes at tertiary education that become a platform to sport out potential future elite members.
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The army protects the state from internal and external threats. For example terrorism might be a threat to the state thus leading to employment of the army to aid the situation. Furthermore the law creates order and systems of justice in the state. Through the police and the courts, criminals of the state are arrested, prosecuted and imprisoned thus creating order and protection of the masses in the state.
The social contract involves all the other methods mentioned above but, it also imposes a duty and responsibility on the government to provide adequate resources (Spragens, 1997:34) for the people that it serves. A more practical example will be that of taxes. It is the duty of the government to ensure adequate services for the people (tax payers) Consequently therefore this powerful minority group does not sit at the top only but also makes sure that its position is safe by maintaining its power in the state.
Hague, R., Harrop, M. & Breslin, S. 1992. Political science: A Comparative Introduction. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. Spragens, A. 1997. Understanding Political Theory. New York: St Martin”s Press.