Elitism and its Critics

Academic Year: 
Course Description: 

The first part of the course on elite theory includes discussions of classical elite theories (Pareto, Mosca, Michels), democratic elitism (Weber, Schumpeter) and radical elite theories (Burnham, Mills). Attention is paid to the issues of elite transformationin comparative and historical perspective. Academic research on informal power, i.e. the role of intellectuals, technocratic domination, mediacracy, and the rise of the New Class theorieswill be discussed too.

In the second part of the semester some  major criticisms to elite theory will be discussed: anarchism, populism, and radical democratic theory.

Learning Outcomes: 

The course will empower students to be able to understand and to use approaches and tools of elite research with special focus on the more developed societies.


Each student has to write a 3000 words (1.5-spaced) paper on one of the topics discussed during the semester. The topic must be chosen and submitted for the lecturer’s approval by mid-November. The final paper must be turned in the last meeting.

During the semester, students will be asked to give shorter presentations on selected readings in order to introduce the topic for further discussion. Presenters are required to write a short, one-page handout for others by the beginning of the class. The seminars are based on close reading of the texts and active participation of students. Participants are required to follow the readings to ensure a lively group discussion on each topic. Maximum two times in the semester, writing a position papers will also be required.  The seminar is designed to be highly interactive.

Components of evaluation:

  • participation and the quality of oral presentations in seminar discussions (40 %),
  • on short written presentations, e.g. handouts, position papers (30 %),
  • final paper (30 %).