Tuesday, September 25, 2018

WHO ARE THE ELITE?

Mostly notes and a true "blog" -- log of online stuff.

This is what Wikipedia says about the term "Elite."

In political and sociological theory, the elite (French √©lite, from Latin eligere) are a small group of powerful people who hold a disproportionate amount of wealth, privilege, political power, or skill in a society. Defined by the Cambridge Dictionary, the "elite" are "those people or organizations that are considered the best or most powerful compared to others of a similar type." 

The power elite is a term used by American sociologist C. Wright Mills to describe a relatively small, loosely connected group of individuals who dominate American policy making. This group includes bureaucratic, corporate, intellectual, military, media, and government elites who control the principal institutions in the United States and whose opinions and actions influence the decisions of the policymakers.

The basis for membership of a power elite is institutional power, namely an influential position within a prominent private or public organization. A study of the French corporate elite has shown that social class continues to hold sway in determining who joins this elite group, with those from the upper-middle class tending to dominate.

Another study (published in 2002) of power elites in the United States under President George W. Bush (in office 2001-2009) identified 7,314 institutional positions of power encompassing 5,778 individuals.
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PATRICK WYMAN SAYS on his Twitter account the following (made into paragraphs.)

Part of the reason that things in the US feel so turbulent right now is that we're in the midst of a good, old-fashioned, full-blown elite crisis.

This is most obvious in politics but also within the economy and society more generally. American elites largely define themselves as a meritocracy; a meritocratic elite is supposed to be fundamentally competent, so when they do incompetent things, it's hard to square.

The last two decades are full of examples of elite failure: never-ending wars in the Middle East and beyond, a global financial crisis, drastically rising inequality, growing political instability, an entire downwardly mobile generation.

So when your meritocratic elite has proven itself to be not really meritocratic, as anybody who's spent time in elite institutions can tell you, and the outcomes are increasingly poor, things are going to get a bit dicey.

To be clear, this is a biparitsan elite failure - that's not a matter of dumbly "both-sides"-ing things - and it extends beyond high politics, deep down into core institutions.
 


. . .

In cases of elite failure, there are a few different paths that aren't mutually exclusive. One is to simply continue the process of implosion and clear the way for a whole new elite. Another is to broaden the elite to bring in new blood. The last is to harden elite distinctions.

In late medieval Venice, for example, the existing political/economic elite just legally defined themselves as a hereditary body and pulled the ladder up after them. That's just one of many examples of a theoretically open elite closing itself off.

That's the most worrisome scenario in the US right now, and it's what lies at the heart of the current turbulence: Are elites subject to the same laws and rules as everybody else? Are we all, in fact, equal before the law or are some by definition better?

That's the fundamental question that the US is going to have to answer. It's entirely possible that a broad elite group - roughly 10 percent of the population - could mostly steer politics and the economy. They already kind of do.

There's absolutely no reason, historically speaking, why you can't end up with a de facto or de jure elite, either broadly or narrowly defined, with either unwritten privileges or their status enshrined in law. That's a worrisome scenario.

This is a really deep, structural issue, tied into everything from national politics to corporate structure to social networks. Elites are important; if they weren't, they wouldn't be elites. Framing this in terms of elite crisis at least helps us understand what's happening.

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The same thing happens to these social elites as happens to hereditary elites like European crowns.  (See "Game of Thrones.")  At best they are inappropriate to govern cultures that have moved on but then somehow those elites might manage to catch up, like the heirs of Prince Charles.  At worst they die of hemophilia or lose wars.  In the middle are varying degrees of contempt and weakening from the country at large.  Trump thought he was a worthy descendant of his father whom he imagined was elite, not just another crook.  His children prove how deficient the children of the elite can be.  In fact, maybe they slowly realize that Trump himself is just a once-amusing trinket to both the "elite" and the mafia -- even Putin. Trump is close to the end of his usefulness.

When sociology economists try to sort out the "classes" in the USA, they might pull the top 100 people out of consideration because they are only a distraction.  By the time their incomes are so high -- and usually their age is so great -- that they are obsolete, invisible and replaced as human individuals by inhuman corporations. Don't confuse them with the top ten percent, who are merely rich. 

So the "elite" is the next category down who make a LOT of money, but control much more.  See above.  But the "high middle class", denoted by making incomes in the mere hundreds of thousands, are the real powers who are supposedly leading the rest of us, not hoarding money.

Under them is what used to be the middle class who make enough to afford two cars, a nice big house, a vacation place, and a location on a coast.  They are insured, have good retirement plans, might have a boat, and like to travel.  THEY ARE THE PEOPLE WHO KEEP THE ELITE IN PLACE.  This is because they feel that all they have could be swept away by missteps on the part of the elite, and they are right.  Media encourages this because these people can read and have electronic devices which they actually use to follow the news and scaring them is really good for business.  They send their kids to state universities or second-tier schools.  Only a few of them get into the loading chutes for power except on the state level, where they will stay beholden to the national parties.

Under them is a growing under-middle class that aspires to climb the ladder and admires the elite, at least the glimpses they have.  These folks go to community college, at least to begin, and they mean business.  No skipping class or terrorizing women for them -- their moms raised them to be princes and royalty doesn't do that stuff.  it will drag you into the underclass, the losers.  The renters who get evicted.

Threaded through all this are invisible counter-classes that we can't see but who know each other.  Networks of the tabooed, the illegal, the transient, the newcomers, and the washouts that are interstitial.  The elite loves them and consorts with them for the sake of thrills -- but are occasionally disappeared by them.

This is all invented, confirmed "scientifically" here and there, but otherwise these are premises drawn from media which was once guided by wise papas -- but who are now doddering gran'pas.  We just can't bear to give them up, because where are the replacements?  Who is wise now?  What are these admirable "merits" that used to denote the meritocracy?  Who can even spell?


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