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Reissued in November 2012, ‘Elitism’ is now available from Routledge Revivals

In November of last year, the Routledge Revivals publishing program reissued the political text by G. Lowell Field and John Higley.

The book presents an important critique of prevailing political doctrine in Western societies at a time of major change in circumstances of Western civilization. One of the authors, John Higley, talks to us here about role of the elite and the message within Elitism.

Newly written, this additional blurb by John Higley, highlights the importance of reissuing this text now:

"Elitism, published in 1980 and in German as Eliten Und Liberalismus in 1983, is a lasting contribution to political sociology. The text reduces the determinacy Mosca and Pareto assigned to elites and Marx attributed to class struggles. It specifies a middle ground between polar views of politics and society.

Elitism critiques democratic theory, liberalism’s confusion about elites and complacent elite beliefs about the effectiveness and viability of welfare states. The book’s central message is that stable, representative political institutions cannot exist without internally secure and trusting elites – a consensual unified elite. An unspoken agreement among elites not to exacerbate conflicts and respect each other’s vital interests is the necessary condition of any practical and durable degree of democratic politics. However, consensual unified elites are never created through mass pressures, foreign urgings or military interventions. They emerge only when warring elite persons and groups lessen allegiances to non-elite followings and tighten relations with elite enemies.

Elites are decisive for major political variations among societies and within societies over time, yet elite actions are oftentimes checked and limited by the political orientations of non-elites. Elitism examines how non-elite orientations have changed historically and how this helps explain the occurrence and non-occurrence of democratic or fascist revolutions in different phases of socioeconomic development.

A lack of political realism among elites in contemporary Western societies is one of Elitism’s abiding concerns. Elitism argues that elites must adopt a more self-consciously elitist frame of reference to manage ominous conflicts between employed and relatively secure ‘insiders’ and insecure ‘outsiders’ for whom there is no clearly necessary work. They contend that many conflicts between developed and developing societies also approximate a conflict between insiders and outsiders. In 1980 a main concern was that naïve and self-deceiving elites in the West might eventually have to pay blackmail to militant but culturally traditionalist elites outside the West frustrated in development efforts but armed with advanced weaponry. This is one of the many respects in which Elitism remains highly relevant."

To find out more about this Revival text and to order your copy head over to