Elite Theory

Elite theory is the notion that power is concentrated in the hands of a small, minority elite. Pareto (1935) argues that having an ‘elite’ is an inevitable fact of life and some elite theorists go as far as to suggest that some people are ‘born to rule’.

Pareto suggests that there are two types of elite group that work to try and gain power – the foxes that use cunning and guile (politicians and spin doctors) and the lions that use strength (military leaders). The elite, for Pareto, was those individuals in society who occupy ‘top roles’ including the media.

Students could set the task of identifying the ‘foxes’ and ‘lions’ that exist in society today. What power do they have and in what sectors of society?

Discover More Parliament website

Students could then use the UK Parliament website to identify the current members of the Cabinet. Divide the members of the cabinet between the class or small groups of students. Task them with finding out:

  • The educational background of their MP. Were they state or privately educated? Which university did they attend?

  • Family background – what jobs did their parents have? Is there a family history of working in politics?


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