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Robert G. Moser, Chair BAT 2.116, Mailcode A1800, Austin, TX 78712 • 512-471-5121

Fall 2004

GOV 379S • Elites and Politics - HON - W

Unique Days Time Location Instructor
37525 W
3:00 PM-6:00 PM
BUR 128

Course Description

Course number may be repeated for credit when topics vary. Contains a substantial writing component and fulfills part of the basic education requirement in writing.

"Elites and politics" is a pleonasm (a redundancy) ; to a great extent, elites ARE politics. What happens among persons with the organized capacity to shape political outcomes regularly and seriously (aka elites) constitutes every society's political contour. Democratic, Marxist, modernization, and other paradigms and theories in political and social science have long sought to deny this, contending that what mass publics think and do are main shapers of politics. Not so, says the elite theory, though the centrality of elites is no cause for rejoicing. This seminar will focus on elite theory in both its classical and contemporary guises. During its first half we will consider the theory's early formulations, especially Vilfredo Pareto's 1915 treatise on "The Mind and Society", and we'll ask what can we be retained, what must be reformulated, what should be added. The seminar's second half will be devoted to applying my theory of elites and politics to political change in a range of today's countries (mostly non-Western). The seminar will thus be concerned with the broad theory of politics with contemporary comparative political analysis.

Grading Policy

1) Command of assigned readings in weekly seminar discussions, worth 20% of the final grade 2) 2 ten page papers, one on aspects of elite theory and due in mid-October, the other applying to my theory to the politics of one or more of today's countries and due at the start of the final examination period. Each paper will be worth 40% of the final grade. Late papers will automatically receive a letter grade reduction. There will be no examinations. Students will be allowed only one non-explained absence from weekly seminars.


Tentative list of assigned books (partial): G. William Domhoff, Who Rules America? Power & Politics. New York: McGraw-Hill Higher Education Series, 2002. Eva Etzioni-Halevy. The Elite Connection. Cambridge: Polity Books, 1993. G. Lowell Field and John Higley, Elitism. Boston: Routledge, 1980. Gaetano Mosca, The Ruling Class. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1939. Vilfredo Pareto, Sociological Writings (esp. the excellent overview by S.E. Finer in this volume). New York: Rowman & Littlefield, 1965. Vilfredo Pareto, The Rise and Fall of Elites. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publisher, 2000.


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