Democratic Elitism

New Theoretical and Comparative Perspectives


Joseph Schumpeter's “competitive theory of democracy” – often labeled democratic elitism - has struck many as an apt and insightful description of how representative democracy works, even though convinced democrats detect an elitist thrust they find disturbing. But neither Schumpeter nor subsequent defenders of democratic elitism have paid enough attention to actual behaviors of leaders and elites. Attention has been riveted on how adequately democratic elitism captures the relationship between governors and governed in its insistence that competitive elections prevent the relationship from being one-way, that is, leaders and elites largely unaccountable to passive and submissive voters. Why and how leaders and elites create and sustain competitive elections, what happens if their competitions become excessively stage-managed or belligerent – how, in short, leaders and elites really act - are some of the issues this book addresses.

Contributors are Heinrich Best, Jens Borchert, Michael Edinger, Fredrik Engelstad, Trygve Gulbrandsen, John Higley, Gabriella Ilonszki, András Körösényi, Mindaugas Kuklys, Gyorgy Lengyel, Anton Steen, and Jacek Wasilewski.

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Heinrich Best is Professor of Sociology at the University of Jena in Germany. He has published extensively on the evolution of democratic representation in Europe during the past 150 years and on democracy in re-unified Germany.

John Higley is Professor of Government and Sociology at the University of Texas at Austin. He is Chair of the IPSA Research Committee on Political Elites and has published extensively on the theory of elites and politics.
Table of Contributors

Introduction: Democratic Elitism Reappraised, Heinrich Best and John Higley


“They Ain’t Making Elites Like They Used To”: The Never-Ending Trouble with Democratic Elitism, Jens Borchert
Beyond the Happy Consensus about Democratic Elitism, András Körösényi
Democratic Elitism – Conflict and Consensus, Fredrik Engelstad
Elites’ Illusions about Democracy, John Higley


Associated Rivals: Antagonism and Cooperation in the German Political Elite, Heinrich Best
Political versus Media Elites in Norway, Trygve Gulbrandsen
Elite Formation and Democratic Elitism in Central and Eastern Europe: A Comparative Analysis, Michael Edinger
Hungary: Between Consolidated and Simulated Democracy, Gyorgy Lengyel and Gabriella Ilonszki
The Assault on Democratic Elitism in Poland, Jacek Wasilewski
Democracy by Elite Co-optation: Democratic Elitism in Multi-Ethnic States, Anton Steen with Mindaugas Kuklys

Epilogue: Democratic Elitism and Western Political Thought, John Higley

All those interested in democratic theory, representative democracy, and the comparative analysis of political elites and democratic regimes.
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