It could be argued that politics is everywhere, from the debates and decisions of a powerful government to an argument between family members. There are many different ways of studying politics, each with different emphases, theories, and assumptions. Two of these are elitism and pluralism. Though they analyze the same systems and institutions, the assumptions that the approaches use mean they see politics in diverse ways.
Elitism claims to be a realist approach to politics. It argues a reality of elite rule, where minorities with expertise in their field form an elite and have considerable power over the majority. Skeptical about democracy, elitists see elites everywhere, in all institutions, and are critical of other approaches to the study of politics, as they do not acknowledge the power or even existence of elites. It is possible to bring a normative approach to elitism, as well as the empirical aspect or realist view. The normative approach would argue that elites should rule, as they are: "people of superior character, and energy" (Mills, 1956:13).
Parties, even when they promise non-elite rule, are themselves formed of an elite and a non-elite, and when in power, create an oligarchy. "Political equality may well be among the most Utopian of all human goals. But it is fallacious to assume that the absence of political equality proves the existence of a ruling elite" (Dahl, 1958:465). This typical pluralist critique of elitism may be taken even further than Dahl's attempt, by arguing that political inequality is, in itself, a false concept, as there are no dominant groups in society.
Like elitism, pluralism can be seen as a realist view of politics, in that it asserts that a diverse range of interests exists within society, and that those interests are represented. This creates multiple groups with various interests such as business and interest groups. Pluralists claim that no one group dominates the... [continues]
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