Four theories of governance the actions of political elites
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Four Theories of Governance: The Actions of Political Elites. James Wilson, political scientist. Marxist Theory. Government is a reflection of underlying economic forces Relies on ownership of the means of production

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Four Theories of Governance: The Actions of Political Elites

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Four Theories of Governance: The Actions of Political Elites

James Wilson, political scientist


Marxist Theory

  • Government is a reflection of underlying economic forces

  • Relies on ownership of the means of production

  • Pointless to study government since it is controlled by the dominant social class


“Power Elite” Theory

  • C. Wright Mills, sociologist

  • Most important policies are set by a loose coalition of three groups – corporate leaders, top military officers and a handful of key political leaders (some political scientists now add the communications media, labor leaders or heads of special interest groups


How does the “Power Elite” Theory work?

  • Government is dominated by a few top leaders who enjoy advantages of wealth, status or organizational position, but most of whom are outside of government

  • Act in concert and their policies benefit the elite


Bureaucratic Theory

  • Max Weber, German historian and sociologist

  • Appointed civil servants run everything

  • All institutions, governmental and nongovernmental, have fallen under the control of large bureaucracies whose expertise and specialized competence are essential to the management of contemporary affairs


Pros / Cons

  • Pros: decisions are often more rational

  • Cons: too much political power is given to unelected bureaucrats


Pluralist Theory

  • Political resources are widely scattered among political elites so no elite has a monopoly

  • Policies are the outcome of competition, political compromise, and shifting alliances


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