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Modern Conceptions Of Political Elite And Russian Practice

русская версия

Опубликовано на портале: 31-12-2010
Мир России. 2004.  Т. 13. № 4. С. 3-39. 
The author proposes an original conception of political stratification of Russian society. According to this conception, Russia is a society, in which durable periods of political stimulation were replaced by comparatively short periods of economic modernization. The attempts at economization resulted as a rule in major political reformation, restoring the “order” and strengthening the role of the state. Periods of harsh authoritarian regimes always came after “economic periods”, when the state weakened the control over economy, and there appeared in the country a class of owners relatively independent from the authority. Like a pendulum, Russia first made the market free from the state control, and then suddenly remembered that the newborn bourgeoisie would threaten the wholeness of the country. The deeper the process of economization was, the stronger was the “termidor”, meant to restore order and the state power. Within Marxist paradigm the power is deduced from economic domination, which stands for means of production property. Within the elitist paradigm economic stratification is secondary, and the main nerve of the division of the society lies in the political sphere. Here elite is the most important notion, because it is the elite which is the ruling class of the society. The concept of elite here plays the same role as Marxian class of proprietors. Elitists essentially replaced Marxian dichotomy “proprietors-workers” by the dichotomy “elite-masses” (G.Moska). In both stratification paradigms the first group is the minority, which possesses the majority of resources, and the second group is the majority, which has practically nothing. But if Marx considered history as a permanent struggle between classes of the rich and the poor, elitists consider it as an endless battle of elites for the power, and the human society passes the cycles of rise and fall of the ruling groups. The most important categories for Marxist analysis are economic hegemony and property, and for the elitist analysis they are power, state and political domination. Let’s ask a question: is there any sense at all to argue which type of stratification is “more correct”? And does it mean that class division of the society according to their relation towards property does not allow the existence of classes, singled out by their relation towards power? Perhaps, in some societies and in certain periods of time economic factors prevail over political ones, and vice versa. But the undoubted fact is that both planes of public life exist always and everywhere, and they are connected with each other. When the political stratification prevails, the framework of the society consists of the property class (or political class) and the class, which has no power and which is called the mass, people or people’s class in elitology. The actors who possess political capital and are inside the state corporations, being the insiders, act in the political space. These are the actors who constitute the political class. It comprises people, who are professional politicians. Political class is the ruling class, because it deals with management and makes use of power resources. In economic societies the political class may be only a class of “managers”, which acts according to instructions of real ruling class – the class of proprietors. But in political societies, where there are no proprietors independent from the state, the political class is not only the class of “managers”, but also the ruling class. Political class is not homogenous: it comprises groups with different functions, character of activity, volume of authority, methods of recruiting and so on. Its structure depends on the political system and changes every time when it is reformed. But in every state the political class is institutionalized, because it is connected with official statuses, which constitute the matrix of state corporation. When an individual becomes a member of the political class, he occupies a state position. This acquisition of position means for him the entrance into the class. I call people who occupy state positions officials (from Latin officialis). Officials consist of two main groups, singled out by the type of their incorporation. The first group includes people appointed to the position (they are called bureaucracy). The second group consists of those who come to power by means of elections. This group is not homogenuous and consists of two subgroups: electrocratia, comprising those who having won the elections come to the top of hierarchical organization, i.e. become officials after the elections. The second subgroup consists of those who enter the legislature of different levels and that is why they may be called them legislocratia (from Latin legislatura – elected body). In other words, the political class consists of bureaucracy – appointed officials, electocratia – elected officials and legislocratia – deputies. The political class is hierarchic, it consists of several layers (strata), differing in their volume of political resources. The highest stratum of the political class is the elite. The elite stands at the top of the state pyramid, it controls the main strategic power resources, making decisions of the national level. The elite not only govern the society but also rule the political class and create such forms of organization of the state, under which its positions are exclusive. The political class forms the elite and at the same time it is the source of its renewal. They usually talk about the elite as the minority of the population, in contrast to the majority which is usually called the mass. However one should not consider the elite as a small group like those groups which are the object of study of social psychologists. The elite is a full-fledged social group, which has a complicated internal structure. One may single out its subgroups according to different criteria, both formal and informal ones. Formal sub-elite groups may be the following: branch (political, economic, military sub-elites), functional (ideologists, law enforcement representatives and military, administrators and others), hierarchic (sub-elite layers), recrutional (those appointed and elected). A special community inside the ruling elite is a small united group of officials, which stands at the very top of the power pyramid. I call this group the top-elite or the highest management of the country. This group numbers as a rule 20-30 people in each country, and it is the most closed and united group, hardly accessible for research. Being at the very top of the pyramid, it restricts its connections with the outside world in order to hedge itself from avalanche-like information flows, and also for security reasons. The more acute the angle of political pyramid, the greater the concentration of power – the more closed is the top-elite. We may also apply to it the notion prison cell group – that is groups, which constantly live in isolation. However in contrast to all the other prison cell groups, the isolation of the top-elite is voluntary. Besides the groups, singled out inside the elite according to formal criteria, connected with the position, one can classify them according to informal criteria, which are connected with relations and roles inside the group. Clans, cliques, strategic groups and pressure groups, internal parties form the informal structure of the elite. It is important to single out inside the ruling group the strategic elite – one of informal sub-elite groups, which performs the functions of strategic planning and designing. This group is the brain center, the source of new ideas, principle scenarios of the development. As a rule it consists of insiders, who occupy high state positions, though the main condition for entering this group is not so much the status, as the intellectual potential and the ability to generate new approaches. The most important characteristics of the elite as a social group are the following: unity, awareness of group interests, developed network of informal communications, presence of esoteric norms of behavior and code language, and also lack of clear border, dividing official activity and private life.
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См. также:
Л.Н. Васильева
Общественные науки и современность. 2005.  № 4. С. 75-85. 
Александр Владимирович Дука
Журнал социологии и социальной антропологии. 2000.  Т. 3. № 1. С. 64-82. 
Овсей Ирмович Шкаратан
Мир России. 2011.  Т. 20. № 4. С. 68-88. 
Вадим Валерьевич Радаев, Овсей Ирмович Шкаратан