Postprint version. Published in The Sociological Quarterly, Volume 20, Issue 1, Winter January 1, 1979, pages 5-22.
Copyright © 1979 Blackwell Publishing.
The definitive version is available at http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1533-8525.1979.tb02181.x.
From the earliest writings in social science there have been lively debates over the extent to which societies are dominated by elites. Recently, empirical data have been considered for elite backgrounds, elite interlock, elite unity, and elite influence on public policy, but interpretation of the data continue to be problematic. The findings are often confusing and conflicting mainly because of differing methodologies, definitions and indicators of elite status. Focusing on the four areas of quantitative research listed, we compare the findings in an attempt to explain some of the conflicts. When possible, we have prepared summaries of the consistent findings, which tend to show, with respect to these issues, greater support for elite theories as opposed to pluralist theory. Finally we discuss some of the major questions in the debate that current research is unable to answer, and outline future research needs.
Social and Behavioral Sciences