The most successful of the early parties was the Nigerian National Democratic Party (NNDP) established in June 1923 by Herbert Macaulay in response to a constitutional reform in 1922. A new Legislative Council was empowered to legislate for the Colony of Lagos and Southern Nigeria. The Council had forty-six members, nineteen of them unofficial and twenty-seven official. Of the nineteen, four had to be elected in the municipalities of Lagos and Calabar, the only two towns where the educated elite was allowed to use the franchise. The NNDP was founded to contest these elections. The NNDP published the first elaborate manifesto, with an important preamble:
Yet even between 1896 and 1919, events of importance tended to assume a political form, foreshadowing the shape of power which after the partial boom of the ‘twenties was to prevail in the New Deal. Perhaps there has never been any period in American history so politically transparent as the Progressive era of President-makers and Muckrakers.
When elite universities boast that they teach their students how to think, they mean that they teach them the analytic and rhetorical skills necessary for success in law or medicine or science or business. But a humanistic education is supposed to mean something more than that, as universities still dimly feel. So when students get to college, they hear a couple of speeches telling them to ask the big questions, and when they graduate, they hear a couple more speeches telling them to ask the big questions. And in between, they spend four years taking courses that train them to ask the little questions—specialized courses, taught by specialized professors, aimed at specialized students. Although the notion of breadth is implicit in the very idea of a liberal arts education, the admissions process increasingly selects for kids who have already begun to think of themselves in specialized terms—the junior journalist, the budding astronomer, the language prodigy. We are slouching, even at elite schools, toward a glorified form of vocational training.
The multiplicity of high-prestige organizations to which the elite usually belong is revealed by even casual examination of the obituaries of the big businessman, the high-prestige lawyer, the top general and admiral, the key senator: usually, high-prestige church, business associations, plus high-prestige clubs, and often plus military rank. In the course of their lifetimes, the university president, the New York Stock Exchange chairman, the head of the bank, the old West Pointer — mingle in the status sphere, within which they easily renew old friendships and draw upon them in an effort to understand through the experience of trusted others those contexts of power and decision in which they have not personally moved.
An area of perpetual historiographical debate is, specifically, which demographic was more essential to Hitler’s rise - one school of thought maintains the significance of the lower middle class in the (spread and rise to power of the) popularization of the Nazi party, while the other argues that it was the “German elite” who more effectively aided them....
The most striking difference from Marx is that Mills believed that the economically powerful coordinate their maneuvers with the military and political establishments to serve their common interests. Yet, reminiscent of Marx, Mills argues that the corporate rich were perhaps the most powerful element of the power elite (first among “equals”). And the powerless masses at the bottom of Mills’s power elite model certainly bring to mind Marx’s portrait of the oppressed workers of the world, who had only their chains to lose.
A fundamental element in Mills’s thesis is that the power elite is indeed a societal problem and not only includes relatively few members but also operates as a self-conscious, cohesive unit. Although not necessarily diabolical or ruthless, the elite comprises similar types of people who regularly interact with one another and have essentially the same political and economic interests. Mills’s power elite is not a conspiracy but rather a community of interest and sentiment among a small number of influential people.
Mills failed to clarify when the elite opposes protests and when it tolerates them; he also failed to provide detailed case studies that would substantiate the interrelationships among members of the power elite. Nevertheless, his challenging theories forced scholars to look more critically at the democratic political system of the United States.
In commenting on the scandals that have rocked major corporations such as Enron and Arthur Andersen, observers have noted that members of the business elite are closely interrelated. In a study of the members of the business elite of directors of Fortune 1,000 corporations, researchers found that each director can reach every other board of directors in just 3.7 steps. That is, by consulting acquaintances of acquaintances, each director can quickly reach someone who sits on each of the other 999 boards. Furthermore, the face-to-face contact directors regularly have in their board meetings makes them a highly cohesive elite. Finally, the corporate elite is not only wealthy, powerful, and cohesive; it is also overwhelmingly white and male.
While the notion of powerful elite interests does not seem as news breaking now as it did in the 1950s, criticisms of the power elite thesis have continued. The major criticism has been that decision making is more broadly shared (“the pluralist model”) or that even if power is concentrated there are counteracting interests (“checks and balances”).
Several social scientists insist that power in the United States is shared more widely than the elite models indicate. In their view, a pluralist model more accurately describes the nation’s political system. According to the pluralist model, many competing groups within the community have access to government, so that no single group is dominant.
Sociologist C. Wright Mills (1916-62) took the Marxist model a step further in his pioneering work The Power Elite. Mills described a small group of military, industrial, and government leaders who controlled the fate of the United States—the power elite. Power rested in the hands of a few, both inside and outside government. At the top of the power pyramid are the corporate rich, leaders of the executive branch of government, and heads of the military (whom Mills called the “warlords”). Directly below are local opinion leaders, members of the legislative branch of government, and leaders of special interest groups. Mills contended that these individuals and groups would in essence follow the wishes of the dominant power elite. At the bottom of the pyramid are the unorganized, exploited masses.
Members of the elite agree on the basicoutlines of the free enterprise system including profits, privateproperty, the unequal and concentrated distribution of wealth, andthe sanctity of private economic power. They take giantism in theworld of commerce for granted. More important, they are united intheir belief that the primary responsibility of government is tomaintain a favorable climate for business. Other governmentalresponsibilities, such as social welfare and concern for theenvironment, are secondary to that task.