Elites have been described both as the bulwarks of democracy and its very antithesis. 'Political Elites', first published in 1969, reviews the literature on the role of elites in politics. It deals with both the 'classic' elite theorists - Mosca, Pareto, Michels, Burnham and C. Wright Mills - and with many of the empirical and theoretical works on elites by modern political scientists and sociologists. It seeks to clarify the central terms of elite discourse, some of which have entered the everyday political vocabulary - 'elitism', 'power elite', 'establishment', 'elite consensus'' , 'iron law of oligarchy' and 'mass'.
It explores the ways in which the descriptions of power relationships can subtly be infiltrated by the values of the observers. For this ECPR Classics edition Professor Parry has added an introduction reviewing significant new developments in elite political science.