The power elite theory defines the scenario whereby a small circle of people vested with power handles critical matters affecting a nation, leaving relatively trivial issues to the middle level, while the common individual has no say in the governing process. The power elite theory focuses on how power revolves around a single-faceted elite inner circle. Supporters of this theory view this system as fair and just, even though it harbors imperfections. However, in reality, this system distinctively contributes to unequal distribution of power and wealth in all sectors aligned to the governance of a nation (Wolfe, 2010).
Citizens belonging to a nation that boasts of democracy normally enjoy a free and transparent government, in addition to clear and impartial elections of public officials. Such citizens may consider the power elite theory as farfetched. However, many social scientists and political analysts reveal evidence that proves this theory as legitimate. Hence, prior to ignorantly dismissing this theory, one should pay attention to different opinions. In reference to C. Wright Mills, a renowned power elite analyst and researcher, the governing elite schools of the United States of America acquire its members from three basic and powerful areas of the country. Firstly, it is the political class, inclusive of the President, key members of the Cabinet, and the President’s political and legal advisors. Secondly, the power elite circle in America obtains members from the corporate world, specifically business moguls and corporate directors (Wolfe, 2010). Thirdly, the power elite appeals to superior military officials.
Despite the fact that these individuals make up a cohesive interdependent group, the power elite does not form a conspiracy that operates secretly in favor of selfish and unlawful gains for its members. The power elite, as this research paper will later reveal, respects and observes civil rules and rights. More so, this group of individuals applies and refers to constitutional principles in all their operations. Better yet, the power elites operate openly and freely. They do not employ forceful tactics, like terror, torture, and intimidating arrests to exert their influence and power. This group consists of members with immense influence on the masses (Mills, 2007). The members of the elite group take pride of loyal ordinary citizens, hence their regime cannot be deemed dictatorial. Characteristically, the members of this social cluster belong to this club by virtue of being born to famous influential families. For some members, however, hard work, sheer determination and, in rare cases, good luck grant them a gate pass into this prestigious school. In addition, one has to manifest enthusiasm in implementing elite values in order to survive through high-ranking levels from the bottom.
Notably, the power elite does not inherit power from their prominent background or rich family history. This class of people, however, derives power and influence from holding senior government positions and controlling vast business empires all under a common goal and interest. According to C. Wright Mills, the elite controls what Mills describes as the command positions of the society (Mills, 2007). Through the occupation of such positions in society, the members of the power elite exercise immense authority over significant sectors of the nation, such as government, financial and educational institutions, civic unions and cultural societies. The astounding thing is that this small community profoundly determines the life of every ordinary person. For instance, critical financial decisions enacted by senior bank and corporate officials determine the inflation rate and employment. Moreover, the symbiotic partnership of political, industrial, and military institutions strengthens the influence of the elite group. The active participation of Washington in social and domestic issues, such as the child social services, consequently forces the government to rely on the corporate world in implementing such tasks. On the contrary, prominent industries depend on federal support and subsidies, loans and protection from government officials to ensure the success of their business ventures. For both parties to benefit from such ventures, business people and politicians need to collaborate.
The Cold War contributed to the enhancement and development of the military sector in America. In response to the demands for intervention from foreign allies and the dangers of potential enemies, the US military boasted of sophisticated war technology and weapons of mass destruction. As a result, military leaders drew immense authority and influence from those developments (Domhoff, 2011).
Other sources like the Time magazine and Newsweek depict this circle as consisting of members in constant disagreement. Such disagreements evidently prove that not just one but many circles of the power elite exist. According to Mills, these constant squabbles are because of disparity in the world view. The world view represents a set of beliefs and traditions that determine the elite’s attitude towards governance. In most situations, an elite group comes up with a world view to prevent wrangles within its membership. Members of the elite circle tend to support any motion in favor of a free enterprise system. Free enterprise results into enormous profit margins, impartial distribution of wealth and resources, private economic ownership, and acquisition of private property. Various issues of the Time magazine portray the elite group as less enthusiastic over certain government duties, such as social welfare and matters pertaining to environmental degradation and conservation (Domhoff, 2011). A large percentage of the elite circle shares certain social traits: they subscribe to same magazines and newsletters, reside in the same neighborhood, and are members of particular clubs, church and charity organizations. They even admit their children to the same schools.