Levels and Spheres of Business Power

1726 Words Oct 3rd, 2012 7 Pages
Compare and Contrast Marxist, Elite and Democratic Pluralist Theories of Power.

Classical Elite theories were developed by Pareto and Mosca, to some extent as a critical response to Marxism, but have also been very significantly modified by theorists such as C.W. Mills. Marx’s theory of the ruling class states that, basically, the Bourgeoisie are an economically dominant class in that their ownership of the means of production in capitalist society gives them power over decisions affecting production, investment and employment, but they are also a ruling class in that they indirectly exercise considerable control over the capitalist state which may be seen as an interlocking set of political institutions including. Many would accept
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Such relative autonomy was necessary if the State was to resolve conflicts within the capitalist class and to grant concessions to the working class which might sometimes be necessary to defuse protest but which the capitalist class would not readily accept. However, Poulantzas believes that there are limits to the State’s autonomy in that it can only grant concessions which still maintain the structure of capitalism. Its autonomy is only relative. The other key difference between Miliband and Poulantzas is that whereas Miliband stressed the importance of social background of those in elite positions as factors influencing decisions, Poulantzas considered this largely irrelevant and claimed that decisions are much more influenced by the need of the state elites to operate within a basically capitalist structure such that, for example, taxes cannot be raised for fear of adverse electoral consequences or of sparking off an economic crisis caused by a flight of capital abroad. It is in this sense that Poulantzas is described as a structuralist Marxist.

Classical elite theorists were critical of Marxism in that they argued that although societies can be divided into ruling elite and ruled non-elite or masses, they also argued that the basis of elite power need not be economic. The political elite might be powerful in its own right because of its
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