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Chapter 14

SOCA01H3 Chapter Notes - Chapter 14: Big Business, Elite Theory, Urban Renewal

Course Code
Francisco Villegas

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Week 12 Reading
Chapter 14 p. 357-366
Chapter 14: Politics
Theories of Democracy
A Functionalist Account: Pluralist Theory
-Pluralist theory: holds that all power is widely dispersed. As a result, no group enjoys disproportionate influence,
and decisions re usually reached through negotiations and compromise
-Early 1950s, New Haven, Connecticut
Post-WWII prosperity and new roads had allowed much of white middle class to resettle in the suburbs
This eroded the city’s tax base
It also left much of the downtown to poor residents and members of minority groups
1954  Mayor Richard Lee decided to do something about city’s decline (urban renewal)
Key decisions made in a highly democratic manner
The city gov. listened closely to all major groups; adopted policies that reflected diverse interests of city
-Social scientists who studied New Haven politics in the 1950s followed pluralist theory
Argued that the city was highly democratic because power was widely dispersed
Neither economic leaders nor social elite monopolized political decision-making
Different groups of people decided various political issues (included people with low status in community)
Power was widely distributed; no single groups exercised disproportionate power in New Haven
-According to pluralists,
Democracies are heterogeneous societies with many competing interests and centres of power
No single power can dominate consistently
Politics involves negotiations and compromise between competing groups
Since no one group is able to control the political agenda  democracy is guaranteed
-Pluralists closely follow functionalism
They view the political system as an institution that helps society achieve its collective goals and interests
In the process, integrates members and keeping it in equilibrium
Conflict Approach I: Elite Theory
-Elite theory: small groups occupying the command posts of most influential institutions make important decisions
that profoundly affect all members of society. Moreover, they do so without much regard for elections or public
-Elite theorists (conflict theory) disagree with the pluralist account (functionalism)
Argue that groups with opposing groups and interests confront each other in the political arena
While conflict is not always overt, it is never far below the surface of political affairs
Powerful groups exercise far more control over political life than less powerful groups do
-C. Wright Mills
Foremost among early elite theorists
He defines elites as small groups that control the command posts of a society’s most influential
People that control these institutions make important decisions that profoundly affect all members of
They do so without much regard for elections of public opinion
He showed how the corporate, state, and military elites are connected
People move from one elite group to another during their careers
Their children intermarry
They maintain close social contacts
They tend to be recruited from middle/upper classes
Yet, Mills denied that these connections turn the three elites into what Marx called a ruling class
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