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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Elite (occasionally spelled Élite) is taken originally from the Latin, eligere, "to elect". In sociology as in general usage, the elite is a relatively small dominant group within a large society, having a privileged status perceived as being envied by others of a lower line of order.

The elite at the top of the social strata almost invariably puts it in a position of leadership, whether it be expected or volunteered, and often subjects the holders of elite status to pressure to maintain that leadership position as part of status. However, in spite of the pressures, the existence of the elite social stratum is usually unchanged.



In elite theory as developed by Marxist political scientists like Michael Parenti, all sufficiently large social groups will have some kind of elite group within them that actively participates in the group's political dynamics. When a group is arbitrarily excluded from the larger society, such as in the case of the racism that was widespread in the United States prior to the success of the American Civil Rights Movement, then elite members of the excluded group may form a counter-elite to fight for their group's interests (although they may be fighting for those interests only to the extent they mesh with the counter-elite's interests). Of course, the dominant elite can

neutralize the counter-elite through the classic divide-and-conquer strategy of admitting key members of the counter-elite into the elite. Another popular tactic is to assassinate the counter-elite. Without their leaders the downtrodden revert to helplessness. It has been argued that certain Black civil rights leaders have been killed to prevent common Blacks from demanding reparations for slavery, etc.

Elitism usually draws envy and resentment from the lower classes and the counter-elite. There are cases where elites arguably use this resentment of an elite to maintain their position. See criticisms of Communist party rule.

Religious elite

In religion, the Latin form "elect" is preferred over the French form "elite" in discussing Cathar or Calvinist theology, for examples, and the social structure that is theologically driven. Other religious groups may use expressions like "the saints" to describe the elect.

Perhaps the most globally recognized of all religious elite reside in Rome: the Pope and the Vatican Assembly. While it is true that the Pope is elected by the college of Cardinals, the cardinals who vote for him are appointed by prior papal decrees. The Pope is himself chosen from among the college of Cardinals. Once elected, the Pope is in "office" for the remainder of his life.

Another example is found in the Biblical Book of Acts: it is written that the Apostles founded theocratic communes with themselves as leaders. Commoners were expected to legally hand over their possessions to the theocrats, or even to sell their belongings to a third party and give the gains to the leaders.

Linguistic elite

Some elite groups speak a language that is not shared by the commonality: in Tsarist Russia and in Vietnam, the elite spoke French, in the Philippines the elite spoke, and in many cases still speak, Spanish. In Plantagenet England, the elite spoke Anglo-Norman, while Finland was ruled by a Swedish-speaking elite up to the beginning of the 20th century and in Ptolemaic Egypt the elite spoke Koine Greek. In ancient India, Sanskrit was spoken by the elite class. (See linguistic imperialism.) Elites establish correct usage for the language when they share one with the commonality. Elite usage is reflected in "prescriptive" dictionaries; common usage is reflected in "descriptive" dictionaries. Elites establish cultural canons, which are more widely agreed-upon within the elite and more generally ignored or resented among the non-elite. In the 1950s, the British elite spoke what linguists of the time called U English or Received Standard English (RSE). It can be argued that English is becoming the global elitist language since understanding it opens the door to many lucrative jobs in poor nations.

Rump Elite

Elite advantages are the usual ones of a dominant social class: easier access to capital and political power, more rigorous education largely free of indoctrination, resulting in cultural influence and leadership.

Elites may justify their existence based on claims of inherited position; with the rise in the authority of science, certain 19th and 20th century elites have embraced pseudoscientific justifications of genetic or racial superiority. In Nazi Germany, genetic superiority was used as the basis of an "Aryan" elite. Elite classes headed by monarchies have traditionally employed religious sanctions for their position.

Meritocracy is a facet of society that tries to promote merit as a route to the elite. Societies such as that of the United States have it in their culture to promote such a facet [see Horatio Alger]. However, while it tends to be imperfect it sheds light as to what many believe to be the "ideal" elite: an elite that is porous and whose members have earned their position as society's top class.

Aristocracy and oligarchy are social systems which feature an elite as the ruling class. An elite group, ranged round the alpha male, is a distinct feature of other closely-related social primates.

Educational elite

Students of the École Polytechnique an elite institution that has provided generals, scientists, engineers, civil servants, industrialists and politicians in the service of the French state.

Elites are educated to govern. While common public education is often designed to educate the general population to produce knowledgeable and skilled citizens, the elite approach to education is often presented at a more intellectual and demanding level, and is geared to produce leaders of a sort. It can be idealized as an education geared to producing an individual capable of thinking at an intellectual level more advanced than the general population, consisting of diverse philosophical ideals and theories in order to enable the elite to logically evaluate situations.

However in some systems, such as that of the Scholar-bureaucrats that administered China for 1300 years, elite education is used to select and skim off the most able students regardless of class or financial background. In order to pass these Imperial examinations, students had to be versed in the Confucian classics and neo-Confucian commentaries, creating a cohesive and socially homogeneous scholar-gentry. This co-opted into its service those who would have potentially been the most dangerous to the state and left would be malcontents either leaderless or those it did have uneducated. As an avenue to political power, the examination system became increasingly corrupted, with political connections and loyalty to the regime becoming as important as outright ability. The cultural legacy of this policy can still be found in the selection for the elite Chinese Universities to this day. Elite universities, through a process of indoctrination of a common heritage, ethos and promise of preferred advancement, create a loyal administrative/ruling elite for the service of the state. Such a system of selection for elite education can be seen even in the Western tradition, for example in France's Grandes écoles.


A military elite is a unit of soldiers or recruits picked for their competence and put in a special elite unit. Elite units enjoy some benefits as compared to other units, at least in the form of higher status, but often also higher pay and better equipment. Napoleon's Imperial Guard would be a good example. Note that the word elite in the military sense is fundamentally different from most other uses of the term. A social or societal elite has usually not been picked by anyone except themselves and do not necessarily make part of the elite due to their competence. Military elite units do not exercise any special leadership over other units. In the societal and social sense of the word, the elite of the army is the officer corps, not the elite units.

See also


Further reading

  • Daniel Golden, The Price of Admission: How America's Ruling Class Buys Its Way Into Elite Colleges--And Who Gets Left Outside the Gates, Crown Publishers, 2006, ISBN 1400097967
  • R. S. Rose, The Unpast: Elite Violence and Social Control in Brazil, 1954-2000, Ohio University Press 2006, ISBN 0896802434


Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

See also elite, and élite


German Wikipedia has an article on:

Wikipedia de


Elite f. (genitive Elite, plural Eliten)

  1. elite

Related terms


Up to date as of February 01, 2010

From Wikia Gaming, your source for walkthroughs, games, guides, and more!


Developer(s) Imagineer
Publisher(s) Imagineer
Release date NES:
1991 (EU)
Genre Flight Simulator
Mode(s) Single player
Age rating(s) N/A
Platform(s) Nintendo Entertainment System
Media Cartridge
Input NES Controller
Credits | Soundtrack | Codes | Walkthrough

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