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Published in journal "History magazine: researches", 2015-1 in rubric "Academic schools and paradigms", pages 11-23.
Resume: The article presents the key problems featured in the study of political elites by Western scholars during the 20th century. The author indicates the various directions in the study of elites in contemporary disciplines of socio-humanities. The elite theories are reviewed from the point of view of the historical approach – through their development in time and in correlation with the specific historical circumstances of their formation. The author notes that the classic elite theories, formulated at the end of the 19th – beginning of the 20th centuries, proposed an alternative approach to the historical process in contrast with the Marxist one. The most significant differences in these approaches concerned the nature of the ruling class, the outlook of the class conflict, and the creation of an egalitarian society. During the 20th century there was an intensive study of political elites, however it did not lead to the elaboration of a single generally-accepted theory explaining the functioning of contemporary societies. Scholars came to opposing conclusions, closely tied with the different methodological directives and priorities in their selection of factual material. The main effort was aimed at addressing the issue of the relationship between elites and democracy. The tendency to dissociate from the classic elite theories dominated, due to which the methodological entirety was lost and an array of definitions and interpretations appeared. At the same time, Western authors offered numerous instruments for identifying and analysing political elites, in principle applicable to any society. The use of the existing groundwork by scholars of diverse approaches can facilitate the broadening of interdisciplinary studies.
Keywords: S. Nadel, democratic process, political elite, ruling class, directions of elites research, Marxism, elitism, A. Giddens, methodology, interdisciplinary studies
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