Populism and elitism : politics in the age of equality



Transcription of Annotations

Notes on front endpapers: Wealth of Nations--Adam Smith 19th century. P. 35 Switzerland most populist of all democracies. French Revolution--17th Century--Blood and religious elites. Dutch Revolt 1568-1609. Parliament--vehicle for gains--p. 54-55. Money elites, Knowledge elites. Southern slavery, Irish Home Rule, Depression, New Deal. Big Countries vs. Small. Lincoln, Wilson, FDR>Great crisis leaders respect public opinion. Israel p. 88--proportional representation. Civil rights. Gaffe's p. 103, Perot p. 112. Underlinings/notes: Single biggest cause--spread of belief in human equality. Apathy/indifference to possibility of an increasingly democratic world. Pessimism among elites of the Right, Left, moderate center, about people's political ability. Bell went from student at Columbia to enlisted soldier in Mekong Delta during Tet, to Nixon campaign plane. 2 failed Senate races, issue advisor to Ronald Reagan. Elite created government of the United States. James Q. Wilson. 1967 balance of political/journalistic elites tipped towards views of society's harshest critics. Liberal elites--turned faces away from events--consequences of their own acts/found fault with society. 1968 Tet offensive, murders of MLK/RFK, campus rebellions like Columbia's, black riots like Washington's and disorders at the Democrat's Chicago convention. Kerner Commission report--urged massive increase in public sector, guaranteed income, racial quotas/preferences--all rejected by majority of American voters. Reagan economic policies--8 years of low-inflation economic growth. Populism=optimism about people's ability to decide about their lives. Elitism--optimism about the decision-making ability of 1 or more elites acting on behalf of others. Argument between populism/elitism most important one in politics today. Only 3-4 countries ruling monarchies. Western idea of political equality universal. Trend towards populism does not make democracy inevitable--only more likely. In 1990 (vs. 1890) political equality seemed worldwide principle with little to no ideological opposition. Populists believe in ability of people to handle their own affairs better than elite--believe in present equality. Elitists believe in future equality. Populists optimistic about electorate's ability to learn by doing. Blacks--managed equality--granting black voting rights via court intervention in reapportionment decisions to ensure equality of results. Death of Mao=turning pint. Radical view of equality--roots in Hebrew classical, Christian thought. Optimistic outlook of populism--three doctrines: labor theory of value; consumer sovereignty; universal (popular) property rights. Conservative elite--economic decisions superior when made by economic elite called capital or management. More liberal economic elitist might feel decisions better made by government elites. Rise of Dutch Republic in 17th century, curbing of monarchy in England in second half of that century--coincided with beginnings of the modern growth economy. 17th century John Locke, popular property rights. "Wealth of Nations" became bible of a century of practicing politicians in the small, mostly English speaking world of 19th century democracy. 1850s American Democrats--populist view; Federalists, Whigs, Republicans--elitist view. French in Canada, Irish in America, Dissenters in Britain. Gladstone--optimism about people's economic ability--cuts in taxes, tariffs and government budgets. Woodrow Wilson's political inspiration--Gladstone. Hamiltonian elitism. Karl Marx coined term "capitalism." Social populism--optimism about people's ability to set/observe behavioral standards for their communities. Social elitism--optimism about elite's ability to set/administer standards for a community--or to govern a community without public standards by discretion. French revolutionary slogan--Liberty, Equality, Fraternity--best captures configuration of closely related values. Kant in "Perpetual Peace"--warfare drives humanity toward unity and concord. Since Machiavelli, Western political theory gave central role to egoism. Opposing view--fraternal populism--Gladstone and Lincoln. Charles Darwin--evolution through conflict. Joseph Schumpeter--founded modern political science--democracy a jungle of elites competing for affection of a selfish, weak-willed electorate. Switzerland--most populist democracy, no visible class conflict. Japan most successful post-WWII democracies--demonstrated cooperative social ethic can not only coexist with economic competition but enhance it. 3000B.C. to 600 B.C. elites based on religious knowledge or military power. Confucius (551-479)--suspicion of new centers of ideas and powers extended to economic sphere. When chief route to citizenship passed from oil/wine exported to rowing for imperial navy, interdependence between democracy /conquest became obvious--gave Athenian democracy a bad name. Roman republic--won/oil export boom, publication of code of written laws--Twelve Tables in 451 B.C.--rise of Senate. Political elites of ancient Athens/Rome--origin of power in agriculture--later cemented via military power. Switzerland--Landesgemeinden. First commercial civilization in China began around A.D. 1000. Dutch revolt 1568-1609--rise of Calvinism. New elites could not overthrow blood/religious elites that dominated bulk of humanity. Scottish philosopher George Buchanan. Displacement of rural poor by gentry--key factor leading to first broad-based rural elite in territorial monarchy. Parliament, House of Commons. Crown under pressure to increase number of seats. 298 members during first Parliament of Henry VIII rose to 467 in first Parliament of James I. 1629 "Petition of Rights" illegal for king to collect money without parliamentary consent. Free adult male could vote if he held land earning 40 shillings/yr. In overseas colonies of North America--75% of adult freemen could vote for legislator--mass-based, rural electorate--first in history. England's commitment to equality--implicit rather than explicit. England pioneered--age of equality: 1. Independent legislature; 2. Political party; 3. Cabinet government. Confucian. World of persuasion--ideas, knowledge, arguments rise in importance. Money--tool of mass persuasion. Alexander Hamilton, elite, elitist in context of American politics. Eloquent advocate of representative government. George Washington, elitist in belief. Democratic-Republican party in 1790s. Alexander Hamilton, founder of money elite. Money/knowledge elites, allied in fights against political inequality. Achievement elites instrumental in establishing democracy. Elite--choice, select part--body treated as socially superior (Webster's, 1961). Best, most skilled members of a given social group (American Heritage, 1973). If elite stream provides natural base for elitism--more complex a society, the more elitism it will have. Protagoras, Plato. Paideia. French Revolution, Edmund Burke. Rights of Man, Thomas Paine. David Spitz, "Patterns of Anti-Democratic Thought". Highly complex societies like US, ungovernable, unless citizenry is activated to govern itself. Herbert Hoover. Reconstruction Finance Corporation. Keynesian desire to stimulate economy by putting money into pockets of people--more populist than Republican program of 1930s.


Bell, Jeffrey, “Populism and elitism : politics in the age of equality,” One Book. One Author. One Hour., accessed December 6, 2022, http://booknotes.gmu.edu/items/show/220.


Output Formats

Dublin Core


Populism and elitism : politics in the age of equality


Bell, Jeffrey


Program air date: July 12, 1992.


Jeffrey's Bell's commentary on political hegemony.


"Elite (Social sciences)"


Brian Lamb Booknotes Collection
Gift of Brian Lamb, 2011.


Regnery Gateway
George Mason University. Libraries. Special Collections & Archives


This work may be protected by copyright laws and is provided for educational and research purposes only. Any infringing use may be subject to disciplinary action and/or civil or criminal liability as provided by law. If you believe that you are the rights-holder and object to Mason’s use of this image, please contact speccoll@gmu.edu.