Political Parties: A Sociological Study of the Oligarchical Tendencies of Modern Democracy

By Robert Michels; Cedar Paul et al. | Go to book overview

Chapter 2
The Ethical Embellishment of Social Struggles

NO ONE seriously engaged in historical studies can have failed to perceive that all classes which have ever attained to dominion have earnestly endeavored to transmit to their descendants such political power as they have been able to acquire. The hereditary transmission of political power has always been the most efficacious means of maintaining class rule. Thus there is displayed in this field the same historical process which in the domain of the sexual life has given rise to the bourgeois family-order and its accessories, the indissolubility of marriage, the severe penalties inflicted upon the adulterous wife, and the right of primogeniture. In so far as we can draw sound conclusions from the scanty prehistoric data that are available, it seems that the bourgeois family owes its genesis to the innate tendency of man, as soon as he has attained a certain degree of economic well-being, to transmit his possessions by inheritance to the legitimate son whom he can with reasonable certainty regard as his own. The same tendency prevails in the field of politics, where it is kept active by all the peculiar and inherent instincts of mankind, and where it is vigorously nourished by an economic order based upon private property in the means of production, and in which therefore, by a natural and psychological analogy, political power comes also to be considered as an object of private hereditary ownership. In the political field, as everywhere else, the paternal instinct to transmit this species of property to the son has been always strongly manifest throughout historic time. This has been one of the principal causes of the replacement of elective monarchy by hereditary monarchy. The desire to maintain a position acquired by the family in society has at all times been so intense that, as Gaetano Mosca has aptly noted, whenever certain members of the dominant class have not been able to have sons of their own (as, for example, was the case with the prelates of the Roman Church), there has arisen with spontaneous and dynamic force the institution of nepotism, as an extreme manifes

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