Elites in the People's Republic of China

Elites in the People's Republic of China

Elites in the People's Republic of China

Elites in the People's Republic of China

Excerpt

The disciplines involved in the study of politics have long wrestled with two seemingly antithetical concepts: the political system, with its strong implications of symmetry, an organic structure, and permanence, versus conflict, with its ingredients of irregularity, dysfunctionalism, and impermanence. As yet, no model or theory has fully met the challenge of interrelating these two concepts in a manner that is at once precise and dynamic, susceptible both to measurement and to constant readjustment, hence to prediction. Even those general theories advanced recently which define the political system as interrelated sets of stimuli and responses, with inputs and outputs made dynamic by means of the feedback mechanism, remain essentially organistic, rational models, troubled by the distortions to which such models are susceptible.

There is no intention to claim that elite studies can accomplish what has thus far been denied to general theory. To study elites--more precisely, political elites--is to cut into the political system from a particular vantage point, taking merely one element of that system, or if one prefers, one element of the struggle to secure and hold political power. Like all "partial" studies, elite studies are subject to abuse, especially if they are undertaken in isolation from the total environment which surrounds the political actors. It does not follow, however, that meaningful theory--even general theory--can flow only from studies of a total system. In any case, in political science we require much more middle-level theory and hypotheses of intermediate scope at this point if we are to make further progress. Attention cannot be focused singularly upon the cosmic scene. The most relevant questions are: Do elite studies provide us with opportunities to advance middle-

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