Political Development in Eastern Europe

By Gabriel Almond; Jan F. Triska et al. | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 5
DEVELOPMENT, INSTITUTIONALIZATION, AND ELITE-MASS RELATIONS IN POLAND

Zvi Gitelman

Elite-mass relations are the essence of politics. How elites and masses relate to each other determines the nature of the political system, its institutions, and its modal behavioral patterns. The most common way of differentiating and comparing political systems is to explicitly or implicitly compare their elite-mass relations, and the analysis of political change within a single system most often revolves around a determination of what has changed in the elite-mass relationship.

Elite-mass relations involve a two-way flow of influence, with masses following the lead of elites and elites acting responsively to mass demands. A crucial difference among political systems is the relative weights of influence flows downward (from elites to masses) and upward (from masses to elites), and the way in which these influences are articulated and transmitted. In general, masses follow the lead of elites because elites have power, authority, the ability to mobilize and demobilize masses through a variety of techniques, or combinations of these attributes.1 Power may derive from naked coercion, a concentration of talent relevant to the problems and needs of society, or superior organization. Authority is based on the acquiescence by large strata of society that elites have the right to be obeyed and followed for one reason or another (tradition, charisma, legality-that is, rationality, to cite Weber's wellknown trinity).

When elites and masses share values, the legitimacy of elite leadership can be established. As Chalmers Johnson points out, "A value structure symbolically legitimates -- that is, makes morally acceptable -- the particular pattern of interaction and stratification of the members of a social system."2 Values are given normative expression in rules and laws. When values are no longer widely shared, or when elite and mass values do not coincide, norms will be challenged. "Since they no longer rest on a solid basis of legitimacy in shared values, norms

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