The Role of British Political Elites

  • John Garrard
Part of the British Studies Series book series (BRSS)


In the literature attempting to explain democratisation’s success or failure, there has been considerable argument about the importance of elites compared to other, more contextual, factors — economic forces, the impact of international events, mass social and political attitudes, and civil society. Elite-centred explanations emphasise the importance of choices made by key political figures during democratic transitions: leaders might be constrained by the national and international context, but they still possess considerable freedom to make decisions and adopt policies deeply influential for success or failure.1 Opponents have argued that elites are prisoners of context. At most, leaders display skill in seizing opportunities created by this context, or sensitivity to changes in public mood. In many democratising polities, they fail to understand what is happening — traditional elites through being out of touch with social and political change; new elites by being insulated from the hard compromises of ordinary politics until suddenly required to confront them as old exclusive political patterns give way to more open ones.2


Saving Bank Local Elite Local Party Party Competition Political Sensitivity 
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© John Garrard 2002

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  • John Garrard

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