Public Authority and Social Structure

  • Thomas J. Anton


To characterize the parliamentarians and higher civil servants we interviewed as an “elite” is to invoke an ambiguous image. From a structural point of view, the term suggests a small group of individuals located at the top of a socially-defined pyramid, and characterized by possession of more of the attributes that define membership in the social pyramid: if the attribute is wealth, the elite are the most wealthy; if it is notoriety, the elite are the most famous; if it is power, the elite are the most powerful, and so on.1 Process-oriented studies, however, frequently confound such simple images by challenging the meaning of the quality attributed to an elite. Studies of “leadership” or “influence,” for example, often enough show that a “power” elite seldom exercises its reputed power or that other actors, not included in an elite group, in fact determine the course of events in some specific area.2


Income Pyramid 


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  1. 32.
    Sten-Sture Landstrejm, Svenska Ambetsmans Sociala Ursprung (Uppsala, 1954), p. 85.Google Scholar
  2. 33.
    Claes Linde and Gunnar Lonnquist, “Personal rekryteringen till vissa offentliga forvaltningar 1957 och 67” (mimeo), p. 33.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Martinus Nijhoff Publishing 1980

Authors and Affiliations

  • Thomas J. Anton
    • 1
  1. 1.The University of MichiganUSA

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