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
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