Methods of Elite Identification

  • Ursula Hoffmann-Lange


This chapter discusses the three classic methods of elite identification—the positional, the decisional, and the reputational method. The three methods use different operationalizations of political power and influence. The procedures involved in applying the methods are explained and critically discussed, with reference to prominent elite studies. The three methods differ with respect to how they determine elite boundaries. The choice of method determines the size and structure of the resulting elite formation. Depending on the method chosen, empirical elite research is compatible with both the assumption of a small and exclusive power elite or a pluralistic elite structure. Therefore, the resulting elite structure does not permit determining the degree of power concentration in society in an absolute way, but only comparatively.


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© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ursula Hoffmann-Lange
    • 1
  1. 1.University of BambergBambergGermany

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