What Is the Elite and Class Theory?

The elite and class theory promotes the idea that a rich elite holds most of the power in U.S. politics, and therefore determines policies and living conditions for the rest of society. This theory acknowledges that people have the right to vote, but states that the rich elite are able to form conditions that shape policies despite this.

The elite and class theory states that although people have the right to vote and freedom of speech, there is a rich section of society that is able to determine America's conditions. People who support this argument claim:

  • There is a social upper class made of families that have held money and power for multiple generations. Sometimes people who are newly rich enter the class and become assimilated. These people have control of the country's biggest corporations, allowing them to generate and control wealth.
  • Using non-profit organizations, members of this social class influence policies in the U.S. With the assistance of those they influence in these organizations, they are able to dictate federal policies.
  • Although members of this social class deny having such power, they do. As a result, America's working class lacks the power other working class members of democratic countries benefit from.

The elite and class theory does not claim that the government is acting as an autocracy. It highlights that members of the elite class value civil liberties, but their positions of privilege give them disproportionately more influence than average voters.