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Populist v. Elite Forms of Democracy

While John Mueller (1, 2-3) advances the so-called elite democratic perspective suggesting that self-interest and inequality will inevitably characterize democracies, Paul Loeb (1, 1) contends that the popular democratic perspective individual actors at the grassroots can influence political systems and policies. In this essay, a defense of Loeb's (1, 1) will be offered in an argument that advances the idea that it is possible and necessary to "keep engaged those several million Americans who've just come in to peace and justice movements in the past couple years (Loeb, 2, 1)." Loeb (2, 1) makes the strongest case but it is necessary to understand that his case is based upon a conviction that ordinary men and women will at various times in their lives be challenged to become political active although Mueller (1, 2) is correct in asserting that this type of activism is unlikely to be a lifelong commitment.

Mueller (2, 62) asserts that capitalist systems which have given rise to democracies are of necessity systems in which individuals pursue their own interests, including the accumulation of wealth. Prosperous elites have no real interest in advancing the status of the poor although they do have an interest in ensuring a complacent underclass. Elite democracy in Mueller's (2, 177) view is cosmopolitan and is oriented toward prosperity, and characterized by widening class divisions and intense ethnic conflicts. Mueller (2, 177) also argues that the cross-national association between human capital reflected in the activities of elites and democracy is quite strong. In his approach to understanding what drives democracy, Mueller (1, 3-4) maintains that elites formulate policies that support their interests and allow certain entitlements to filter down to the less fortunate.

In contrast, the popular democratic model advanced by Loeb (1, 2) is focused on the belief that ordinary citizens are able to bring about enormous ...

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Populist v. Elite Forms of Democracy. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 10:11, August 08, 2020, from