POLITICAL PARTIES, A Sociological Study of the Oligarchical Tendencies of Modern Democracy

POLITICAL PARTIES, A Sociological Study of the Oligarchical Tendencies of Modern Democracy

by Robert Michels

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POLITICAL PARTIES, A Sociological Study of the Oligarchical Tendencies of Modern Democracy by Robert Michels

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MANY of the most important problems of social life, though their causes have from the first been inherent in human psychology, have originated during the last hundred and fifty years; and even in so far as they have been handed down to us from an earlier epoch, they have of late come to press more urgently, have acquired a more precise formulation, and have gained fresh significance. Many of our leading minds have gladly devoted the best energies of their lives to attempts towards solving these problems. The so-called principle of nationality was discovered for the solution of the racial and linguistic problem which, unsolved, has continually threatened Europe with war and the majority of individual states with revolution. In the economic sphere, the social problem threatens the peace of the world even more seriously than do questions of nationality, and here "the labourer's right to the full produce of his labour" has become the rallying cry. Finally, the principle of self-government, the corner-stone of democracy, has come to be regarded as furnishing a solution of the problem of nationality, for the principle of nationality entails in practical working the acceptance of the idea of popular government. Now, experience has shown that not one of these solutions is as far-reaching in its effects as the respective discoverers imagined in the days of their first enthusiasm. The importance of the principle of nationality is undeniable, and most of the national questions of western Europe can be and ought to be solved in accordance with this principle; but matters are complicated by geographical and strategical considerations, such as the difficulty of determining natural frontiers and the frequent need for the establishment of strategic frontiers; moreover, the principle of nationality cannot help us where nationalities can hardly be said to exist or where they are intertangled in inextricable confusion. As far as the economic problem is concerned, we have numerous solutions offered by the different schools of socialist thought, but the formula of the right to the whole produce of labour is one which can be comprehended more readily in the synthetic than in the analytic field; it is easy to formulate as a general principle and likely as such to command widespread sympathy, but it is exceedingly difficult to apply in actual practice. The present work aims at a critical discussion of the third question, the problem of democracy. It is the writer's opinion that democracy, at once as an intellectual theory and as a practical movement, has to-day entered upon a critical phase from which it will be extremely difficult to discover an exit. Democracy has encountered obstacles, not merely imposed from without, but spontaneously surgent from within. Only to a certain degree, perhaps, can these obstacles be surpassed or removed.

The present study makes no attempt to offer a "new system." It is not the principal aim of science to create systems, but rather to promote understanding. It is not the purpose of sociological science to discover, or rediscover, solutions, since numerous problems of the individual life and of the life of social groups are not capable of "solutions" at all, but must ever remain "open." The sociologist should aim rather at the dispassionate exposition of tendencies and counter-operating forces, of reasons and opposing reasons, at the display, in a word, of the warp and the woof of social life. Precise diagnosis is the logical and indispensable preliminary to any possible prognosis.

The unravelment and the detailed formulation of the complex of tendencies which oppose the realization of democracy are matters of exceeding difficulty. A preliminary analysis of these tendencies may, however, be attempted. They will be found to be classifiable at tendencies dependent (1) upon the nature of the human individual; (2) upon the nature of the political struggle; and (3) upon the nature of organization. Democracy leads to oligarchy, and necessarily contains an oligarchical nucleus. In making this assertion it is far from the author's intention to pass a moral judgment upon any political party or any system of government, to level an accusation of hypocrisy. The law that it is an essential characteristic of all human aggregates to constitute cliques and sub-classes is, like every other sociological law, beyond good and evil.

The study and analysis of political parties constitutes a new branch of science. It occupies an intermediate field between the social, the philosophico-psychological, and the historical disciplines, and may be termed a branch of applied sociology. In view of the present development of political parties, the historical aspect of this new branch of science has received considerable attention. Works have been written upon the history of almost every political party in the western world...

Product Details

BN ID: 2940015354607
Publisher: OGB
Publication date: 09/11/2012
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
File size: 919 KB

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