Historical Social Research

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Jan Pakulski, John Higley's work on elite foundations of social theory and politics [Abstract]

John Higley' s work traverses the boundaries of sociology, history and politics in the best tradition of classical social theory, and it has inspired countless scholars across Europe, North America, Australia and Asia. This inspiration has worked on three fronts: paradigmatic, theoretical and empirical. Higley and his colleagues revived the 'elite paradigm' focusing on top national power-holders, where elites are seen as the key social actors and agents of social and political change. An interest in elite theory was also stimulated by his work, especially with respect to the relationship between the key characteristics of national elites, such as their integration and consensus, and the nature (democratic or otherwise) of political regimes. This theoretical work inspired numerous critical analyses of elite transformations that precipitated the post-WWII 'halcyon years' of stability and growth in Europe and North America, the liberal-democratic transformations in post-communist Europe, as well as the recent turbulences: the financial crisis and a prolonged economic slowdown. The work of Higley and colleagues also continues to inspire a revival of macro-theoretical interests, especially in the European social theory, social-historical research, and theoretically informed political analysis.