Historical Social Research

Heinrich Best & Ursula Hoffmann-Lange: Challenged Elites – Elites as Challengers. Towards a Unified Theory of Representative Elites [Abstract]

This HSR Special Issue assembles contributions on current topics of elite research. They deal in particular with the challenges globalization poses for the traditional linkages between citizens and their representatives and their impact on political legitimacy. We argue that these developments upset the balance between a broad elite consensus embracing universal values and citizens' fears that their representatives pay too little attention to their demands to fight the negative effects of globalization on the country. We develop a unified theory of representative elites by combining three theorems: The theorem of antagonistic cooperation, the principal-agent theorem and the challenge-response theorem. While the first explains how elite consensus ensures effective policy making, the second demands responsiveness to citizen demands, and the third implies that fundamental social and political changes produce strains for established intra-elite and elite-citizen relations..

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