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Maurizio Cotta, Political Elites and a Polity in the Making: The Case of the EU [Abstract]

Over the past years, elite theory, with its explorations of the relationship between elite configurations and regime vicissitudes, has made a significant come-back in the world of political science. There is no doubt that the work of John Higley, which has shown that regime types and regime stability may be meaningfully connected to the unity and disunity of elites, and to elite unity being based either on consensus or on ideological conformity, has made a major contribution to this resurgence of interest. Elite theory, however, has paid less attention to the relationship between the political elites and the transformations of the political community. This paper is devoted to an exploration of some aspects of this relationship through an analysis of the process of European integration. This process offers a quasi-experimental environment that can enable a better understanding of the interactions between the construction of a new supranational polity and the complex European system of national and supranational elites. By analyzing the institutional transformation brought about by the Lisbon treaty, the attitudes of national elites toward the European form of government, and the impact of the recent crisis on the European institutions, the article tries to establish the role of elites in the development of a supranational polity, and to ascertain what influence institutional transformations have had on the formation of a genuinely European elite.