Although there is no legally sanctioned aristocracy in the United States, there are of course all manner of elites who control our political institutions (e.g., senators), our economic institutions (e.g., business leaders), and our cultural institutions (e.g., university presidents, newspaper publishers, media moguls). The scholars who study these groups ask whether they constitute a well-formed "upper class," whether children born into elite families tend to become members of the elite themselves, and whether elites are increasingly controlling all aspects of our lives.


Do political, economic, and cultural elites come together to form a single upper class that frequently intermixes and intermarries? Or are there many disjointed elite groups?


Are our elites principally drawn from long-standing elite families? Is there, for example, a largely closed political class that reproduces itself from one generation to the next (e.g., the Kennedy "dynasty," the Bush "dynasty")? Or are elite groups constantly refreshed and renewed by incorporating new members from non-elite backgrounds? Are some types of elites (e.g., the political class) becoming more closed over time?


How powerful are elites in determining the texture and content of our day-to-day lives? Are our lives increasingly controlled by the decisions made by elites? Or is the sphere of influence of elites becoming ever more delimited?

"When the rich wage war it is the poor who die." - Jean-Paul Sartre

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