The sociology of elites

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Elites are those with vastly disproportionate control over or access to a resource. We can understand this as a position that a social actor occupies, or we can imagine such resources as a possession of an actor. The study of elites is the study of power and inequality, from above. It involves looking at the distribution of social resources, which can include economic, social, cultural, political, or knowledge capital. It also means exploring the role of institutions such as schools, families, and clubs in how such resources are organized and distributed. Over the past decade, particularly as social power and economic rewards have become increasingly concentrated in the hands of the few, elite sociology has experienced a revival. Empirical observations of these phenomena point to the changing character of American inequality.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)361-377
Number of pages17
JournalAnnual Review of Sociology
StatePublished - Aug 2012
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science


  • Elite
  • Inequality
  • Power


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