Mechanisms behind elite integration
Department of Sociology and Human Geography Institute for Social Research/University of Oslo Oslo, Norway
Within elite research and theory much attention has been devoted to the question of elite integration or cohesion. Many scholars have argued that the establishment of a viable democracy depends on the cohesiveness and unity exhibited by the leading elite groups in society.
The purpose of this paper is to examine the relative significance of various factors or mechanisms fostering elite integration. I will address questions like: How much does shared class background influence the extent of ideological consensus within an elite group? Are common educational experiences more important than class background as a mechanism promoting elite unity?
An empirical study of elite cohesion necessitates that the proper unit of analysis is identified. Internationally there are many studies focussing upon the individual elite persons and how their ideological and political attitudes are influenced by class background, education, career experiences, gender, and sector affiliation. But these studies are not exactly studying elite integration. Elite integration is a property of the elite groups, a property of the collective. Accordingly, both the dependent and the independent variables have to be constructed and related statistically on this level. The purpose of this paper is to do exactly that.
Secondly, it is necessary to specify more precisely the relations between the various dimensions of elite integration. In the previous literature the dimensions are frequently treated both as causes and effects. For analytic purposes it is, nonetheless, necessary to distinguish between those dimensions which mainly are the characteristics or manifestations of elite integration and those dimensions which are more properly seen as circumstances and processes fostering integration.
In this paper I focus upon degree of ideological consensus within the individual elite groups as the main manifestation of elite integration. I then examine empirically to what extent variations in this consensus is related to a set of factors which are treated as possible causes of the variations. This set of factors includes elements which frequently are seen as dimensions of elite cohesion:
In the empirical analyses will use data from the Norwegian Leadership Study 2000.