Robert Michels

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Michels, Robert


Born Jan. 9, 1876, in Cologne; died May 3, 1936, in Rome. Historian, economist, and sociologist. German by birth; became an Italian citizen in 1926. Taught history, economics, and sociology at the Universities of Brussels, Basel, Rome, Turin, and Perugia from 1903.

Michels was influenced by the ideas of V. Pareto and G. Mosca. He studied social classes in bourgeois society and the political role of the intelligentsia. In his principal work, Political Parties: A Sociological Study of the Oligarchic Tendencies of Modern Democracy (1911), he proposed his “iron law of oligarchy” in bourgeois democracy. The law states that democracy is restricted by the need for organization based on an “active minority,” or elite, since “the direct rule of the masses is technically impossible” and leads to the destruction of democracy. Michels also warned against the dangers of “bossism” in democratic organizations.

On the eve of World War I, Michels broke with the German and Italian socialist movements, in which he had worked for several years, and sharply criticized Marxism. Toward the end of his life he praised fascism. Lenin noted Michels’ superficiality but acknowledged that he had collected valuable information in his book on Italian imperialism (Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 27, pp. 14—15). Michels’ reactionary views were criticized by Italian Communists, especially Gramsci (Izbr. proizv., vol. 2, 1957, p. 63; vol. 3, 1959, pp. 137–38).


Proletariat und Bourgeoisie in der sozialistischen Bewegung Italiens, vols. 1–2. Tübingen, 1905–06.
Zur Soziologie des Parteiwesens in der modernen Demokratie. Berlin, 1911.
Probleme der Sozialphilosophie. Leipzig-Berlin, 1914.
Problemi di sociologia applicata. Turin, 1919.
Corso di sociologia politico. Milan, 1927.
Studi sulla democrazia e sulVautorita. Florence, 1933.
Nuovi studi sulla classe politico. Rome, 1936.
In Russian translation:
Chto takoe patriotizm. Kiev, 1906.


References in periodicals archive ?
Robert Michels, Co-head of Dentons global Capital Markets group, said, To address the increased client demand for equity capital markets work, in particular in relation to IPOs of small and medium enterprises, we have made significant investments into talent in key markets across Europe.
The formlessness of the mass, Robert Michels insisted in his study of Germany's Social Democratic Party, buttressed by its psychological need for leadership, leads it inevitably to eternal tutelage, content to constitute its pedestal-the iron law of oligarchy.
Robert Michels said at the annual meeting of the American Psychiatric Association.
La linea que en su momento permite concretar el estudio sobre las elites, presidida por Mosca, tendra su secuencia en los planteamientos que posteriormente realizaran Vilfredo Pareto y Robert Michels, inmersos en un contexto historico caracterizado en la sociedad italiana pero que sienta las cimientos de una doctrina propicia para la comprension tacita del ejercicio del poder.
En 1908 le escribio a su antiguo alumno, Robert Michels, que "conceptos tales como 'la voluntad del pueblo', la 'verdadera voluntad del pueblo', hace tiempo que han dejado de existir para mi.
Fine connoisseur of the German and Italian social-democratic movement, Robert Michels has tried to apply Vilfedo Pareto and especially Gaetano Mosca's elite theory to the capitalist working class.
These are powerful ideals that may enable anarchists to overcome a seemingly insurmountable obstacle characteristic of all organizations: the 'iron law of oligarchy' famously described by Robert Michels.
Justice of the Peace Robert Michels fined the city $50,000 under the Occupational Health and Safety Act, while the supervisor was fined $2,000
Who says organization, says oligarchy," wrote German sociologist Robert Michels in a treatise called Iron Law of Oligarchies.
In his discussion of SDS, Ellis raises a deep analytical issue that relates to what the German sociologist Robert Michels, in his 1911 book Political Parties, called the "iron law of oligarchy.
In the last analysis, however, the author is most concerned not only about the prospects for radical democracy in the face of Weberian critique, a problem decades ago for Robert Michels as well, but also about the constraints placed on this critique itself by its rationalistic presuppositions concerning means and ends, impartiality, and the "logics" of social and political action.
A biographical sketch of Robert Michels (1876-1936), a political sociologist and economist who taught in Germany, Switzerland, Italy, and the United States is presented.