Mosca Gaetano(1858-1941) Italian political scientist and politician who, along with PARETO and Michels, is usually identified as one of the originators of ÉLITE THEORY. In Mosca's view, society always consisted of two ‘classes’ of individuals: the rulers and the ruled. Like Pareto, with whom he continuously contested the priority in formulating élite theory, Mosca regarded many of the justifications (political formulae) which surround rule as merely a veneer of rationalizations underpinning and preserving political power. He acknowledged that a distinction existed between political systems which were guided by ‘liberal’ principles (i.e. having an elected leadership) and those that were simply ‘autocratic’. What he denied was that such an arrangement, including provision for recruitment of new entrants to the political élite, meant government by the people’ or ‘majority rule’. By the same token, although classes could be represented in government, there could be no question of rule by an entire class – least of all a ‘classless society’ – in the way suggested by Marx. Mosca's best-known work Elementi di scienza politica (1896), variously revised in successive editions was translated as The Ruling Class in 1939. It is a mistake to regard Mosca as an advocate of autocracy, rather his own preference was for particular forms of representative democracy. His theory can be seen as the forerunner of the influential modern theory of DEMOCRATIC ÉLITISM – with its celebration of representative élites, and its scaling down of what it regards as the unrealistic expectations associated with conceptions of participatory democracy and Marxism.
Collins Dictionary of Sociology, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2000