Conflict Perspectives: Elite Models
Although conflict theorists acknowledge that the government serves a number of important purposes in society. they assert that government exists for the benefit of wealthy or politically powerful elites who use the government to impose their will on the masses. According to the elite model, power in political systems is concentrated in the hands of a small group of elites, and the masses are relatively powerless. Early Italian sociologist Vilfredo Pareto (1848-1923) first used the term elite to refer to "the few who rule the many" (Marshall, 1998). Similarly, Karl Marx claimed that under capitalism, the government serves the interests of the ruling (or capitalist) class that controls the means of production.