Fredrik Engelstad, Trygve Gulbrandsen, Marte Mangset, Mari Teigen
This volume contains an Open Access chapter.
Relationships between elites and democracy have always been strained. The very concept of elites - of 'chosen people' - stands in contradiction to democratic ideals of political equality. Simultaneously, they are necessary parts of democratic societies. In any large-scale society, democracy is
unthinkable without large organizations, be they political bodies, bureaucracies, enterprises, or voluntary organizations. When power is concentrated at the summit of such organizations the incumbents of the top positions potentially constitute groups that often are termed elite groups.
The present volume of Comparative Social Research offers a broad set of comparative studies of elites, stretching from the Arab Spring in Tunisia and Egypt to women's political leadership in Brazil and Germany, via attainment of elite positions among minorities in France and the US.
The quality of democratic governance seems to be in decline in many parts of contemporary world. Nevertheless, political elections are still a main source of legitimacy, even when they are far from being free and fair. Developments in the Third Wave democracies established around 1990 both in Europe
and in the rest of the world, are treated in several chapters. How do they fare two or three decades later? Another group of chapters sets the focus on elite recruitment and socialization, spelled out against class and gender. The volume concludes by highlighting various entanglements of elites with
populism, concerning both underlying reasons for the recent populist expansion and the various images of elites in populist movements.
This volume discusses the various interrelations that exist within and between social and political phenomena. This includes exploring the underlying social roots or origins of politics and power; the organisation, management, and process of political power structure; and the effects of political
decision-making and power structures on the surrounding society and culture.
This volume asks how religious convictions inform citizens' engagement in American democratic life, particularly across deep political divides. Strong religious convictions motivate citizens across the political spectrum to engage in public life, yet are also viewed as a driver of political
polarization by encouraging too much arrogance and not enough humility.
Featuring contributions from leading experts on religion and democratic life in the United States, this volume combines theoretical reflections on this tension with empirical investigations into how a range of religious actors balance conviction with humility in their public interactions with social
and political others. Taken together, these contributions reveal that strong religious conviction can encourage political arrogance, but also humility; can lead to deepening political polarization that threatens democracy, but also commitment to movements for equality and justice that advance
democracy; can encourage the building of walls, but also of bridges. Contributors also identify the factors and conditions driving each outcome, pointing to the roles of power, context, culture, institutions, and history in how different religious groups engage in political life.
The lessons this volume offers will be relevant to anyone interested in the complex relationship between religion and American democratic life; yet they also matter beyond religious groups. After all, religion is only one possible source of strong convictions that drive public engagement. As such,
the volume also offers more general insight into how conviction shapes citizens' capacity and willingness to engage with others across deep divides.