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The Problem of the Legitimacy of the Political Elite / Проблема легитимности политической элиты

Засеева Анастасия Сергеевна

ORCID: 0000-0001-7914-5859

преподаватель кафедры государственного регулирования Московского государственного института международных отношений МИД России

119454, Россия, г. Москва, проспект Вернадского, 76

Zaseeva Anastasiya Sergeevna

Lecturer of the Department of State Regulation of the Moscow State Institute of International Relations of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia

76 Vernadsky Avenue, Moscow, 119454, Russia

bukhanovas@gmail.com
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Иванова Мария Игоревна

ORCID: 0000-0002-8586-4160

преподаватель кафедры государственного управления Московского государственного института международных отношений МИД России

119454, Россия, г. Москва, ул. Проспект Вернадского, 76

Ivanova Mariya Igorevna

Lecturer of the Department of Public Administration of the Moscow State Institute of International Relations of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia

76 Prospekt Vernadskogo str., Moscow, 119454, Russia

masha-ivanova90@bk.ru
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DOI:

10.7256/2454-0684.2023.3.43801

EDN:

WIMUAF

Дата направления статьи в редакцию:

30-08-2022


Дата публикации:

23-08-2023


Аннотация: Объектом данного исследования является проблема легитимности политической элиты. Предметом исследования выступают представления ряда западных и отечественных исследователей политической элиты. Целью исследования является обобщение взглядов теоретиков разных стран, разного периода времени относительно качеств политической элиты как легитимирующего основания. Определяющую роль для достижения цели данного исследования сыграл диалектический метод, который был использован при анализе категорий "политической элиты" и "легитимности", их сущности и взаимосвязи. Данный метод стал ключевым в понимании текстов исследуемых трудов. Метод системно-структурного анализа позволил исследовать взгляды рассматриваемых философов целостно – когда позиции авторов дополняют друг друга и создают общую картину понимания легитимности политической элиты. Вывод исследования заключается в следующем: в современном мире основным методом легитимации политической элиты является демократическая процедура избрания, однако выбор граждан должен быть основан на четком представлении о качествах политического лидера, уверенности в том, что кандидатура имеет серьезные профессиональные компетенции, а также глубокие нравственные убеждения и моральные принципы. Это поможет избежать попадания во власть дилетантов, ставящих своей некомпетентностью и отсутствием ценностных установок, стабильность и безопасность в обществе под угрозу. Результатом исследования представлений отечественных и западных философов является подтверждение суждения о том, что легитимной политической элитой следует считать лиц, обладающих высокими нравственными духовными ценностями, приобретенные или закрепленные в результате традиционного воспитания, классического образования, военной службы, длительного опыта работы в социальной и политической сфере.


Ключевые слова:

аристократия духа, легитимация, моральные ценности, призвание, политика, государство, общество, политическая власть, политическая элита, легитимность

Abstract: The object of this study is the problem of the legitimacy of the political elite. The subject of the study is the views of a number of Western and domestic researchers on the political elite. The study aims to generalize the views of theorists from different countries and periods of time regarding the qualities of the political elite as a legitimizing foundation. The dialectical method, which was used in the analysis of the categories of "political elite" and "legitimacy," their essence and interrelation, played a decisive role in achieving the goal of this study. This method has become key in understanding the texts of the works under study. The method of system-structural analysis allowed us to explore the views of the philosophers in question holistically – when the authors' positions complement each other and create a general picture of the understanding of the legitimacy of the political elite. The conclusion of the study is as follows: in the modern world, the main method of legitimizing the political elite is a democratic election procedure, but the choice of citizens should be based on a clear idea of the qualities of a political leader, confidence that the candidate has serious professional competencies, as well as deep moral convictions and moral principles. This will help to avoid falling under the power of amateurs who put their incompetence and lack of values, stability, and security in society at risk. The result of the study of the ideas of domestic and Western philosophers is the confirmation of the judgment that the legitimate political elite should be considered people with high moral and spiritual values acquired or consolidated as a result of traditional upbringing, classical education, military service, and long-term work experience in the social and political sphere.


Keywords:

the aristocracy of the spirit, legitimation, moral values, vocation, politics, state, society, political power, political elite, legitimacy

The concepts indicated in the title of this article—"legitimacy" and "political elite"—are among the most used in the political and socio-economic lexicons of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. However, there is a shortage of research on the relationship of these two categories. A large number of scientific papers written on the legitimacy of political power does not solve this problem, as the formulation of the subject of this research is quite broad and abstract, and the results of such studies often do not go beyond the theory or correlate with real political life. The second problem that determines the relevance of this article is that the category of legitimacy does not have a normative formally fixed expression in legal acts but is based only on a doctrinal interpretation that defines the signs of the legitimacy of a government, its subjects, methods and means of activity in different ways. In our opinion, the development of criteria and principles of the legitimacy of the political elite will help provide a solution to the problem of legitimacy closer from the field of only theoretical to real practical activities in public administration.

Legitimacy plays a big role for the political elite because, without it, the government will be vulnerable to political upheavals or social unrest. Ultimately, the low degree of legitimacy of the political elite will cause a sense of alienation among people and lead to a coup d’état or rebellion. The illegitimate political elite does not have a solid foundation for being in power and will disintegrate after some time.

The political elite of various political systems equally strive to be legitimate for a long-term stay in power, but not every political elite faces the same problem of legitimacy. In some cases, the problem of legitimacy may be caused by the lack of charisma of the political elite. In other cases, it is the emergence of new unconventionally-minded people in conservative societies who have replaced leaders with traditional views. There are cases when the political elite violated the legal and rational rules of the regime where the laws are highly institutionalized, or the political elite came to power through a coup d’état or revolution. Some went beyond their normal powers after declaring martial law, a state of siege, or a state of emergency in the country, thereby disrupting or changing the normal activities of political life.

What should be understood by the legitimacy of the political elite? To begin with, we should delve into the etymology of the word "legitimate." Dictionaries of the eighteenth to nineteenth centuries [1, p. 563; 2, p.808] define such meanings as "correct," "appropriate," and "legal." With regard to the latter meaning, it should be noted that in the twentieth century, there was a differentiation between the meanings of legal and legitimate, thus the meaning of "in accordance with the law and in compliance with procedural guarantees" ultimately departed from the concept of "legal." Under the influence of democratic trends, the semantic vacuum of the concept of "legitimate" was quickly filled with meaning—socially approved, generally accepted, and recognized by the majority [3].

However, it seems that we should not neglect other connotations of the concept of "legitimate," moreover, it is worth rethinking them. The answer to the question of the “right and proper” political elite will help formulate the criteria of a legitimate political elite.

Philosophers have been writing about the essence of the political elite and the traits it should possess for a long time. Summarizing their ideas about the elite, we can distinguish three categories, which, in turn, group the qualitative characteristics of the political elite that affect its legitimacy­—authority, purpose, and means.

Authority plays a decisive role and consists of education, knowledge, experience in the political sphere and participation in social projects. In this case, the goal refers to the ideological position, moral attitudes, worldview, political program, and guidelines with which the politician correlates their activities. In political philosophy, for many centuries, the contradiction between the morally approved goal of exercising power and not quite moral means of exercising it, but which are justified by the success of achieving a good goal, has not been eliminated. Some philosophers solve this problem in favor of the goal, explaining that any political activity, including politics, is justified by the good for the people. The ideologists of the "all means are good" position, as it is known, were N. Machiavelli and T. Hobbes. Machiavelli's famous quotes "the end justifies the means" and "winners are not judged" denote a rigid rational position in achieving the state's goals. In his work Leviathan, Hobbes also justifies violence by the state to ensure society's protection and security. Later, the idea of legitimate violence was explored by F. Nietzsche, M. Foucault, N. Luhmann, and others. However, thinkers such as I. Kant, J. Rawls, G. Rickert, V. S. Solovyov, and A. Buchanan believe that any political action should be conditioned by moral norms, that is, the state, using political power, has a moral justification only if its use meets the minimum standards of justice, which is understood as the protection of fundamental human rights. In their opinion, it is worth emphasizing the use of morally approved means rather than striving for the effectiveness of political power at any cost. As Kant argued: "True politics cannot take a step without taking an oath to morality" [4].

It is impossible to capture the ideas of the elite of all the theorists who have written on this topic, so we will focus on the most striking positions.

The most cited classic and founder of the theory of elites is the Italian sociologist Wilfredo Pareto. He was the first to apply the term "elite" to the governing minority. In his opinion, this term allows us to give the ruling minority a qualitative (value) assessment, as the word “elite” comes from the Latin eligere—to choose. Pareto points to specific qualitative features of the elite: ability, competence, and talent [5]. The modern Italian political scientist Giovanni Sartori supports his famous compatriot and adds that the ruling groups are not always elite but are simply a "ruling minority" [6]. However, can a ruling minority that does not possess certain qualities be truly legitimate? The Russian political philosopher and sociologist Nikolai Alexandrovich Berdyaev would answer this question in the negative. The philosopher attaches great importance to the moral principle. In his understanding, the political elite represents the "aristocracy of the spirit," that is, the embodiment of the qualities of a highly moral personality, which is characterized by "readiness to serve humanity and the individual" [7]. In his works The Philosophy of the Free Spirit and The Philosophy of Inequality, Berdyaev contrasts spiritual aristocracy with social aristocracy. The latter refers to a noble origin, a noble family, in contrast to the aristocracy in the spiritual sense, which is a characteristic of a certain kind of soul that can be inherent in any person, as well as an aristocrat—a native of a noble family—and a peasant or a laborer. This kind of aristocracy has a spiritual beginning, not a class basis, manifested in the form of noble behavior, unconditional service, and self-sacrifice. According to Berdyaev, the struggle for power and personal interests is not inherently aristocratic. "The highest spiritual aristocracy is the kingdom of holiness, genius, and chivalry, the kingdom of the great and noble, the highest human race," writes Nikolai Alexandrovich [8].

German scientist Max Weber was one of the first to discuss the political elite and the bureaucratic apparatus as a professional activity. In his work Politics as a Vocation and Profession, Weber asks the direct question, "What kind of person should be so that he is allowed to put his hand to the movement of history?" and answers that such a person should have "passion, a sense of responsibility and an eye" [9]. By passion, Weber understands not the revolutionary spirit but dedication to his work. The sense of responsibility speaks for itself, as for the "eye"—here, Weber means distance in relation to things and people, in other words, cold reason. Thus, politics as a profession is considered by Weber in relation to officials who form a special professional apparatus with a certain set of functions and powers for the improper performance of which a superior is responsible. Politics as a vocation is the activity of the political elite, where the state leader bears personal responsibility and cannot discard it or shift it to another. Politics as a vocation characterizes the activity of the political elite not at the expense of politics but for politics. In other words, to live for politics, a person should not make politics a source of profit, meaning they must be wealthy or occupy a position that brings them a steady income.

Weber not only illustrates in detail the image of a political leader but also characterizes the purpose of his activity, which can be national and universal. A politician can be guided by any intentions: social, ethical, cultural, secular, or religious, but they should always be based on their deep faith in ideals.

As for the means, according to Weber: "No ethics in the world bypasses the fact that the achievement of ‘good’ goals in many cases is associated with the need to put up with the use of morally questionable or at least dangerous means, and with the possibility or even probability of bad side effects" [9].

So, returning to the question of a legitimate or, in other words, "appropriate" policy, you can use the colors proposed by Weber to draw an appropriate portrait: they are a wealthy, financially independent person with a certain charisma, passionate about their activities, but prudent enough to avoid vanity and maintain a proper level of internal responsibility to themself and society. This politician clearly sees and translates the purpose of their activity and the belief in the need for its implementation.

In his writings, Weber wrote not only about the role of the individual in public administration and the so-called charismatic domination but also developed the idea of the political maturity of the ruling elite. The scientist was convinced that not every class with the economic knowledge and skills necessary for the “national economy” simultaneously has a “political instinct,” which is no less important in solving public affairs. By political instinct, Weber understands the need to protect national interests, which is exacerbated in the minds of the masses in the event of war and in ordinary times is inherent only in the leading stratum.

Another outstanding German philosopher, Oswald Spengler, writes in his latest work, The Years of Decisions, that industry and business leaders have come to the fore in Europe, not because they are better versed in state issues but because there are no major statesmen—the weighty political elite of dynastic nation-states, such as Bismarck, Metternich. Spengler opposes the liberal orientation toward the domination of economics over politics, as this, in his opinion, is a prerequisite for the emergence of social and political crises. The preponderance of the economy to the detriment of politics is, for Spengler, a consequence of the fact that European peoples want to make their lives more peaceful and comfortable. In his opinion, a healthy economy should be the result of a strong policy and not vice versa. However, people of "dubious origin and questionable morals" should not engage in politics [10]. Spengler opposes political amateurs in power, adhering to conservative views on the management of the state by an educated, responsible elite with the preservation of diplomatic traditions down to "ceremonial trifles" that maintain the level of high culture. In the tradition of the ancient monarchy, according to Spengler, there is "honor, dedication, discipline, a genuine sense of a great mission, training, a sense of duty and sacrifice that are able to rally the people around themselves" [10]. Thus, Spengler considers the nobility and aristocracy as carriers of culture to be the state–forming the core. According to Spengler, signs of the beginning of the decline and death of culture is the arrival of democracy with an endless series of elections based on the party’s struggle for power, corruption, and manipulation of public consciousness.

Weber, Spengler, and Pareto believed that after coming to power, the elite often loses the ability to use force, show character and determination, pursue a passive policy, and gradually lose their position. Therefore, to such personal qualities as honor and dedication, Pareto adds masculinity. These qualities are clearly visible in what Mosca calls "military prowess" [11]. By the way, Aristotle, as well as Plato, believed that the state should be governed by the few and the best, that is, philosophers. However, unlike Plato, Aristotle allowed the transition from one class to another, so a man from the military class who showed valor and character in the war and understood the value of life, guided by justice, courage, moderation, and prudence, can become an excellent wise philosopher. In ancient Greece, military affairs were a sacred duty for all citizens, but for aristocrats, it was the primary profession. By the end of the First World War, the aristocracy and military service in the West and Russia went hand in hand. After the revolutions in the early twentieth century, the role of the army in the life of the political elite as part of the education and acquisition of military experience changed. However, the question of the role of the so-called representatives of power structures in power remains relevant for both Western and domestic science. At one time, the publication of S. Huntington's monograph The Soldier and the State [12] caused a wide resonance due to the author's position that the officer corps demonstrates specialized knowledge in the field of management, maintains a monopoly on education and promotion in its field and bears comprehensive responsibility to society.

Among modern researchers of the political elite, E. V. Okhotsky offers the most systematic professional and personal qualities of representatives of the ruling elite stratum:

1) Power and political ambition;

2) A sense of belonging to the chosen caste, as well as an understanding that a broad outlook, hard work, and perseverance are integral features of a politician and a manager;

3) Charisma, gravitation to leadership, possession of strong-willed qualities, the ability to take responsibility;

4) Extraordinary thinking, professionalism, and moral health. The presence of a systematic, organically unified set of specific competencies for the effective solution of socially significant tasks;

5) The strength of spiritual and moral qualities. The elite should demonstrate their high legal culture [13].

In the modern world, the main method of legitimizing the political elite is the procedure for electing persons to the highest public positions and authorities. However, in choosing candidates for the role of the ruling elite, as well as assessing the legitimacy of the current political elite, we propose to be guided by an understanding of the original meaning of the term "legitimate," i.e., in the meaning of "correct," "appropriate." This approach is justified by the views of the most authoritative theorists of the political and social sciences of ancient and modern times and the modern period. Summarizing the positions of a number of philosophers considered in this article on the problem of qualitative characteristics of the political elite, it should be noted that among the most important, they distinguish, first of all, moral and spiritual values: self-sacrifice, courage, masculinity, adherence to moral norms, etc. The prerequisites for such qualities can be traditional upbringing, classical education, military service, and long-term experience in the social and political sphere. Having these qualities will allow a politician to be predictable, stable, reasonable, and adequate in any unforeseen circumstances and have grounds to be considered a "legitimate bearer of power."

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