Many structures of society that exist in mainstream politics can be summarized into two types: elitism and anti-elitism. Many ancient philosophers have postulated unequivocal precepts of governance that pertain to the intelligence of a few or the togetherness of all. These bodies of governance, however, depending on which works best for a state. In present times, an inclusive government now fits into the rhetoric of common governance. States regard a government that is sidelined by the elite as a dictatorship. Thus, let us have an in-depth examination of what elitism and anti-elitism are.
Elitism is a belief that a country must be ruled by the elite. An elite is a small group of people who have more privilege and high status in society. Often, elites have more access to social services like education, the best infrastructure and so on. Given this, they are regarded as a race of intelligentsia, thus deemed suitable to wield power.
In the past, ancient civilizations, especially Greece embraced this system because of the conception that perceives the poor masses as barbaric and unintelligent. This looks paradoxical because ancient Greece is known as the birthplace of democracy. Regardless, the basics of human civilization found their voice within the tenets of governance controlled by elites, whereas many Greek philosophers agreed with this notion.
Plato, a highly studied individual and philosopher stressed his condemnation of democracy because of the death of his teacher, Socrates. To him, his death was caused by the masses who have easily manipulated to mob his teacher. It was this event that shaped his idea of the philosopher-king. His notion was set to seclude children from birth, filter the talented ones and train them under the pretexts of philosophy, morality, and intense knowledge then eventually leave them to lead the state.
Another philosopher who supported elitism was Aristotle. As a student of Plato, he formulated three probable systems and ranked a polity as the best. To him, a polity was a system of government ruled by the wealthy but controlled by a strong middle class. In other words, it is a combination of democracy and oligarchy.
The understanding that regards the elite as the only ones that are meant to wield power is often debated. Arguments against this system say that it destroys an egalitarian society and gives little room for public participation. And that elites will eventually become corrupted with the amount of power they hold. However, those that are for the idea say that a few intelligent elites governing a state are better for all because it will give the state access to concrete policies and actions that the masses cannot provide.
Regardless, one may examine the prospects of this system and choose to support it based on academic and intellectual elitism. Winston Churchill said, “the best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter.” In places that do not prioritize education, elitism seems like the best system to practice.
Anti-elitism is a system that rejects the practice of elitism or a government controlled by the minute elites or intellectuals. Be it as it may, this is a system that has different components; pluralism, populism, and egalitarianism, which are more or less similar to each other.
Pluralism is the belief that a society must be governed by numerous viewpoints. Because elitism will have members with similar views, plurality deters that. Although it does not discourage the emergence of an elite group, it does not succumb to the idea of elites governing a society. It gives room for public participation in governance.
Populism is a direct synonym of democracy. In the words of Abraham Lincoln, democracy is the government of the people, by the people and for the people. A rule by the majority. Therefore, it can allow as many viewpoints as possible as long as it gives space for everyone in society to govern themselves indirectly.
Lastly, egalitarianism presumes that all members of society should have equal rights that stretch from the lowest to the highest. The belief of a particular group having equal access to services that all individuals are entitled to is, indeed, anti-elitist.
However, criticisms of the aforementioned components state that mob governance is upheld and that the masses simply cannot make concrete decisions, since they are very much susceptible to manipulation.
It is important to discern that between elitism and anti-elitism, whichever a society chooses to practice depends on the state it finds itself in. The reactions concerning the two are interwoven with sentiments and facts. Elitism has given way to anti-elitism since we currently live in an era that is more egalitarian and upholds inclusivity as a basic human right.