Theorievorming als machtsfactor : politieke elites en hun legitimatie 1830-1914

  • Luc François


Theories concerning the origin, the growth and the efficacy of political elites mainly originated after the first world-war. They arose in circles and with people who resented the increasing democratisation of political life. They were above all meant as a legitimation of conservative ideas with regard to the exertion of politica! power. The years between 1830 and 1914 however can be considered as the incubation-period for these elite-theories. Some examples taken from the Belgian political literature shall illustrate this evolution.
The liberal middle class got divided on the interpretation of the political events between 1789 and 1848. The doctrinarians wished to maintain the acquired results whereas the radicals chose for a further sharing of
power with the lower social classes. The conservatives held the past as an example and in principle they wished a return to the situation that existed before 1789. The contrast between clericals and anticlericals and above all the relationship between church and state interfered with these theoretical conceptions. But neither conservatives nor liberals however had their doubts about the elite-principle.
In the second half of the nineteenth century the social consequences of the industrial revolution were felt in such a radical way that the masses too claimed political power in order to improve their destiny.
On the political scene the discussion especially crystallized on the demand for universal suffrage and the way of representation. Not only political publicists hut towards the end of the century particularly scientists too supplied a theoretical foundation for the relationship between the elite and the masses.

How to Cite:

François, L., (1985) “Theorievorming als machtsfactor : politieke elites en hun legitimatie 1830-1914”, Res Publica 27(4), 567-587. doi:

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Published on
30 Dec 1985
Peer Reviewed