Vilfredo Pareto’s Circulation of Elite: Explanation and Examples

All societies and civilizations have a class of elites and all have a similar distribution of power, income and wealth. All societies have a predictable distribution with wealth concentrated at the top. A total count of 20% of the population controls 80% of the wealth with the top 1% holding an enormous share in the belongings. There are many scholars whose writing are described the personality and character among classes considering the circulation of the elite which will be further discussed here.

The concept of ‘Circulation of elite’. It can be explained in at least two ways. One of them is that the ‘circulation of the elite’ is the process in which one elite replaces the other. The second reference is the movement of people from non-elite groups to elite groups and vice-versa.

Written facts are known proof:

This theory is the major contribution by Vilfredo Pareto who described them as the strongest, most energetic and capable of both good and evil. He mentioned them in occupying higher stratum, for example, in the economic approach they are wealthy enough than any other class of people, in the political approach they are the rulers of all, in the religious approach they are most holy in nature, in the ethical approach they are more virtuous among everyone around them. This clears the idea of the circulation of the elite in all the phrases of societal divisions.

The Ruler must do little evil for the greater good:

The elite class people are minorities who are observed to have talent, intelligence, ability, and leadership to occupy positions of power. These minorities sometimes influence government decisions and gain dominant positions in society. When looking at all these “elite drama” in the society with all class of people, the immoral side of other people can never be ignored. When these upper-class people are acting for the benefits of improving their own-self, there is a set of people suffering from such competitions. This usually is the result of the circulation of the elite as this not only predict the circumstance of elite class but also the context of people out of these minority group.

Heterogeneous society:

According to scholars, every society has class division leading to differentiating them as elite and non-elite. Further in the elite group, it has been categorized into governing elite and non-governing elite. With such classification and following the Machiavellian rule, the sociologist Pareto illustrated this with the example of Lion and Foxes. The characteristics of elite members, treating them as a gifted group of people, keep them in a higher position by giving them all the power and authority to make differences in the society that eventually affect the non-elite members also. This concept gives a strong analysis of the theory of the circulation of the elite.

What happens to non-elites?

According to the scholars, the effect on non-elite is not been given much importance as the theory concentrates more on explaining the significant role played by the elite class in society. But, when dominance prevails in an area, there exists power in the hands of few who control others. Such is the case of this division of society where the elite people play a superior role over-sighting the other class members. For instance, if in a society decisions are to be made for the people, the preference will be given to the benefits of elite members as they are the decision-making authority, not bothering on the happenings of non-elite members. This is the reality of the theory of the circulation of the elite in society.


As determined by the sociologist, a structured society is being separated by giving more power to a few people on the basis of talent both physically as well as mentally in nature. The circulation of elite theory does not exist with zero criticism. But, as it focuses more on the real occurrence it is to be appreciated for its existence.