He specifically suggests that the United States is ruled by a small group of men who formulate nearly all the nation's policy but are not well known to the general public. Another sociologist, William Domhoff (1978), refined this elitist model, arguing that the governing class in U. culture makes up less than one-half of 1 percent of the population. Dye and Zeigler (1984, 4), in an overview of how political conflict is resolved in our culture, argued that both elitism and pluralism are important parts of the democratic process, but that elitism is somewhat at the core: Democracy is government "by the people" but the survival of democracy rests on the shoulders of elites.
Once they have achieved a higher status, they may then conversely seek to maintain a more closed economic, social, and political system to protect their status and power.Furthermore, as Ebenstein, Mann, Pritchett, and Turner (1976, 6) explained, political questions ultimately revolve around the problem of the distribution of power: Power in any society or political system may be centralized-that is, it may be held by a small elite-or it may be shared by a plurality of groups. With respect to the analysis of power in the United States, two main approaches or interpretations have been advanced: the pluralist and the elitist. Wright Mills (1958), perhaps more than any other, has argued that elitism is at the core of our social, economic, and political culture. This conflict between order and change is especially intense in a democracy where those groups who have less power are not only tolerated and protected but also have available to them the potential means to change the status quo.Significantly, this sociological notion that conflicts exist in a society between those who seek order and those who seek change parallels the political conflict Wilson and others have noted between an emphasis on liberty and personal freedom, on one hand, and an emphasis on equality and social justice, on the other.Consequently, these people may come to a point where they support a political policy that maintains order at the expense of those who have not achieved high status.Conversely, those who are not of high status and want more political and economic power tend to support policies that bring about equality and social justice, i.e., policies producing change.This leads to another important theme of our political history that can be communicated through social studies: the resolution of conflict through the establishment and growth of political institutions. Creating Structures Political scientific and sociological research clearly indicates the existence of a profound degree of conflict in our democratic culture. Specifically, the American political story reveals three major themes: (1) tolerating conflicts between opposing values and beliefs, (2) creating structures to resolve those conflicts, and (3) accommodating conflicts through tolerance and compromise.Tolerating Conflicts A review of social science literature regarding American political culture indicates that conflict between opposing values and beliefs resolved in ways in which neither side totally wins or loses is one of the essential themes of American political history.