Sorokin likewise finds a key to the problem of the causes for revolutions. From his statement it would appear dangerous for the upper classes to have too many children: 63Next Page
Somewhat different in form, but similar in substance, are the results of an overproduction of the elite in the mobile society. In this case the process runs approximately as follows: the overproduced prospective elite cannot find the corresponding high positions. For this reason, the unlucky fellows are dissatisfied and try to start their own "elevating" organization. As this organization cannot find a privileged place under the existing regime, it has to be critical, undermining, opposing, radical, revolutionary. The "petty ambitions" of these elite, being unsatisfied under existing conditions, seek outlet in social reconstruction or revolution.
Pareto, according to MacIver, "maintains that the fall of Úlites is due to their decline in relative numbers and to their decay in quality." 64 Sorokin, then, believes there are too many qualified elite; Pareto believes there are too few to maintain their power.
Moses, predecessor of Pareto, believes that "a ruling class is the more prone to fall into errors of this kind, the more closed it is, actually if not legally, to elements rising from the lower classes."65
Many of the abstract theories about elites and revolutions seem to be fantastic fabrications. A glance at the record shows the following:
The happiest days of Japanese history were the five centuries under a hereditary nobility. It was modern inventions, not the circulation of the elite, which brought Japan to her present plight. No present day shifting of political constellations (introduction of elements from beneath) can forestall the dangers that beset Japan. Her difficulties do not come from the pressures from her subject classes but from a series of complications known as a militarist-nationalist system burdened by an increase in the population beyond the limits of her resources.
Egypt bred brother to sister to keep the family lines intact. Few dynasties have lasted longer than some of those in Egypt. Few social systems have kept their lower class talents better shaded. Yet there were no revolutions in the modern sense.
If holding the lid on tight promotes revolution, then Montezuma and the great Inca were assassinated by a disgruntled mob of fairly prosperous but socially and politically unrecognized Indians.
Participation in the role of leadership by the intelligent and more talented members of the lower classes, and therefore maximum circulation of the elite, as in the German Republic with its proportional representation and its twenty-five political parties, may be said to be the shortest route to revolution. Political steam does not necessarily decrease its pressure under such circumstances; it may tend to increase in geometric proportion to the confusion created by the absence of stable classes.
Rome, for instance, was built, it spread and conquered, by one of the most closed aristocracies known to history; nor did the dictatorial system of elevating commoners from among the soldiers prevent the decline of Roman civilization. Greece, too, when political participation by the franchise system was introduced, succumbed to fratricidal strife.
The European nobility gave way, in so far as it did, not because of inability or decadence as such, but because of changes in the instruments of production with which the merchant aristocrats and later manufacturing groups were more familiar. It gave way because world changes, far beyond the control of leading men, engulfed Europe. The nobility failed in Germany in 1918; the Kaiser fled; the elite circulated; Bruning and Stresseman failed, too. Hitler will fail. MacDonald, Briand, Poincare, Daladier, Blum, and Chamberlain also failed. Trotsky, Roehm, and Radek went down. Stalin's future, or that of his associates, is not assured. The German Republic, the French Republic, the Italian Empire, the British Empire, the Japanese Empire -- none of these were or are likely to be saved from disintegration by the jockeying of political or social leader. Il Duche's hair grows white, while neither he nor all his advisers can extricate Italy from her dilemma. Roosevelt pads his mattress with promissory notes and postpones the day when this rich nation can balance its peacetime budget, much less its war budget. It is altogether probable that future presidents, whether workers, aristocrats, or professors will be able to make this nation "click" as it once did.
There come periods in history when no theory of the elite suffices to explain why the world or the nation "cannot be held in check." The revolutions and the torment, since about 1848, are not attributable to class decadence -- they are consequences of maladies greater than the greatest leaders (each in his own nation) can handle. This present world will be a "hot potato" for whoever has to assume charge of its varied parts, whether they be old or new elite. No promotion of social class circulation will have a salutary effect; no chaining of men in their places, after the plan of early Fascism, will cure the deep-seated maladies in civilization. There is, of course, as will be explained in detail later, a great difference between a society that respects its social class structure, and one that seeks to shake it to its foundations.
Conclusion. Theories about social class circulation are fascinating sources of speculation. Statistics of social class ascent and descent are subject to fanciful and thoughtful interpretation. It has been the purpose of this chapter to cover these two phases of social class. It will be the object of the supplements to add to the studies already made in the field of social class research three by the present writer.
63. Sorokin, op. cit. (2), p. 199.
64. R. M. MacIver, Society: A Textbook of Sociology (New York, 1937) p. 182.
65. G. Mosca, The Ruling Class (New York, 1939) p. 119.