The term elite emerged in the seventeenth century to describe commodities that were particularly prized, and the usage was later extended to designate those groups that occupy the top rung of the social ladder. Interestingly, through this dual linguistic origin, we can already detect a significant connection between the theme of consumption and that of the upper ranks of society. It was not until the late-nineteenth century, however, that the term was established as a scientific concept, chiefly as a result of the work of two Italian scholars: Vilfredo Pareto and Gaetano Mosca. According to these two fathers of elite theory, at the top of every society inevitably lies a small minority that holds power, controls the key resources, and makes the major decisions. Since ...

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