Few social researchers study elites because elites, by their nature, are very difficult to access. The contributors to this volume provide valuable insights on how researchers can successfully penetrate elite settings. As the authors reflect on their experiences, they provide constructive advice as well as cautionary tales about how they learned to maneuver and become accepted in a world that is often closed to them. This book's coverage includes three broad research domains: business elites, professional elites, and community and political elites. Although the studies focus on qualitative methodology, even researchers who emphasize more quantitative methods will benefit from this volume's thoughtful observations on how researchers gather data, construct interview strategies, write about their subjects, and experience the research process. A wide range of researchers in organizational studies, sociology, political science, and many other fields will find this volume to be an important guide to the many subtle and elusive features of conducting successful research with these groups.
Chapter 11: Local Knowledge and Local Power: Notes on the Ethnography of Local Community Elites
Knowledge and power are intimately related. Differences in the distribution of knowledge are a source of power, and power may be used to generate and maintain differences in the distribution of knowledge. Knowledge, then, is a scarce resource. To invoke Harold Lasswell (1958) in his little primer, Politics: Who Gets What, When, How, elites are those who have more of whatever scarce values there are in a society, while the rest, who get less, are the masses. To be ignorant is to be powerless. The study of elites therefore is ipso facto a political act ...