Pareto, Vilfredo

Vilfredo Pareto (1848–1923) is best known for his views that the rationalizations people use for their behavior change, while their reasons or motivations do not; that the successful use of power justifies itself; and that elites rule sometimes by the use of force and sometimes by cunning.

Few theorists have elicited more intense reactions than Pareto. One writer calls him “the adversary of humanitarian democracy” (Zeitlin 1994:192). Another describes him as “a humanist who fought ceaselessly for democracy [and] for freedom of any sort” (Lopreato in Pareto [1916]1980:xx). Why such differing interpretations? The answer lies in Pareto's changing responses to the times in which he lived and others' fragmentary knowledge of his work.

Vilfredo Pareto was born in Paris to an Italian political-exile father and a French ...

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