Robert Michels

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Robert Michels in 1898

Robert Michels (9 January 1876 in Cologne, Germany – 3 May 1936 in Rome, Italy) was a German sociologist who wrote on the political behavior of intellectual elites and contributed to elite theory.


  • Historical evolution mocks all the prophylactic measures that have been adopted for the prevention of oligarchy. If laws are passed to control the dominion of the leaders, it is the laws which gradually weaken, and not the leaders.

Quotes about Michels[edit]

  • Michels went on to draw the unwarranted conclusion that democracy is impossible in a political system because it was, he believed from his study of one party, impossible in a particular element of the system. Had he been writing today it is inconceivable that he would have moved so casually from his observation of oligarchy in a political party to the conclusion that oligarchy is inescapable in a political system in which the political parties are highly competitive. Michels's elementary mistake reminds us that for the most part the theorists of minority domination discussed here had little or no experience with systems of competitive parties in countries with a broad suffrage or, certainly, with systematic analysis of competitive party systems.
    • Robert A. Dahl, Democracy and Its Critics (1989), Ch. 19 : Is Minority Domination Inevitable?

External links[edit]

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