7 Dec 2017 All day SG1 and SG2, Alison Richard Building


Recordings from the conference are available here



Greg Conti (University of Cambridge)

Hugo Drochon (University of Cambridge)

Duncan Kelly (University of Cambridge)



Recent events have brought to the forefront the question of the place of elites in democratic politics – we seem to be living, more than at any point in the last several decades, in a moment of 'revolt against elites'. But the problematic relationship that elites entertain with democracy has been raised before. Indeed, reflection on this problem is as old as representative democracy itself. Roughly a century ago, when the basic building blocks of modern democracy – universal suffrage and the centralised, disciplined political party – were being put in place, thinkers such as Mosca, Pareto, Ostrogorski, and Michels were already attempting to theorise the nature of the elites that emerged out of this novel political-institutional context. Although much has changed since then, in many ways this setting, and its problems, remain our own.

The aim of this conference is to explore the issue of elites in democratic thought from these founding figures of 'elite theory' to the present. Bringing together intellectual historians and political theorists, CRASSH’s Elites and Democracy in Modern Political Thought will be the first conference devoted to charting the trajectory of this most pressing of political dilemmas from its modern inception in the late-nineteenth/early-twentieth century through today’s crises.

 The keynote lecture by Richard Bellamy (European University Institute, Florence) is open to all free of charge.




Supported by the Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (CRASSH), and the Leverhulme Trust (via CRASSH's 'Conspiracy and Democracy' Project).


Administrative assistance: events@crassh.cam.ac.uk


Unfortunately, we are unable to arrange or book accommodation for registrants. The following websites may be of help:


9.00 - 9.15


9.15 - 9.30

Welcome and Introduction

9.30 - 11.00

Panel One

Hugo Drochon (University of Cambridge)

'Robert Michels, the Iron Law of Oligarchy, and Dynamic Democracy'


Natasha Piano (University of Chicago)

'Revisiting Democratic Elitism: The Italian School of Elitism, American Political Science, and the Problem of Plutocracy'

11.00 - 11.30


11.30 - 13.00

Panel Two

Greg Conti (University of Cambridge)

'Three (Related) Views of Parties and Elites: Victorian Proportional Representation, Ostrogorski, and Rosanvallon'


Will Selinger (Harvard University)

'Populism and Elites: Rosanvallon on the Crisis of Parliamentary Democracy'

13.00 - 14.00


14.00 - 16.30

Panel Three

Alex Gourevitch (Brown University)

'The Concept of the Entrepreneur from Say to Schumpeter'


Dina Gusejnova (University of Sheffield)

'Four concepts of dynasty in German intellectual history ca. 1900'


Lucia Rubinelli (London School of Economics)

'Elitism and democracy in post WW2 Italian debates'

16.30 - 17.00


17.00 - 18.30

Keynote Public Lecture

Richard Bellamy (European University Institute, Florence)

'The Paradox of the Democratic Prince: Machiavelli, Pareto and Mosca on Ideal Theory, Realism and Democratic Leadership'

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Tel: +44 1223 766886
Email enquiries@crassh.cam.ac.uk