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The Myth of the Ruling Class: Gaetano Mosca and the "Elite." by James H.

Meisel
Review by: Ren de Visme Williamson
The Journal of Politics, Vol. 21, No. 1 (Feb., 1959), pp. 149-150
Published by: The University of Chicago Press on behalf of the Southern Political Science
Association

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1959]

149

BOOK REVIEWS

seen whether, at the time of their passing, elements of a genuine


political order have had time to grow in the hearts and minds of the
new German generation.
GERHARTNIEMEYER

University of Notre Dame

The Mytk of the Ruling Class: Gaetano Mosca and the "Elte."
By JAMES H. MEISEL. (Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan
Press, 1958. Pp. 432. $7.50.)
With his book The Mytk of the Ruling Class, Professor Meisel
has made a significant and important contribution to scholarship.
He has written the most complete, thorough and authoritative study
of Gaetano Mosca available in any language. For this service, all
American political scientists, particularly specialists in political
theory, are indebted.
The subtitle of the book is actually more accurately descriptive
than the title. Professor Meisel really has traced the development
of Mosca's thought chronologically, including all his works and
editions of his works. The personal life and public career of Mosca
are also reviewed and analyzed, although these elements are not so
prominent in a man like Mosca whose life was essentially what he
thought rather than what he did. The relationship of Mosca to his
contemporarieslike Pareto is discussed and evaluated, as are also the
reaction to the publication of Mosca's works and the controversies
to which they give rise. Meisel's judgments on controversies like
those between Pareto and Mosca are firm and yet judicious, and
never evasive. Attention is drawn not only to the sources of Moscaa
theories but to his emphases and omissions as well (notably in
History of Political Doctrines). In all these respects Meisel's work
is solid, interesting and stimulating.
The picture of Mosca which emerges from Meisel's vast research
and erudition is one which arouses sympathy in the reader. Here
was a learned, intellectually able, cultured and completely sincere
thinker who wrestled with some of the most fundamental problems
of political science but who did not receive the recognition he deserved and who lived to see the progressive disintegration of the
kind of world he believed in. He tried unsuccessfully to reconcile
a liberal (though not democratic) faith with a positivistic methodology which yielded elitist conclusions incompatible with his faith.

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150

THE JOURNAL

O0 POLITICS

[Vol. 21

All his life Mosca the political scientist tried to come to terms with
Mosca the man, and yet he was unable to do it in spite of his intellectual gifts. One admires the mixture of courage and moderation
which characterized his relation to the Fascist regime, but here
again was defeat. He was a kind of an apostle Paul, who never walked the road to Damascus and who remained the prisoner of the inadequate dogmas and conclusions of his youth.
Valuable, solid, full of insights as Meisel's book is, the reader
will nevertheless experience considerable difficulty because of the
constant shifting from exposition to criticism and back again. The
author had two alternatives, to write an impersonal exposition of
Mosca's thought or to write a book of his own on elitism with
Mosca as a convenient peg for source material. Instead of choosing
one or the other, Professor Meisel elected to combine them, and
therein lies the difficulty. This is a problem which every analyst of
someone else's thought has to face, and rare indeed is the one who
can combine both alternatives successfully.
RENE DE VISME WILLIAMSON

Louisiana State University


Authority. Edited by CARLJ. FREIRICH for the American Society
of Political and Legal Philosophy. (Cambridge, Massachusetts:
Harvard University Press, 1958. Pp. viii, 234. $5.00.)
This collection of thirteen essays on "Authority" is of primary
interest to historians, legal and political philosophers, and social
scientists. The book brings together suggestive ideas as to the
nature of authority, stimulating discussion of its relation to reason,
discretion, values, policy, law and free society. It reviews authority
in historical perspective, from the ancient Greeks on to select American and European thinkers and the new Asian and African elites. It
examines the concept of authority in socio-political perspective, as
it relates to political change and to legitimation, and as it appears in
primitive societies.
Authority has a whole range of meanings, and the writers define
it variously in their essays. Some see it as power vested in a do
terminate agency (Charles W. Hendel); as approved power exercised according to convention (George E. G. Catlin); as the institutionalized right to control others' actions in the attainment of
collective goals (Talcott Parsons); as an efficient imperative, in-

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