In political science and sociology, elite theory is a theory of the state which seeks to describe and explain the power relationships in contemporary society. The theory posits that a small minority, consisting of members of the economic elite and policy-planning networks, holds the most power and that this power is independent of a state's democratic elections process. Through positions in corporations or on corporate boards, and influence over the policy-planning networks through financial support of foundations or positions with think tanks or policy-discussion groups, members of the "elite" are able to exert significant power over the policy decisions of corporations and governments. A recent example of this can be found in the Forbes Magazine article (published in December 2009) entitled The World's Most Powerful People, in which Forbes purported to list the 67 most powerful people in the world (assigning 1 "slot" for each 100,000,000 of human population).
Elite theory stands in opposition to pluralism in suggesting that democracy is a utopian ideal. It also stands in opposition to state autonomy theory.
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