AskDefine | Define elitist

Dictionary Definition

elitist n : someone who believes in rule by an elite group [ant: egalitarian]

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. Of or relating to elitism.


of or relating to elitism


  1. Someone who believes in rule by an elite group.


someone who believes in rule by an elite group

Extensive Definition

Elitism is the belief or attitude that those individuals who are considered members of the elite — a select group of people with outstanding personal abilities, intellect, wealth, specialized training or experience, or other distinctive attributes — are those whose views on a matter are to be taken the most seriously or carry the most weight; whose views and/or actions are most likely to be constructive to society as a whole; or whose extraordinary skills, abilities or wisdom render them especially fit to govern . Alternatively, the term elitism may be used to describe a situation in which power is concentrated in the hands of the elite.
Opposed to elitism are "anti-elitism," "populism," and the political theory of pluralism. Elite theory is the sociological or political science analysis of elite influence in society - elite theorists regard pluralism as an utopian ideal.
Elitism may also refer to situations in which an elite individual assumes special privileges and responsibilities in the hope that this arrangement will benefit humanity.
At times, elitism is closely related to social class and what sociologists call social stratification. Members of the upper classes are sometimes, though inaccurately, known as the "social elite."
The term elitism is also sometimes misused to denote situations in which a group of people claiming to possess high abilities or simply an in-group or cadre grant themselves extra privileges at the expense of others. This debased form of elitism may be described as discrimination.

Characteristics of the "elite"

Attributes that identify an elite vary; personal achievement may not be essential. Elite usually denotes a person or group who is the best in a class. Elite attributes include:
  • Rigorous study of, or great accomplishment within, a particular field of study
  • A long track record of competence in a demanding field
  • An extensive history of dedication and effort in service to a specific discipline (e.g., medicine or martial arts)
  • A high degree of accomplishment, training or wisdom within a given field
An elite fighter, for example, is one whose training, resolve, and experience in combat place him at the top of his field. Most nations employ some kind of special forces made up of elite soldiers whose training goes far beyond what is typical for the average soldier.
The academic elite, on the other hand, comprises only those professors whose studies are likely to shape their respective disciplines for years to come.
Some synonyms for elite might be "World class," "Upper-class," and "Aristocratic," indicating that the individual in question is capable of participating effectively at the very highest levels of his or her chosen discipline.


Elitism as a pejorative term

The term "elitism" or the title "elitist" can be used resentfully by a person who is not a member of an elite, or is a member but resents the elite position or uses it in a condescending or cynical manner in order to ridicule or criticize practices which discriminate on the basis of ability or attributes. Often, such as in politics, it used to describe persons as out of touch with the common people. The implication is that the "elitist" person or group thinks they are better than everyone else, and therefore put themselves before others. It could be seen as a synonym for snob. An elitist is not always seen as truly elite, but only privileged. This use is often employed in politics in societies where social equality is valued, and the middle and lower classes have political power.

Elitism versus egalitarianism

Elitism can be interpreted as encouraging the exclusion of large numbers of people from positions of privilege or power. Thus, many populists seek the social equality of Egalitarianism, Populism, Socialism, or Communism. They may also support affirmative action, social security, luxury taxes, and increasingly high progressive taxes for the wealthiest members of society. All of these measures seek to reduce the gap of power between "the elite" and "the ordinary".

Elitism versus pluralism

Pluralism is the belief that public policy decisions should be (or, descriptively, are) the result of the struggle of forces exerted by large populations (workers, consumers, retirees, parents, etc.) directly or indirectly in the policy-making process. This is contrasted with elitism which is the belief that decisions should be (or are being) made essentially according to the interests or ideas of elites. There is a difference, however, between the idea of being more able to fulfill a political task and the actual knowing of the specialization and specifications of each corporation or other group among the general population and its particular hopes and needs, which suggests a way of cooperation which has been recently put into practice in some countries between politicians and groups of citizens which have some remote resemblances to Corporatism.

Elitism and education

Elitism in the context of education is the practice of concentrating attention on or allocating funding to the students who rank highest in a particular field of endeavour, with the other students being deemed less capable of achievement or as holding less promise for the society's future. For example, a politician who promotes specialized biochemistry classes for highly intelligent students in an effort to cure diseases might be accused of elitism.
Elitism in education could be based upon learning ability, knowledge, or other abilities. An elite school could merely be a wealthy school or an old school. Some examples of an elitist school are most often in countries with high schooling standards such as Korea, Japan, Singapore and Thailand.

See also


elitist in Czech: Elitářství
elitist in German: Elitarismus
elitist in Spanish: Elitismo
elitist in French: Élitisme
elitist in Hebrew: אליטיזם
elitist in Dutch: Elitarisme
elitist in Polish: Elitaryzm
elitist in Russian: Фаворитизм
elitist in Finnish: Elitismi
elitist in Chinese: 精英主义

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

Privacy Policy, About Us, Terms and Conditions, Contact Us
Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2
Material from Wikipedia, Wiktionary, Dict
Valid HTML 4.01 Strict, Valid CSS Level 2.1