New York: Hearst’s International Library Co., 1915. First US edition in English. Octavo. Original printing that has been re-backed in blue cloth boards with gilt titling to spine. Faint toning to leaves, else near-fine. Item #70
First US edition of Robert Michels’s (1876–1936) seminal work on the “Iron Law of Oligarchy” and a widely recognized classic of sociology, political science, and elite theory. Michels, a German-born Italian sociologist, first published Political Parties in 1911 in German, and it was thereafter translated into Italian by Vilfredo Pareto in 1912 and into English by Eden Paul and Cedar Paul for Hearst’s International Library Co. in 1915. In Political Parties Michels analyzes the power structures operative within modern political, union, and other organizations, particularly within those organizations most openly committed to egalitarian and democratic processes, such as Communist, Socialist, and trade union groups. Michels discovers that in all organizations—even those most committed to egalitarianism and consensus—there inevitably emerges an elite sub-group, the oligarchy, in which power and authority ultimately concentrate. This “Iron Law of Oligarchy” explains the organizational tendencies of groups both large and small as well as of society itself. The emergence and persistence of such oligarchies is not, per se, the result of any defect in the given group, organization, or society. Rather, it is an inherent characteristic of all complex social systems which, Michels argues, must become governed by bureaucratic principles that entail oligarchy. Accordingly, he “who says organization, says oligarchy.” The book became a classic upon its publication, and many political observers believed its theories were instantly confirmed by the events of World War I and the widespread tendency of political parties, unions, and other groups to champion the war policies of their national governments despite such organizations’ conflicting doctrinal and philosophical missions. Political Parties has since exercised a profound impact on the sociology of political parties and the development of elite theory. Indeed, Michels is widely considered to be a co-founder of the influential Italian school of elitism with fellow Italian scholars Vilfredo Pareto and Gaetano Mosca. This copy of Political Parties is the first edition published in English in the US and has been beautifully re-backed in blue cloth boards.