Volltext: Problems in eugenics

232Section III.R. Michels. 
Roberto Michels, 
Professor of Political Economy, University of Turin. 
The fundamental thesis of my sociological theory is that an iron law 
leads to the formation of an oligarchy in all political parties, regardless of 
the nature of the doctrines they profess, whether monarchic, aristocratic, or 
democratic. To the illustration and scientific establishment of this law I 
devoted a very large part of my last volume about the Essence of Party 
Life in Modern Democracy^). I found in party life a threefold root of 
oligarchy; the first in individual psychology, the second in the psychology 
of the crowd, the third in the social neccessity of party organisation. 
Under the first of these I group the individual’s consciousness of his own 
importance, which with opportunity develops into the natural human lust 
for power, and, further, such individual qualities as native tact, editorial 
ability, and so on. Crowd psychology is characterized chiefly by the 
incompetence of the masses, their dependence upon traditional methods of 
party government and their feeling of gratitude to leaders who have 
suffered for the cause. Finally, the necessity for party organization grows 
with every increase of numbers and extension of functions. It is physically 
impossible for large party groups to govern themselves directly. All parties 
live in a state of perpetual warfare with opposing parties and, if they are 
revolutionary in character, with the existing social order itself. Tactical 
considerations, therefore, and above all the necessity of maintaining a 
oondition of military preparedness, strengthen the hands of the controlling 
clique within the party. 
Party leadership, basing itself upon these three tendencies, may at first 
be spontaneous and easily susceptible of changes in personnel. With 
enlarged numbers, however, the early loose leadership is superseded by 
professional direction. Soon the professional leaders become bureaucratic, 
masters of routine, and, in that way, superior in political education to their 
predecessors. Anyhow, from professional leadership the step to irremov­ 
able leadership is a short one, and with the stability thus attained the 
oligarchy is fairly developed. And with power once concentrated, party 
leadership, even that of socialistic groups, becomes cautious, conservative, 
intent above all to preserve its strength undiminished, and, if possible, 
to increase it. Besides, corresponding to Marx’s principle of the concen­ 
tration of capital, one can present the principle that with the increase of 
(i) In German: Zur Soziologie des Parieiwesens, Leipzig, 1911, Klinkhardt; in 
Italian, corrected and amplified La Sociologia del Partito Politico, Torino, 1912, 
Unione Tip Ed. Tor.; in French, Le Parti Politique, Paris, 1912, Flammarion.


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