ABSTRACT

The character of its elites is a crucial part of a society's structure. Many social theories ascribe a specific and important role to elites, particularly in terms of the functioning of liberal and democratic institutions (Field and Higley, 1980). 1 It is therefore not surprising that German elites have become a favored subject of social science analyses searching for clues that would further our understanding of Germany's uneven path toward democracy. More studies have been devoted to German elites than to those of other societies. Over the last twenty-five years, the small number of historical studies on German elites has been considerably enlarged by new historical-sociological analyses (Zapf, 1965; Nagle, 1977; Fischer, 1979; Baum, 1981; Herf, 1984; Best, 1988). Moreover, several comprehensive surveys of West German elites after 1945 provide a wealth of empirical material unparalleled in other nations (Deutsch and Edinger, 1959; Deutsch et al., 1967; Wildenmann, 1968; von Beyme, 1971; Herzog, 1975; Hoffmann-Lange et al., 1980; Wildenmann et al., 1982).