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What disturbs power elite theorists most, however, is the demise of the public as an independent force in civic affairs. Instead of initiating policy, or even controlling those who govern them, men and women in America have become passive spectators, cheering the heroes and booing the villains, but taking little or no direct part in the action. Citizens have become increasingly alienated and estranged from politics as can be seen in the sharp decline in electoral participation over the last several decades. As a result, the control of their destinies has fallen into the lap of the power elite.|
Today, of course, it is hard to deny the apathy and disinterest among average citizens. But whereas pluralists view this passivity as understandable (people are too preoccupied with other concerns to take part in public affairs), if not beneficial (too many individuals placing demands on government can clog the system), elite theorists see it as the inevitable consequence of important decisions being made at the highest levels. People lose interest to the degree that they lose control. Moreover, in spite of Independence Day platitudes about good citizenship, the elite does not really encourage mass participation. Such involvement would make its control too uncertain.
The containment strategy adopted after World War II illustrates this point. As noted previously, the initial policies, which were developed largely behind the scenes, called for drastic changes in the way the United States conducted foreign affairs. In the years after 1947 the United States fought a major war in Korea and began spending billions and billions of dollars at home and overseas for national security.