John Quiggin considers the pejorative uses of “elite”, especially by people whom most would consider to be members of “the elite“.
This subject really calls for some type of comparative content analysis study coupled with all manners of argument and discourse analysis. The strange thing is that while elite is being used with a negative meaning in some parts of the political discourse, elitism is being promoted (often by self-proclaimed anti-elitists) in other parts.
Elite #1 as “detachment”: If you are a member of “the elite”, you by definition don’t know how “real people” feel (about immigration, the environment etc)
Elite #2 as “competitive parameter”: Governments around the world are busy promoting elite schools, elite universities (and so are university and school managements).
The obvious question is: Why would someone expect elite #2 with their special education where they have been carefully put at a safe distance from “ordinary” (i.e. worthless) students during their youth not to be detached from “ordinary people” and not to promote values which differ from those of the greater mass of the population?
Yeah, I know: There is lots of political polemics involved in this, but it is still interesting that the same term can be put to so different uses.
By the way: Andrew Gelman and colleagues point out that the rich don’t vote like the rest of us.