Decision making in Broward County : a political economy approach


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Decision making in Broward County : a political economy approach
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vii, 199 leaves : ; 28 cm.
Vogel, Ronald K
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Group decision making -- Florida -- Broward County   ( lcsh )
Community power -- Decision making   ( lcsh )
Community power -- Decision making   ( fast )
Group decision making   ( fast )
Florida -- Broward County   ( fast )
Political Science thesis Ph. D
Dissertations, Academic -- Political Science -- UF
bibliography   ( marcgt )
theses   ( marcgt )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )


Thesis (Ph. D.)--University of Florida, 1986.
Includes bibliographical references (leaves 191-198).
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Also available online.
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General Note:
Statement of Responsibility:
by Ronald Kenneth Vogel.

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University of Florida
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aleph - 024332648
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Many people have contributed to the completion of this

dissertation. First, I would like to thank my parents. They provided

financial resources to pursue my education and a refuge to recoup from

the rigors of graduate school. Their faith in me never wavered.

I would like to thank those individuals who provided guidance and

encouragement throughout my graduate education. My greatest debt is

owed to Professor Bert E. Swanson, chairman of my supervisory

committee. He was generous with his time and patient beyond belief. I

consider him a teacher, a colleague, and a friend. I would also like

to thank Professor William Kelso who first encouraged me to attend

graduate school. His friendship and counsel were greatly appreciated

during this time. The other members of my committee, Professors

Deborah Baumgold, James Button, and Anthony LaGreca were also extremely

helpful. Gus Jones deserves special mention. While not serving on my

committee, he offered helpful advice and friendship throughout this

long process.

I would also like to express my gratitude to the Political Science

department at Valdosta State College. Dr. James Betka was particularly

supportive, both as a friend and colleague, providing me with good

teaching schedules and making department resources available.

Professor Roy Copeland generously allowed me to use his copy machine at

no charge, as well as his home, dinner table, and liquor, when I needed

a respite from teaching and writing. Dr. James Peterson allowed me

exclusive use of the department's only Apple computer, which greatly

facilitated the typing and editing of the final draft of this work.

I would be remiss if I did not thank my friends who graciously put

up with late night telephone calls. Included in this list are my

brother Robert and his wife Barbara, and my brothers Richard and Randy.

Others who deserve special thanks are Margy DeMar, Geeta Chowdhry, and

Karin Moore.

Professor Grady Lacy in Modern Foreign Languages at Valdosta State

College provided invaluable assistance in teaching me the intracacies

of "Applewriter." Mike Lekich proved an extremely reliable, if

underpaid, typist/printer. He willingly worked 24 hours straight to

help get the first submission of this paper to the editorial office

before the deadline. I have no doubt that my graduation would have

been delayed by at least three months without his assistance.

Finally, I wish to express my appreciation to the leaders of

Broward County. Without their cooperation, this project could never

have been started.



ACKNOWLEDGMENTS . . . . . . . . . . .. ii

ABSTRACT . . . . . . . . . . . .. vi



Community Power . . . . . . . . . 6
Contemporary Power Research . . . . . . . 9
Power as an Independent Variable . . . . .. 11
The Permanent Community Sample . . . . . .. 13
Critique of the Community Power Field . . . .. 15
What Do We Know? . ..... .................. 22
Where Do We Go From Here? .................. 26
Notes . . . . . . . . . . . .. 28


Elite Theory and Its Critics . . . . . .. 29
Pluralist Theory . . . . . . . . .. 39
Classifying Communities Using the Theories . . .. 41


The Political Economy Approach . . . . . .. 46
Case Study and Theory Development . . . . .. 55
A Research Site . . . . . . . . .. 59
Identification of Community Leaders . . . . .. 60

A LEADERSHIP PERSPECTIVE . . . . . . .... 68

Elite or Pluralist? . . . . . . . . .. 69
Classifying the Community . . . . . . .. 76
Factors Associated With Pluralism . . . . .. 78
Consequences of Pluralism . . . . . . .. 82
Leadership in a Pluralist System . . . . . .. 86
Notes . . . . . . . . . . . .. 92


Growth and Development in Broward County . . . .. 93
Efforts to Unify Government Decision Making . . .. 96
Centralizing Leadership: A Strong Mayor . . . .... 113
Centralizing the Authority Structure:
Deliberate Action . . . . . . . . .. .117

THE BROWARD WORKSHOP . . . . . . . ... 120

Past Studies of Growth in Broward County . . .. .121
Growth and the Business Community . . . . ... 126
The Broward Workshop . . . . . . . . .. .130
Leadership Broward . . . . . . . . .. .142


The Relationship Between Public and Private Leaders. . 146
An Application of Lindblom's Privileged
Position of Busines Thesis . . . . . ... 151
Government Leaders Versus Business Leaders . . .. .169
Can Business Privilege Be Overcome?
Molotch's Growth Machine . . . . . . .. 172

VIII CONCLUSION . . . . . . . . . . .. 176

Towards a Typology of Business-Government
Relationships . . . . . . . . . .. 176
Summary . . . . . . . . ............. 187
Future Research . . . . . . . . . .. . 188

BIBLIOGRAPHY . . . . . . . . . . . .. 191

BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH . . . . . . . . . .. .199

Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy



Ronald Kenneth Vogel

May 1986

Chairman: Bert E. Swanson
Major Department: Political Science

Studies of community decision making abound, yet the classic

elite-pluralist debate has remained unresolved. Without answering the

question "who governs?" researchers shifted focus to "where, when, and

with what effects?" Researchers using an inadequate conceptualization

of community decision making combined with their ideological

predispositions produced largely uninteresting and insignificant

results of the relationship between power and local policy outputs.

Worse, researchers managed to take politics out of the study of

community decision making. The community power field, a once thriving

and exciting field of study, was abandoned by many as a result.

To overcome these problems, a political economy orientation is

adopted, the focus being how do the public and private decision making

systems relate to each other. Community decision making consists of

two separate but intertwined processes, one based in the private sector

commonly called the power structure and the other in government or the

authority structure. This orientation allows us to reconsider elite

and pluralist theory and how, as used by researchers, they explain

different aspects of community decision making. The emphasis is not to

prove one theory over another but to attempt to synthesize the

theories. Many differences in their explanations are traced to

incomplete conceptualizations of community decision making.

In a case study of Broward County, Florida, the dynamics of

business-government relations are examined. This study reveals that

the structure of decision making does matter, affecting the quantity

and quality of policy outputs in the community. Leaders have attempted

to centralize the governmental authority structure and private power

structure in an effort to overcome what they believe are severe

deficiencies in operating in a pluralist system. A typology of

community decision making is introduced based on the research findings

depending on the degree of centralization of the power structure and

the authority structure. Decentralized decision making structures are

seen to disadvantage communities competing in an era of mobile capital.

A trend towards increased government-business cooperation based on

mutual dependence is identified.


Community power structure studies have evolved into a general

field of research since the early part of this century. Communities

were first studied, and still are today, because they are thought to

represent a microcosm of the larger political system. It is believed

that in the locality, one can most readily observe the dynamics of

decision making. Community power structure studies, it was hoped,

would increase our awareness of the political processes which take

place in the political system. This field of research seeks to

describe and explain community decision making and how it affects local

policy outputs. These studies aid us in assessing the relative health

of our democracy by allowing us to compare our ideals to reality. In

this way we are able to guage the workings of democracy and adjust our

system, our values and beliefs, or our behavior accordingly. Finally,

community power structure studies could, potentially, enable us to

better design and implement programs aimed at the many urban problems

which confront us by providing planners with a more complete

understanding of the urban processes.

The community power field is also the source of one of the larger

controversies in the social sciences, which pits two rival theories of

political power and their alternative explanations of politics and

public policy against each other. In the classical elite-pluralist

debate, scholars have clashed over conceptualizations of power, the

existence of an elite, methodologies to locate community leaders, and

the scientific objectivity of research. The debate has pitted

sociologists against political scientists, the left against the right,

and normative democratic theorists against empirical democratic

theorists. While this debate has raged for more than thirty years, it

is marked by the relative lack of progress in building an accumulated

body of knowledge expected of a discipline which uses the label

"science." Questions have been raised about the reception of ideas in

political science as a result (Ricci, 1980).

There have been two major responses to the disarray found in the

community power field. The first response has been to change the focus

of study from, in Terry Clark's words, "who governs?" to "where, when,

and with what effects?" (Clark, 1975, p. 271). On the surface, this

shift would seem to be a natural step and enhance our understanding of

power structures. However, it was accompanied by a reformulation of

the problem. To avoid getting bogged down in the elite-pluralist

debate of the early sixties, and to facilitate large scale aggregate

analysis, elite and pluralist theory were operationalized as a

centralization-decentralization index. Researchers attempted to

isolate the factors associated with variation in policy outputs in

different communities using the centralization index in place of power

structure. Instead of focusing on power structure, the new focus

became policy outputs. The problem is, the elite-pluralist questions

still remain unanswered. If we do not really understand the difference

between elite and pluralist communities, how can we understand what

difference it will make in terms of policy outputs? We need to better

understand "who governs?" before we can adequately answer the questions

"where, when, and with what effects?"

A second response to the community power impasse was to abandon

the field of inquiry all together. Polsby (1980) has questioned the

utility of further research in this vein, given the inability to say

anything more than we could when the elite-pluralist debate was at its

height in the early sixties. Yates (1977, pp. 86-90) argues that

community power structures are misleading because they suggest that

power is structured in the community. Instead, he argues that we

should study issue networks which transcend community boundaries. He

states that every policy has its own power structure, taking in

communities, states, and the national government, as well as other

actors in society.

To abandon community power studies because of the difficulties

encountered in research and the lack of a cohesive body of knowledge in

favor of a policy approach devoid of a community framework is

premature. As Ricci (1980) points out, all of the problems encountered

in the community power research are also present in policy studies.

People live and work and act in communities. This does not mean that

vertical linkages should be ignored, only that we should not lose sight

that power is still structured in the community. If in recent years,

power has shifted more toward Washington, Reagan's New Federalism

ensures that the community leadership will have greater control over

local policy for many more years.

The rest of this chapter traces the development of the community

power field over the years. The major controversies are identified and

the two major theories of political power, elite and pluralist, are

introduced. The movement away from case studies to large-scale

aggregate analysis is examined. Also, the policy outputs approach of

Terry Clark and others is described. The chapter addresses the

questions of what do we know and where do we go from here. While the

response of some to the confusion and contradictions found in the

literature is to abandon this field of inquiry all together, a case is

made that much of the present impasse results from the lack of

theoretical focus of much of the research. An additional problem has

been the reliance on large scale aggregate analysis, particularly the

Permanent Community Sample of 51 communities, which has displaced

original case study research to a great extent.

In Chapter II, elite and pluralist theory are examined in greater

detail. The problem of how to classify a community is also considered.

The research strategy and methodology are outlined in Chapter III.

Here the political economy framework is introduced which emphasizes

that community decision making really consists of two separate but

intertwined decision processes, one based in the private sector and

commonly called the power structure, and the other in government or the

authority structure. This improved conceptualization of community

decision making offers a way out of the elite-pluralist dichotomy that

has dominated the field and prevented significant progress toward a

theory of community power.

The major research premise is that theories of political power

ought to be operational in the community. To overcome several of the

problems in community power research, this study uses the case method

to reexamine leadership and decision making in the community. Eckstein

(1975) describes how the case method can be used for theory building.

The case study enables us to specify the process by which power

structure may shape policy, something that large scale aggregate

analysis can only speculate about. By adopting the "heuristic case"

approach, we may generate theory by examining phenomena and seeing

where the present theories are applicable and where they need to be

filled out (Eckstein, 1975, p. 104). Rather than interpret theories of

political power in the community, we can allow the findings in the

community to help shape the theory.

After describing the research approach, the choice of a research

site, Broward County, and the method of identifying community leaders

are discussed. A variant of the reputational method was chosen to

identify community leaders. The method was corrected for pluralist

criticisms by (1) using a two-step approach, where a panel of community

knowlegdeables selects community influentials; (2) including several

elected officials in the original panel of community knowledgeable to

overcome any bias towards private sector leaders; (3) asking leaders

identified by the first panel to name the ten most influential leaders

in the community instead of the top five leaders (as many reputational

studies do); and (4) asking open-ended questions about community

decision making and issues.

Chapter IV presents the results of the reputational survey. More

importantly, the chapter describes Broward County's decision making

system from the leadership's perspective. Broward's leaders described

Broward as a very pluralistic community, but then went on to decry this

state of affairs. This runs contrary to conventional wisdom that

pluralism is a desirable way to run the community.

In Chapters V and VI, efforts by Broward leaders to centralize

community decision making are examined. Leaders in Broward have

attempted to centralize the authority structure (government) and the

power structure (economic sector) in order to overcome the limitations

of pluralist decision making (described in Chapter IV). Efforts to

unify the power structure were centered in the creation of the Broward

Workshop, an organization of the top private sector leaders.

In Chapter VII, we examine the underlying systemic biases that

affect policy making. The structure of community decision making has

important consequences for policy making. A typology of the patterns

of relationship between political and economic leaders at the local

level is presented in the final chapter. Our purpose is not to test

elite or pluralist theory, but to gain a better understanding of

community decision making. In this effort, the newer political economy

approach will be helpful. The focus then will be what is the

relationship between the political and economic leaders in the

community and how should we characterize this relationship.

Community Power

The first major work in this area was the Lynds' study of

Middletown (1929 and 1937) which found an elite structure dominated by

the economic sector and based on family ties. Hunter (1953) in Atlanta

confirmed the existence of an elite by using the reputational approach.

Mills (1956) at the national level, employing the positional approach,

suggested American politics was dominated by a "power elite." Though

Hunter's elite was qualitatively different from Mills, in both cases an

elite was found to exercise a disproportionate share of power in the

community. These two works served as the basis for the elite theory

that guided subsequent studies.

Then Dahl (1961) and Polsby (1963), his student, set the basis for

the pluralist school to challenge the elite paradigm of American

politics. Dahl, in a case study of New Haven, using the decisional

approach, found different leaders active in different issue areas, with

the mayor as the predominant figure in an executive-centered coalition.

Polsby attacked Hunter and other elite studies as fallacious. He

embarked on a crusade against the positional and reputational

approaches to the study of power, arguing that one must look to actual

behavior in the community, an approach that came to be labelled the

"decisional" approach.

Bachratz and Baratz (1962) raised the nondecision problem and

argued the decisional method missed the agenda-setting stage where

alternative policies are originally shaped. They attacked the logic of

studying government decisions alone, as researchers would miss efforts

to limit the agenda of government. This criticism went to the heart of

the pluralist school and shed doubt on the decisional approach. The

stage was thus set for the ensuing elite-pluralist debate, much of

which was conducted in an unscholarly vein. Presthus (1964) using the

reputational and decisional approaches found much overlap between the

two methods. More importantly, he found little empirical difference

between the elite and pluralist schools of thought. He states:

To some extent, where sociologists found monopoly and called it
elitism, political scientists found oligopoly but defined it in
more honorific terms as pluralism. (Presthus, 1964, p. 430)

Thus, much of the debate revolved not around the objective reality in

our communities, but the interpretation of the findings.

Agger, Goldrich, and Swanson (1964) introduced a typology of power

structures and regimes. They emphasized the role of leadership

ideology as an independent variable on the community structure and

subsequent policy outputs. Their conceptualization improved the

elite-pluralist debate by providing a more complete and realistic

portrayal of the urban decision making process than the simple

elite-pluralist dichotomy. While ideology is difficult to measure,

researchers must be sensitive to possible differences in power

structure ideology and avoid sweeping generalizations about the

attitudes and preferences of an elite or pluralist power structure.

As researchers began to recognize that some of the differences

between pluralist and elite power structures were semantical in nature,

a shift in focus from "who governs?" to "where, when, and with what

effects?" took place (Clark 1975). Though researchers began to abandon

the elite-pluralist debate all together, most of the issues remained

unresolved. Secondary analysis of case studies and large scale

comparative studies followed. Questions of disciplinary field as a

major source of variation in the findings of researchers were raised.

Sociologists tended to find that communities were elite run, while

political scientists usually found communities were pluralistic. New

questions about approach (position, reputational, or decisional) were

raised as well. Walton (1966) found the discipline of researchers

influenced the method of study of the community and subsequently the

type of power structure arrived at. Gilbert (1968) in a larger study

(166 case studies were examined) found discipline to be unrelated to

the type of power structure found.

In the early 1970s, a number of researchers attempted to assess

the field of community power (Clark, 1975). This is evidenced by the

appearance of several anthologies: Clark, Community Structure and

Decision-making: Comparative Analyses (1968); Aiken and Mott, The

Structure of Community Power (1970); and Hawley and Wirt, The Search

for Community Power (1974).

Contemporary Power Research

Kasarda and Lineberry (1980) see three directions in contemporary

community power research. The first is research in the original

elite-pluralist tradition of the early 1960s, focusing on the question

of who governs. This is typified by Domhoff (1978) in his

reexamination of New Haven (Dahl, 1961). Domhoff concludes that New

Haven was elite run all along. Hunter's (1980) revisit to Atlanta, in

which he traced the durability of the power structure, and Polsby's

(1980) revised and expanded version of his earlier work, which contains

additional critiques of elite studies, also fall into this category.

More recent examples of research in this vein are Trounstine and

Christensen's (1982) study of San Jose, and Whitt's (1982) study of the

transportation issue in California. Trounstine and Christensen using

the reputational approach, find, as the literature would suggest, that

growth leads to a more pluralistic structure, but they question how

much decision making is left to the cities given the changing economy

and broader forces in society beyond the reach of the community. They

draw a clear distinction between sunbelt and frostbelt communities.

Whitt studies a statewide issue, transportation, in California, over

time. He assesses how well pluralist, elitist, and ruling class

theories of political power fit the decision to build the Bay Area

Rapid Transit (BART) system and changes in the state allocation of

highway monies over a twelve-year period. He concludes that while each

theory contributes to an understanding of the issue and its resolution,

the class-dialectic (ruling class) model of political power is the most


A second direction in community power research identified by

Kasarda and Lineberry (1980) is that of network analysis characterized

by Imershein and Liebert (1977). Their emphasis is on organizational

linkages and their findings have a

distinctively political theme that tends to find the greatest
efficacy of power, and indeed the most universal structure of
power, to lie in a certain organized diversity, a pluralist set of
subsystems with an integrated system of elites. (Imershein and
Leibert, 1977, p. 16)

The way to understand the community according to these researchers is

to study the organizations in the community which are the major locus

of power.

According to Kasarda and Lineberry (1980), the third direction of

research in community power is the policy output field. This has

coincided with a shift in focus from such questions as "who governs?"

to "where, when, and with what effects?" (Clark, 1975). Researchers

attempt to isolate the factors associated with variation in policy

output in different communities. In particular, Clark (1971), Aiken

and Alford (1970), Lyon and Bonjean (1981) and others have attempted to

use power structure to explain variation in policy outputs among

communities. To date, researchers have been largely unsuccessful in

linking the power structure type, whether elite or pluralistic, to the

type of policy output in the community (Lyon, 1977). This is also true

for the later centralized-decentralized conceptualization which has

replaced the more traditional elite-pluralist conceptualization.

Utilizing the Permanent Community Sample (PCS), a sample of

fify-one communities ranging in population from 50,000 to 750,000

persons, Clark finds evidence that centralized power structures cause

separable goods such as poverty programs, housing, and model cities

programs (Clark, 1975). Lyon and Bonjean (1981) test Clark's

separability model and Aiken's (1970) mobilization model to explain

variations in policy outputs. Aiken suggests that the level of

participation and organization in a community should increase policy

outputs. He looked at several federal programs which parallel Clark's

separability dimension. The test revealed that neither model could

explain variation in outputs even half of the time.

Lyon and Bonjean then formulated a new hypothesis using the

distinction between routine and nonroutine decisions measured against

the centralization-decentralization dimension. They find that

specification of decisions as routine or nonroutine improves the

linkage to the type of power structure. Thus, model cities which Clark

is led to predict would have higher outputs in decentralized cities was

really more closely tied to centralized cities, as the program required

much coordination in the planning stages to be successful.

Decentralized structures were at a disadvantage as competition and

fragmentation reduced coordination necessary to receive federal funds.

More recently, Lyon, Felice, Perryman, and Parker (1981) have found

"business power" to be related to growth, using the PCS. While they

define business power somewhat differently from Clark's

decentralization index, they do incorporate Clark's variable into


Power as an Independent Variable

The results of using power as an independent variable to explain

policy outputs are inconclusive. Some researchers have found


environmental conditions such as urbanization, wealth, and education to

be the major determinants of public policy to the exclusion of

political variables at all (Sharkansky, 1970; Dye, 1966, 1976).

In fact, Lyon (1977) examined three prominent power policy models

in the literature, Clark's fragility model, Clark's separability model,

and Aiken and Alford's Community Mobilization Model. Clark's fragility

model says that "fragile" policies or new conflictual policies like

fluoridation are likely to be associated with centralized power

structures. "Nonfragile" or non-conflictual policies like police

expenditures are likely to be associated with decentralized power

structures. The separability model and mobilization model are

discussed above. Lyon concludes:

Quite simply, the power-policy models of Clark and Aiken and
Alford do not account for a majority of the associations found
between political decentralization and policy outputs. (Lyon,
1977, p. 475)

Lyon then tests demographic-ecological variables including "(I)

urbanism, (2) racial composition, (3) maturity/growth and (4)

socioeconomic status," to account for the relationship between power

and policy (Lyon, 1977, p. 475). He operationalizes the variables as

"(I) population size, (2) percent Negro, (3) percent of housing

constructed before 1950, and (4) median family income." He argues:

These demographic-ecological variables are more than twice as
powerful in explaining the total variation in the policy outputs
considered in this paper. This leaves those of us interested in
community power with a most difficult question to answer: If the
easier-to-measure demographic-ecological variables can produce
larger correlations with policy outputs, why bother with measures
of community power? (Lyon, 1977, p. 475)

Lyon discusses Aiken's (1970) similar findings:

Some recent analysts have come close to suggesting not bothering
at all. Consider for example Aiken's conclusion after surveying
the small statistical correlations he found between his secondary
classification of community power and participation in federal
programs. "It seems apparent from the results here that the
community power perspective as it now exists, is simply not the
most appropriate model to use (Aiken 1970: 517)." (Lyon, 1970, p.

Many of the problems encountered in attempting to link the structure of

community decision making to policy outputs are related to more general

problems found in the community power field (see next section).

However, many of the difficulties are the result of the way the PCS was

collected and operationalized, as well as the way researchers have

attempted to analyze these data.

The Permanent Community Sample

The Permanent Community Sample (PCS) was collected in 1967. At

the time, the sample was hailed as a major advancement for urban

researchers, as now a large sample (fifty-one cities) was available for

comparative analysis (Clark, 1975). Data were available on numerous

variables, including informal power structure, operationalized as a

"decentralization index." However, there are serious questions about

the reliability of Clark's index. The index is constructed by

tabulating the results of a reputational survey conducted in each of

the communities with informants identifying the number of actors active

in four issue areas. The answer of each respondent was tallied with

the other respondents in a twenty cell matrix. Clark then reasons that

the major features of pluralism are (1) the number of actors who

participate in an issue area; and (2) the overlap of actors from one

issue area to another. Using these criteria, he collapses the twenty

cell matrix into a single index of decentralization.

Clark is somewhat vague in his publications (Clark, 1968, 1975) as

to the exact procedures used to create the index. According to Clark,

an actor may be defined as a single individual or a group of

individuals with similar status. Thus, two businessmen active in the

same issue would be counted as one actor. But if the same individual

was identified by two informants with a different status given by each

(e.g., corporate president and democratic party chairman), he would be

treated as two actors. The intent of this conceptualization was to

weight the index by involvement of community institutions rather than

by individual participants. This could seriously distort the index and

make it very difficult to interpret results. There is also the problem

of how to replicate the index in other studies.

In addition to the above problems, this reformulation of pluralism

lacks a theoretical orientation. An index of decentralization can

hardly capture the complexity of the pluralist model. Pluralism is

concerned with more than just the number of actors and amount of

overlap among issue areas, as important as these elements may be. By

the same token, how are we to interpret centralized decision making?

What guides the behavior of actors in a centralized structure as

opposed to an elite structure? Clark does not tell us, though he

regards the abandonment of the elite-pluralist field as a step forward

for the field. This lack of theoretical orientation seriously reduces

the explanatory power of policy output research. Walton (1976), Warren

(1977), and Lyon (1977) all point out the limitations of a focus on

structural and demographic characteristics. It leaves too little room

for political explanations and is overly deterministic.

In part the comparative studies using the PCS data suffer from the

same difficulties encountered in any large scale data analysis. That

is, while numerous variables are available for study, they are not

always the variables which operationalize our concepts. Often, they

are simply the only ones available, so we must make do. While it makes

sense to collect aggregate budget expenditures for cities, this

information does not allow the researcher to qualitatively

differentiate resource allocation of cities. Lyon and Bonjean (1981)

point out how this lack of specificity regarding the outputs being

compared hinders researchers who attempt to link policy outputs to

community structure.

Other measurement errors may result from Clark's use of membership

in the League of Women Voters to indicate civic group involvement in

the community. While there are logical reasons for this choice, as

Clark points out, it nevertheless detracts from our confidence in

research conclusions based on these variables. The point is not that

Terry Clark and other researchers in this vein do not realize the

problems inherent in their research methods and data but that all of

these factors have inhibited the development of a concrete body of

knowledge with wide application in the social sciences.

Critique of Community Power Field

Polsby (1963, 1980) suggests that there is little in the

conceptual, theoretical, or methodological debates which characterize

the community power field to interest any but a select few scholars in

sociology and political science. He finds the field irrelevant to the

concerns and needs of the serious urban analyst or planner. In the

second edition of his book, Polsby states:

The literature on community power, no exemplar of clarity or
intelligence when I first wrote the book [1963], has since its
publication become even more dense with misunderstandings of all
kinds, while burgeoning in nearly every direction--every
direction, that is, except toward the resolution of empirical
problems about the shape and scope of power in American
communities. (Polsby, 1980, pp. IX-XII)

He continues:

To the recent upsurge of interest in problems of the local
community, in urban political activity--legal and illegal, mass
and elite--and in the impact of demography and policy upon the
lives of city dwellers, the study of community power has
contributed little or nothing in the way of knowledge. It should
have been plain enough a decade ago, but at any rate it bears
repeating, that the academic study of community power is not much
about urban politics. (Polsby, 1980, pp. IX-XII)

This is pretty severe criticism to make of a field of study with

so much research. In fact, according to Curtis and Petras:

The published social science literature bearing on this topic now
includes well over six hundred items written primarily by
political scientists and sociologists. There have been over
eighty systematic attempts to present an overall, composite
description of the structure of power in particular communities.
. These studies are accompanied in the literature by hundreds
of critiques of methodological approaches, attempts at conceptual
refinement, studies of narrower facets of community political
processes, and reviews and commentaries on particular studies.
(Curtis and Petras, 1977, p. 369)

Let us examine the various criticisms that have been made.

The community power field has been criticized for lacking many of

the attributes considered desirable in a science. Science requires

theory, yet the community power field often times appears theoretical.

While science does not always require researchers to proceed with a

theoretical orientation, descriptive study must be placed in a broader

perspective. One cannot explain a phenomenon by the phenomenon itself.

It seems that many researchers explain the community decision making

structure without reference to a previous theoretical orientation or

offering a new one themselves. An example of this is Clark's

reformulation of the elite-pluralist debate to one of centralization

versus decentralization (as discussed earlier).

A second criticism of the field is that researchers often fail to

take account of their slightly different agendas, which may cause them

to talk past one another. Walton (1976) points out that there have

been at least three different substantive concerns of researchers.

Hunter (1953) was concerned with the origins of policy and the issue of

democracy. Dahl (1961) was concerned with patterns of political

participation, as well as the distribution of resources in the

community and their effect on participation and decision making. He

also was concerned with the issue of democracy. Clark and the newer

researchers are concerned with structural characteristics of cities and

their relation to outputs. What many observers have bemoaned as an

unscholarly debate about methods of inquiry in the classic

elite-pluralist debate of the early 1960s might better be understood as

a normative debate about the nature of democratic decision making

argued at the community level. Read this way, there is little cause

for celebration in the abandonment of a field of research dealing with

such important questions.

A third criticism of the community power field is the lack of

agreement on concepts, definitions of terms, and measurement.


Researchers in this field often do not tell you how they conceive power

or operationalize it. Curtis and Petras (1977, p. 386) point out that

most researchers do not define what power structures are, though they

use the term freely in their writing. Polsby (1980) takes to task

those researchers, like Long (1958), who employ metaphors in place of

rigorous and scientific inquiry. On a hopeful note, it does seem that

researchers are much readier to recognize the strengths and weaknesses

of each of three major approaches to identify community leadership: the

reputational, positional, and decisional methods (see Chapter II).

Many of the criticisms of the community power field revolve around

the unscholarly behavior of many of the researchers, some of them the

most respected in the discipline. Reasonable disagreements over

methods and conceptualizations become ideological debates with little

rational discussion. While some of this can be attributed to the

different agendas that researchers were addressing, as discussed above,

the venomous attacks by one side or the other rarely met the

expectations of how scientists ought to behave towards one another.

Rather than test their own theories and the theories of others,

researchers tend to interpret their data selectively. Polsby (1980)

effectively critiques much of the elite work, but then, with blinders

on, he defies anyone to find fault with pluralist studies, seemingly

viewing himself as a crusading white knight out to destroy the elite

theory. Domhoff (1978) argues persuasively that pluralist theory fails

to account for much of the inequality he finds pervasive in American

society, but he asks the student of power to accept on faith what he

cannot document. For example, Domhoff is unable to document that

individuals in positions of power act in their own class or

self-interest, yet this does not prevent him from asserting this is the


An additional criticism, mentioned earlier, is that much of the

research and writing in the field avoids political questions (Walton,

1976). This is particularly true of the quantitative research using

the PCS. A focus on structural and demographic characteristics leaves

little room for political explanations. Polsby (1980) points out that

those who are primarily interested in the "stuff" of local politics

will be disappointed looking for it in the community power field.

It is difficult to tell whether contradictory findings in the

field are due to differences in (1) conceptualizations, (2)

methodology, (3) theoretical orientations, (4) discipline, (5)

interpretation of data, or (6) real differences in communities. This

has led many to consider the field as a Kuhnian paradigm. David Ricci

(1980), in a perceptive article, finds the field readily fits a Kuhn

paradigm (see also Curtis and Petras, 1977; and Walton, 1966). He


On a great many key questions of proof and disproof for new ideas
in the field, those who argued for a particular idea employed
exactly the same logic which they identified in their opponent's
work and which caused them to argue against his idea. (Ricci,
1980, pp. 463-64)

Areas identified by Ricci where parallel arguments are employed by

adherents to the positional and reputational methods on the one hand

and the followers of the decisional method on the other, in stating

their own case and attacking their opponent's will be discussed



First of all, Ricci points out that both sides accuse the other of

research methods which predetermine study results. In discussing the

reputational and positional methods favored by elite researchers, he

states, "the concept of power as a potential force led logically to the

conclusion that a few lead, and all others must follow." The parallel

argument is that the decisional method preferred by pluralist

researchers leads them to focus on actual decisions, overlooking the

nondecisionn" problem, and biasing results to pluralist conclusions

(Ricci, 1980, p. 464).

Ricci also points out that pluralist researchers criticized Hunter

(1953) and other elite researchers for reliance on the reputational

approach, since the information provided was subjective and not subject

to independent verification. Yet, as Ricci points out, pluralist

researchers were dependent on interviews with community actors,

newspaper articles, and other historical documents which were no more

objective or reliable than the information provided by reputational

interviews (Ricci, 1980, p. 466).

Pluralists charged that elite researchers could not show that

other actors were not involved in community decision making, besides

those identified in the reputational survey. However, pluralist

studies, the counter-argument goes, also prematurely limit the

identification of community leaders to those who are actually active,

leaving open the possibility of overlooking other participants

before or after the study, or those whose participation is simply not

overt (Ricci, 1980, pp. 466-67).

Ricci also points out that though elite researchers charged that

community leaders identified by the positional and reputational methods

represented their class- or self-interests, rather than the community's

interests, they were unable to prove this cohesion. He states:

In short, scholars who used the reputational and positional
techniques could not prove the lack of cohesion they said existed,
but scholars who studied decision-making also could not prove the
lack of cohesion they said exists. (Ricci, 1980, p. 467)

While elite theory, according to Polsby (1963) suffers from the

problem of "infinite regress" wherein it is always argued that even if

an elite is not revealed, it is simply because the elite is hidden,

pluralist theory has a similar excuse. Ricci tells us that pluralist

theory rests on the idea that "indirect influence" provides a check on

government and ensures responsiveness to the public. Yet indirect

influence is an untestable concept, and therefore no less a fallacy

than that of infinite regress (Ricci, 1980, p. 468).

Another parallel argument is that of "anticipated reactions" on

the one hand and the nondecisionn" on the other. Elite theorists

criticized pluralists for ignoring the role of elites in setting the

agenda and shaping the alternatives. Pluralists responded by pointing

to the problems of researching the nondecision while employing the

concept of anticipated reactions in their own theory. If as the

pluralists say, it is not possible to study the nondecision, and

therefore it is not a very useful concept, Ricci questions why it is

justified to speak of anticipated reactions, which are also not

observable (Ricci, 1980, p. 465).

The last point Ricci raises to demonstrate the similarities

between the elite and pluralist arguments for their positions, and the

weaknesses of their opponents, is the "ubiquity of underlying

interests." Ricci points out that elite researchers can safely

conclude elitism, even if they fail to demonstrate elite cohesion,

because of the shared experiences which will cause elites to support

the same policies. The pluralist version of this is that all groups

are potentially organizable and therefore exert indirect influence on

decision makers [1]. Neither of these arguments has been proven,

though both make sense theoretically. If it is incorrect to accept one

notion, then how can it be all right to accept the other in the absence

of any clear evidence (Ricci, 1980, p. 470). Ricci concludes:

In the field of community power, as we have just seen, the
acceptance of ideas was far less a matter of applying objective
rules than of applying subjective values, whatever these might
have been. For that field, at least, it is best to speak of
"conversion experiences," "acts of faith," and "gestalt switches,"
as Kuhn did. (Ricci, 1980, p. 470)

Ricci is unsure whether this problem is limited to the community power

field or has wider application to the political science discipline. He

does, however, point out that the problems faced by the community power

field are present in any are of social science research including the

policy sciences.

What Do We Know?

After more than fifty years of study, one would expect that we

know quite a bit about the structure of urban decision making and the

role of power in the community [2]. This, unfortunately, is not the

case. While we have many theories, hypotheses, ideas, suspicions, and

hunches, our actual understanding of the community processes is slight.

We can say very little with certainty.

In answer to the first question, "who governs?" the evidence is

still far from clear. About all we do know is that some communities

are more elitist than others; but in all communities, a relatively few

actors are responsible for community decisions. Curtis and Petras

(1977) sum it up this way:

The student who carefully reads the literature will not obtain a
clear perspective on the nature of American community power. At
present, he may only conclude that the conflicting findings tend
to give some support to either a "pluralist" or a
"stratificationist" theoretical perspective on community political
life. (Curtis and Petras, 1977, p. 418)

Lyon (1977) responds similarly:

Answers to the first question, "who governs?", have constituted
the major bulk of community power studies (e.g., Hunter, 1953;
Dahl, 1961). The general conclusion that emerged from this
research was that different communities do indeed possess
significantly different power structures. However, few
generalizations beyond this single finding can be made without
comparative research. (Lyon, 1977, p. 418)

Once researchers concluded that communities varied along an

elite-pluralist scale, the focus of research shifted to examining power

structure as a dependent variable. We have made some inroads

identifying the factors associated with different types of power

structures. The findings are listed below. These statements are

synthesized from Clark (1973), Gilbert (1968), and Walton (1970).

1. Communities which are more autonomous are more likely to have
centralized power structures. Vertical linkages decentralize the
power structure. Horizontal and vertical differentiation
introduce competitive decision making structures and increase the
available base resources in the community.

2. Demography is important in that structural differentiation
which is related to size leads to power dispersion. The greater
the social diversity, the more decentralized the power structure.
(Population size is only related, however, to the degree that it
represents heterogeneity.)

3. Economic diversity is associated with dispersed power
structures. As the economic structure becomes more diversified
(differentiated), the transaction costs are increased between
horizontal sectors reducing the probability of activation outside
one's own sector. When vertical linkages are increased, where
previously weak, decentralization will result.

4. Political structure of the community contributes to the type of
power structure, in that reform governments are related to more
centralized power structures.

5. Civic organizations and political parties help to explain the
existing power structure, in that the greater the number of
organizations present and the more competitive the party system,
the more decentralized the power structure.

6. Values of the community are found to set the parameters of
government activity. This is related to leadership style and
ideology. (Agger, Goldrich, and Swanson, 1964)

The state of our knowledge of power as a dependent variable is not

very great. Though we seem able to specify the variables which affect

the community power structure, there is little evidence of which

factors are most important and to what degree. Lyon (1977) puts it

this way:

In order to determine "Who governs and Why?", . it became
necessary to go beyond case studies and employ a large number of
communities in the research effort. This type of research has
usually focused upon demographic-ecological predictors of
community power, with typically weak and mixed results. (Lyon,
1977, p. 416)

In terms of looking at power structure as an independent variable

to explain policy outputs, the results are not much better. Though

three power-policy models have been developed (see earlier discussion),

the fragility model, the separability model, and the community

mobilization model, the evidence suggests none of the models are

statistically significant in their attempts to account for policy

differences among communities (Lyon, 1977).

Lyon and Bonjean (1981) have been able to make some progress in

this area recently. Using the PCS, they find that non-routine

decisions are more likely to be linked to the type of power structure

with centralized structures (elite) more likely to produce policies

which require coordination. Decentralized structures (pluralist) are

more likely to generate separable policies (distributive). Routine

decisions are more likely to be linked to the bureaucracy (rather than

the power structure) unless they become controversial. One final

conclusion which is readily accepted in the community power field, is

that a changing economy and broader forces in society are reducing

local autonomy. Some decisions are no longer exclusively local issues.

Thus, policy outputs in the community may be related to factors other

than community characteristics and the type of power structure (Walton,

1970; Trounstine and Christensen, 1982).

One needs to be careful not to overstate this conclusion, however.

Though outside forces may be increasingly important, communities still

retain control over a great deal of issues. In fact, one of the

difficulties that power-policy models may have encountered in

attempting to link power structure to policy outputs is that they

focused on policies that were clearly national in orientation and

design (such as model cities and public housing). One would not expect

local power structures to have a great effect on national policy

initiatives. National agencies structure programs which usually

allocate resources based on ecological and demographic variables.

Therefore, Lyon's (1977) findings that ecological and demographic

variables better account for the level of policy outputs should not be

all that surprising. In addition, if local autonomy was on the

decline, the effect of recent Reagan budget policies, particularly the

slowdown of federal monies, would be expected to reverse this trend.

Where Do We Go From Here?

It is too soon to abandon community power as a field of study.

While there is much to criticize in some of the directions the field

has taken, community power has made great contributions to specific

areas. It has allowed researchers to invent and test a wide variety of

techniques which have applications in other areas of study in social

science. For instance, the reputational method was born in the work of

Hunter and has been of use to researchers looking for an inexpensive

method to identify and survey community (or any other) leaders

regardless of their particular emphasis. Community power has been

concerned with the most important variable in political science,

namely, "power." No other part of the discipline has devoted so much

attention to this concept. Community power has served as the training

ground for many political scientists. Among those who began their

research in this area are Lowi, Polsby, and Wolfinger. Community power

has given birth to several important theoretical developments including

pluralism, and conceptual issues such as the nondecisionn" or

"mobilization of bias." Community power has also been used

prescriptively in policy making. Areas where community power has been

used include the community control debates and poverty programs.

Finally, community power has been concerned with the nature of

democracy in mass society and has been instrumental in raising

questions about the quality of democratic life in our communities.

Yet, with all of the contributions the field has made to the

social sciences, gaps remain. Perhaps most glaring, is the need to

make the connection between community structure and policy outputs.

Much remains to be learned about the relationship of specific types of

policy to specific community characteristics and types of power

structures. While the large scale comparative study can be useful in

suggesting relationships, it is not capable of specifying in sufficient

detail the actual processes which translate community structure into

policy, i.e., power and its exercise. As Walton (1976) points out,

aggregate analysis does not always lend itself to the study of

politics. In the course of collecting indicators to serve as surrogate

measures for political phenomena, politics loses its dynamic quality.

It loses the context and complexity that give it meaning.

In this chapter, an overview of the community power field was

presented. While community power showed some promise that it could

help make the connection between urban structure and policy outputs,

this promise has not been realized. In fact, Lyon (1977) has found

that demographic variables can account for twice as much of the

varience in policy outputs as power structure. In part, the difficulty

in relating power structure to policy outputs stems from problems in

the PCS and aggregate analysis. More importantly, however, Lyon (1977)

attributes much of the difficulty to inadequate conceptualization of

power structure in most studies. The real problem seems to be that too

many questions still remain to be answered about power structure before

linkages can be made to variation in policy outputs in communities.



1. Interestingly enough, Dahl (1982, p. 207) denies that this notion
was ever part of pluralist theory, implicitly or explicitly.

2. For works which appraise the overall community power field, see
Aiken and Alford (1970), Clark (1975), Curtis and Petras (1977), Lief
and Clark (1973), Lyon (1977), Polsby (1980), Ricci (1980), and Walton


How have researchers approached the questions of the existence of

an elite and whether the community should be classified as elite or

pluralistic? How have they operationalized elite and pluralist theory

in specific studies? The term "elite" has been the source of many

disagreements among social scientists. Following the publications of

Hunter (1953) and Mills (1956), several political scientists challenged

the way the concept "elite" was used and the evidence used to support

conclusions that there was an elite in America, whether at the national

level or the local one. In particular, Dahl (1958) and Polsby (1963)

attacked both Hunter and Mills, challenging the definition and test of

an elite used by each. Wolfinger (1960) joined Dahl and Polsby in

attacking the reputationall method" used by Hunter. Ironically, the

understanding we have today of elite theory is largely shaped by its

pluralist critics--Dahl, Wolfinger, and Polsby. For this reason, it

makes sense to start our discussion of elite theory with the critics of

elite theory.

Elite Theory and Its Critics

Dahl (1958) criticizes researchers who would prove a ruling elite

system, e.g., Hunter (1953) and Mills (1956):

Now it is a remarkable and indeed astounding fact that neither
Professor Mills nor Professor Hunter has seriously attempted to


examine an array of specific cases to test his major hypothesis.
Yet I suppose these two works more than any others in the social
sciences of the last few years have sought to interpret complex
political systems essentially as instances of a ruling elite.
(Dahl, 1958, p. 466)

He goes on to lay out what he considers to be an acceptable test of a

ruling elite.

To sum up: The hypothesis of the existence of a ruling elite can
be strictly tested only if: 1. The hypothetical ruling elite is a
well-defined group. 2. There is a fair sample of cases involving
key political decisions in which the preferences of the
hypothetical ruling elite run counter to those of any other likely
group that might be suggested. 3. In such cases, the preferences
of the elite regularly prevail. (Dahl, 1958, p. 466)

In a similar vein, Polsby (1963) summarizes the work of elite theorists

under the heading of stratification studies, and extrapolates five

propositions of stratification studies which he says they fail to

prove. He argues that to establish the existence of an elite each of
- - ..
the conditions of his test must be met. These conditions are as


1. The upper class rules in local community life.
2. Political and civic leaders are subordinate to the upper class.
3. A single "power elite" rules in the community.
4. The upper-class power elite rules in its own interests.
5. Social conflict takes place between the upper and lower
classes. (Polsby, 1980, pp. 8-10)

While the conception of elite theory espoused by Dahl and Polsby

is consistent with elite theory as found in the works of Mosca, Pareto,

and Michaels, it is nevertheless misleading. Dahl and Polsby lay out a

single conception of elite theory and deny the legitimacy of any other

conception. The researcher who accepts their very narrow definition of

an elite is usually left little choice but to reject the existence of

an elite.

There is nothing in the work of Mills and Hunter to suggest that

there cannot be many variants of elite theory. Thus, Dahl and Polsby

identify one variant of elite theory and find it false. They have not,

however, disproved elite theory, only a single variant of elite theory,

and one which many would argue was a straw man to begin with. In fact,

neither Hunter nor Mills claimed the elite was all powerful or even

necessarily always cohesive. Hunter never even used the term "elite"

in his famous work. He was also very careful to point out that there

was not a single hierarchy in Atlanta.

In fact, one passage of Hunter's work could just as easily been

written in a pluralist account of the community. He states:

Actually the discussion here is primarily concerned with the
structuring of power on a policy-making level. Only a rudimentary
"power pyramid" of Regional City will be presented. One may be
content to do this because I doubt that power forms a single
pyramid with any nicety in a community the size of Regional City.
There are pyramids of power in this community which seem more
important to the present discussion than a pyramid. (Hunter,
1953, p.62)

While Polsby would point to this statement as contradicting Hunter's

elite arguments, it really suggests that Hunter had a much more

sophisticated view of elite theory than he has been given credit for.

Most of the criticism of Hunter's work centers on the reputational

method and not his conception of an elite. The point, however, is not

to defend Hunter's work, but to suggest that the view of elite theory

propagated by Dahl and Polsby is very narrow and not always consistent

with the views of other researchers, particularly within the elite


To underline this point, the reader is directed to the fourth

proposition Polsby says elite researchers assert: "The upper-class

'power elite' rules in its own interests." This proposition denies the

possibility of an elite that rules in the public interest due to its

sense of noblese oblige. Would Polsby accept the reverse proposition

that elected officials act only for self-interests, as a tenet of

pluralist theory? Agger, Goldrich, and Swanson (1964) identify the

importance of ideology as a determinant of elite behavior.

There are problems with the other propositions of stratification

theory provided by Polsby, as well. For instance, if the elite has to

be a "single power elite," then one cannot talk about factions within

the elite, as this denies elite cohesion. The notion of a

counter-elite also is not possible, as this suggests power may be held

outside of the elite and that the elite may not always win. Finally,

the idea that if elite theory is to be given credence, it must be shown

that political leaders are subordinate to economic leaders means that

we may not conceive of the political leaders as part of the elite. In

fact, did not Mills claim that the "power elite" was composed of three

parts, the military elite, political elite, and industrial elite.

The version of elite theory advanced by Dahl and Polsby is found

lacking on several counts. First of all, it overly simplifies the

major premises of elite theory. Secondly, it is a straw man, in that

once the crude version of elite theory was discredited, all elite

theory was discredited. However, there is no reason to believe that

the propositions of Dahl and Polsby are the only acceptable version of

elite theory. Only their version was disproved. Finally, and just as

important, the work of elite theory researchers, as well as others,

does not logically lead to Dahl's and Polsby's propositions. That is,

the elite theory disproved by Dahl and Poslby is not the only or even

the major variant of elite theory advocated by elite researchers.

What then is elite theory and how should it be operationalized in

a specific study? Prewitt and Stone (1973) summarize elite theory with

two principles:

First, no matter what the dominant political ideology of
organizing the State, every society can be divided into the small
number who rule and the larger number who are ruled.
Second, the character of society and the direction it is
taking can be understood in terms of the composition, structure,
and conflicts of the ruling group. (Prewitt and Stone, 1973, p.

For elite theory, it makes no difference whether the economy is

capitalist, socialist, or communist, whether the government is

democratically elected and subject to a written constitution, or a

small band of revolutionary guerillas who have seized power in a bloody

coup. Elites run the Soviet Union and they run the United States. The

only difference is in the composition and ideology of the elites.

Elites make decisions and shape history, not masses.

There are differences of opinion within elite theory about (1) the

"relationship that exists between the rulers and the ruled" (Prewitt

and Stone, 1973, p. 6); (2) whether change can be accomplished by

changing the composition of the elite or if it is necessary to change

the structure of rule (Prewitt and Stone, 1973, pp. 14-15); and (3)

whether the elite can be held accountable by the voting public in

democracies (Prewitt and Stone, 1973, pp. 23-26).

The first issue concerns the motives of the elite. How should the

"power and privileges" of the elite be viewed?-as the result of

exploitation of the masses, or "rewards for the special skills they

bring to the task of governing" (Prewitt and Stone, 1973, p. 6). Do

the elites rule in their own self-interest or are they more public

regarding? For Hunter and Mills, and other elite researchers, the

answer was simple: elites rule in their own self-interest. However,

Agger, Goldrich, and Swanson (1964) rejected this simple view and

proposed that greater attention be paid to the ideology of elites in

the community. Some elites were self-interested while others were


A second difference of opinion among elite researchers concerns

the possibility of change. If the elite rule and are responsible for

the major decisions in society, then it would seem that change could

come about in either of two ways. First, if the elite were to change

their minds about an issue or their ideology, or secondly, if the

composition of the elite were to change (e.g., a different elite were

to replace them or the size of factions within the elite were

altered-a realignment within the elite).

Some scholars, however, do not believe that change would result

from a change in the makeup or views of the elite. They believe that

certain arrangements in society, particularly the economic

arrangements, cause a certain kind of elite to emerge, regardless of

the particular personalities of that elite. In other words, in a

capitalist society, economic actors will predominate, and the dominant

ideology will reflect this predominence. Particular leaders (members

of the elite) will come and go, but they will behave in similar ways.

Even if a dramatic shift were to occur in the elite, if the economic

arrangements remain unchanged, the new elite will not be different from

the old except in minor ways.

Hunter (1953), Mills (1956), and Domhoff (1978, 1979, 1983) all

saw the possibility of change as very slim. They emphasized that the

elite acted to maintain itself and limit the movement of nonelites to

elite positions. In addition, they saw the structure of rule as a

significant factor in limiting the chance of change. Pluralists have

often pointed to the circulation of elites to counter claims of the

existence of an elite. Often, however, they have failed to pay

attention to the structure of rule. Thus, even if new elites take

over, little will change if this proposition is correct.

Pluralists have contended that it makes little sense to refer to

the rulers of the United States and other democracies as an elite,

because they are democratically elected. Even if the term elite is

properly used to refer to elected officials, it is misleading in that

it implies an unaccountable elite. The elite are accountable because

they may be voted out of office at every election. To use Prewitt and

Stone's phrasing, the "rulers are on probation" (Prewitt and Stone,

1973. p. 23). The composition of the elite is dependent on the public

through elections and so the masses and the leaders are not so unequal

in power. The problem with this argument is that there is a question

of whether elections are really devices to select the public officials,

or do the elected officials themselves control the selection process?

The democratic theorists, according to Prewitt and Stone, respond to

this charge by pointing out that "there are internal power struggles

within the ruling groups. A minority out of power will turn to the

electorate, and thus deliberately involve the citizenry in deciding who

should rule" (Prewitt and Stone, 1973, p. 25). Also, they point out,

". . American politics has been organized with a view to the inherent

tendencies of ruling classes" (Prewitt and Stone, 1973, 25). This is


the notion that checks and balances built into the American system will

prevent leaders from exercising unlimited powers and keep them

dependent upon the public.

Elite researchers like Hunter, Mills, and Domhoff have emphasized

the lack of accountability of the elected officials and the ability of

public officials to manipulate the voters. Mills, more readily than

Hunter or Domhoff, acknowledges the possibility that pluralism exists

at the midlevels of American politics, such as the Congress. However,

none of these three accord much significance to the fact that some

leaders in this country are elected. In fact, they point out, rightly

so, that a major portion of the leadership in this country is

unelected-economic leaders-and that these leaders are unaccountable

and that elected officials are often subordinate to them. Hunter came

to this conclusion in Atlanta, and Domhoff in his reexamination of New

Haven came to a similar conclusion.

There are many variants of elite theory other than the view

propogated by Dahl and Polsby. Even Hunter and Mills had different

views on elite theory. As pointed out earlier, Hunter did not even use

the term elite in his classic study of Atlanta. Mills conceived the

elite as a power elite.

The power elite is composed of men whose positions enable them to
transcend the ordinary environment of ordinary men and women; they
are in positions to make decisions having major consequences.
Whether they do or do not make such decisions is less important
than the fact that they do occupy such pivotal positions: their
failure to act, their failure to make decisions, is itself an act
that is often of greater consequence than the decisions they do
make. For they are in command of the major hierarchies and
organizations of modern society. They rule the big corporations.
They run the machinery of the state and claim its perogatives.
They direct the military establishment. They occupy the strategic
command posts of the social structure, in which are now centered

the effective means of power and the wealth and the celebrity
which they enjoy. (Mills, 1956, pp. 3-4)

Thus the power elite was made up of the captains of industry, the heads

of the military, and the top political leader including the president

and his cabinet, but not the Congress, which Mills saw as being in the

"mid-levels of power."

The power elite was not considered all powerful, but was

sufficiently powerful to get its way on the most important decisions in

society such as war and peace and the economy. Where others have

influence, it is only because the elite was not concerned enough to get

directly involved. They were able to be so powerful because they held

the greatest amounts of the most valued resources in society--wealth,

status, and power. For Mills, power, to be exercised required command

of the organizations and institutions in society, something the masses

lacked. The power elite, while not totally cohesive, nevertheless,

formed a self-perpetuating, interconnecting group through commonalities

in social background such as prep schools, upper class clubs, and

intermarriages. Mills, however, is clear that the three groupings that

form the power elite do have differences with each other and that the

relative importance of any of the three blocs can change over time.

Mills also identifies an inner core in the power elite that consists of

those individuals who move in and out of the three groupings. A

Secretary of Defense who was a former corporation president would be an

example of this type of person.

Where Mills saw a power elite containing three parts, the

political, economic, and military leaders at the national level, Hunter

(1953) describes a very different type of elite at the local level.

Hunter talks about "men of power" and "top leaders" instead of an

elite. Policy, he finds, is made not by elected officials, but by

businessmen. He describes these leaders as follows:

Most of the leaders are persons of power status. In some cases
they control large industries in which they reign supreme in
matters of decision affecting large numbers of the citizenry.
They are persons of dominance, prestige, and influence. They are,
in part, the decision makers for the total community. They are
able to enforce their decisions by persuasion, intimidation,
coercion, and if necessary, force. Because of these elements of
compulsion, power weilding is often a hidden process. (Hunter,
1953, p. 24)

Hunter finds these leaders are drawn disproportionately from the

business community, and that among the forty or so top leaders, four or

five are at the center. Hunter thinks it is often not possible to

separate government decisions from private sector decisions.

Where do public politics end and private politics begin? There is
a very thin line between the two categories as they were observed
in the study of power relations in Regional City. In the normal
course of events the actions of the private citizen, at least on a
policy-making level of power, are almost indistinguishable from
those of formally designated officials. The dual relationship
between government and economic operations tends to blur into one
process. Yet many community activities which affect the total
citizenry cannot be properly called processes of government.
(Hunter, 1953, p. 171)

This is an important section of Hunter's analysis, for he makes a

distinction between government decision making proper, and policy

making in the community. Hunter's emphasis is on policy making for the

overall community, not the formal outputs of government. This point is

often missed by his pluralist critics.


Pluralist Theory

Pluralist theory is not very much clearer than elite theory.

Polsby (1980), in evaluating the criticism of pluralist theory made by

elite theorists, says they fail to distinguish between Pluralism 1,

Pluralism 2, and Pluralism 3. He says:

I propose a distinction among three uses of the term "pluralism"
that seem to correspond to three different senses in which it is
employed in the community power literature, though of course these
are not the only uses to which it is put, in community power
studies or elsewhere. (Polsby, 1980, p. 154)

According to Polsby, Pluralism 1 "refers to eclectic methods of

gathering data" (Polsby, 1980, p. 154). Pluralism 2, he says, is what

we commonly think of as pluralism in the community power field.

The Pluralist 2 state of affairs so described usually has one or
more characteristics that will by now be familiar to readers:
dispersion of power among many rather than a few participants in
decision-making; competition or conflict among political leaders;
specialization of leaders to relatively restricted sets of issue
areas; bargaining rather than hierarchical decision making;
elections in which the suffrage is relatively widespread as a
major determinant of participation in key decisions; bases of
influence over decisions relatively dispersed rather than closely
held; and so on. The list is illustrative, not exhaustive.
(Polsby, 1980, p. 154)

Pluralism 3, he says,

refers to an intellectual tradition that has had some strength in
American political theory. . It has seemed to me helpful to
group under this general heading works showing some indebtedness
to writers as varied in their views as Madison, Tocqueville,
Montesquieu, and Locke. (Polsby, 1980, p. 154)

Thus, Pluralism 1 is a method to study power in the local

community--the decisional approach. Pluralism 2 is a set of

propositions about how decisions are made at the local level--pluralism

as an explanatory model of local decision making. Pluralism 3 is a

political philosophy or theory that is largely normative in nature.

This categorization devised by Polsby is helpful in distinguishing

among the different types of pluralism, though it suffers because

Polsby is the only one who uses it, and it is suspect because he never

made the distinctions until 1980 and may have been motivated to fend

off criticism of pluralism. The first edition of his work was largely

a Pluralism 1 critique of elite studies.

Prewitt and Stone (1973) talk about Pluralism I and Pluralism II.

Pluralism I is essentially group theory.

To summarize, then, the arguments of group theory, the prevailing
trend in pluralism: Power is widely dispersed among various groups
which represent diverse interests. Those interests that are
unrepresented in groups are represented by the State, which
ordinarily is an umpire, one of whose functions is to oversee the
struggle between groups and set the rules for conflict among them.
Finally, the groups tend to be in equalibrium in the sense that
none continually dominate governmental decision-making and all are
subject to veto by other groups. (Prewitt and Stone, 1973, p.

Pluralism II, which they label the "multiple-elite hypothesis,

combines group theory, in finding power to be very diffusely held, and

elitism, in finding that each area is dominated by a narrow elite"

(Prewitt and Stone, 1973, pp. 124-45). Thus, elites operate within

specific policy areas, but there is very little overlap from area to


This last view of pluralism, the "multiple-elite hypothesis,"

comes closest to illustrating the difficulty of distinguishing

pluralist theory from elite theory, let alone from other variants of

pluralist theory. To some extent, both theories differ only in their

emphasis. The elite theorist emphasizes the concentration of power and

the locus of decision making at the top of organizations and

institutions. There may be bargaining among the participants, but the

relevant factor is who has control of the decision (not necessarily

individuals, but institutions). This is where researchers should focus

their attention according to elite researchers. On the other hand,

pluralists emphasize the way or process by which decisions are reached.

Thus the focus is on what resources were used in what way to effectuate

what result. Bargaining among participants becomes the major defining

characteristic of pluralism. Both orientations may be consistent with

each other, but stress different aspects of the same question. This

may explain in part why it is so difficult to test the models against

one another.

Classifying Communities Using the Theories

A problem related to the difficulty of distinguishing the theories

from each other let alone the numerous variants of each is

classification of communities based upon the theories. Investigators

wishing to make use of the operational concepts of researchers like

Mills and Hunter or Dahl and Polsby find that though it is fairly easy

to distill out of their works the essence of their views on how the

system operates and whether it is elite or not, they do not make clear

how to classify a system. In other words, after reading Hunter, we

know Atlanta is run by economic elites, and we even know how to

identify the elites or power structure (i.e., a reputational analysis),

but we do not know how to classify the power structure based on the

information provided to us by Hunter. What was the determining factor

in calling this community an elite? Was it the number of leaders

identified in the study? Was it the composition of the power structure

and the fact that very few of the top leaders could be characterized as

political rather than economic leaders? Was it the way the system

operated, that is the agreement on basic values and the absence of

major conflict within the power structure itself? Hunter might argue

that in the case of Atlanta it was all of these things. But surely it

is possible, empirically, to have inconsistent findings.

In short, is the identification of a power structure equivalent to

the identification of an elite? Is the existence of an elite in the

community the same as an elite classification? It would seem that Dahl

and other pluralists do not find much utility in the term "elite" or

"power structure." In fact, a major reason why pluralists are so

negative about the reputational method is that they use the terms elite

and power structure interchangeably. Since in their minds, a power

structure is the same as an elite, a method like the reputational

approach which purports to identify a community's power structure by

definition is unsound. This is so because their conception of an elite

is a group that is cohesive, always wins, and is all powerful. Thus

the reputational method identified an elite automatically classifying

the community as elite.

For other researchers, "elite" means nothing more than those who

are in positions to make important decisions in society. The elite may

be subdivided into several components, a political elite, an economic

elite, etc.. Thus, different methods may be used to identify this

elite and some methods may be better suited to identify different types

of elites. For example, the decisional method might best identify

political elites while the reputational method might better identify

economic elites. While some like Hunter viewed the economic elite as

the dominant element, the particular structure of the elite and its

scope of power, as well as its ideology and cohesiveness might vary

from community to community. With this conception, pluralism is not

greatly at odds with elite theory, but merely a variant, i.e., the

hypothesis of competitive elites.

In terms of classification of a community as elite or pluralistic,

the literature is unclear about what the criterion is. For some, it is

simply the number of actors or participants identified as the most

influential or controlling in a decision. Thus one may say a community

is elite if less than a certain specified percentage of the population

regularly participates in important decisions, say one percent. For

others, it is not the absolute number of participants in a decision

which matters, nor their percentage of the total population, but

whether there was competition between groups in the community (or

factions within the elite) over the issue. Still others say it is not

numbers, nor competition itself, but whether there is much overlap

among participants from one decision or issue to another. That is,

even if a small number of actors in the community make decisions and

there is little competition among these participants within an issue

area, as long as different decision makers decide decision "A" than

decision "B," the community is not elite, but pluralistic. This is

particularly true if it is elected officials who make up the majority

of overlappers on issues. Even if one were to call the actors in A and

B an elite, the community would be classified as pluralistic using this

criterion. Again, it needs to be emphasized that though a researcher

may define an elite as those who make decisions, it is not the same

thing as characterizing the community as elitist. Further

investigation would be necessary before concluding this. We see then

that a semantical difference in language can become paramount in

classifying the community.

Finally, some look to the distribution of resources in society and

the extent of social diversity to classify a community. Are resources

to effectuate policy broadly or narrowly dispersed? Is the community

heterogeneous or homogeneous? For the pluralist, it is the

distribution of the vote which compensates for the great inequality in

the distribution of other resources. Also, the pluralist distinguishes

a potential for influence from actual influence, which is not to be

assumed from the former. This corresponds with Terry Clark's

distinction between a power structure and a decision making structure.

While the power structure may be elite, the decision making structure

may be pluralistic.

And so we come full circle, right back where we started. The

biggest problem confronting those who enter the community power field

is making sense of the contradictory findings in the literature. Why

do so many studies find one thing only to be contradicted by other

studies? The student of community power is left to determine for

himself which of any five possible explanations offered to account for

contradictory findings is most plausible: (1) the two theories are

fairly similar but result in different labels being applied to the

community; (2) the methods are the determining factor, particularly the

research discipline which influences the method chosen; (3) there are

real differences among communities and the conflicting evidence simply

reflects this reality; (4) ideology predisposes researchers to one


result or another and causes them to discount evidence contrary to

their original views; and (5) the particular way researchers

operationalize the two theories can structure the results. It is

possible to find scholarly studies which support each of these

conclusions. In the next chapter, the political economy approach is

introduced and offered as a possible route out the community power

maze. Just how much help this approach will be in synthesizing the

elite and pluralist theories is then explored in later chapters by way

of a case study of a community.


In this chapter, the political economy approach is introduced as a

method which can bring some order to the disarray found in the

community power field. Also discussed are the proper research design,

approach to identify community leaders, and specific research site.

Eckstein (1975) identifies a number of research designs which may

contribute to theory building. The "heuristic case" study is chosen

because it is designed to generate theory. It allows the researcher to

explore the usefulness of ideas, instead of concentrating on testing

theories already developed, which are more properly studied by means of

the comparative case study or large-scale comparative analysis

(Eckstein 1975; see also Glaser and Strauss, 1967). The heuristic case

is most compatible with the political economy approach.

The Political Economy Approach

Pluralists contend that government dominates the community's

decision making processes. Economic decisions are seen as either

subordinate to government decision making or else considered outside

the scope of local government and so, unimportant for classification

purposes. Elite theory, on the other hand, emphasizes the informal

structure of power based in the economic sector where the real locus of

community decision making is said to take place and then transmitted to

the elected officials. Pluralists view business as just another group

in the community, while elite theorists see businessmen as the dominant

group. The result is an impasse between the two theories which has

stalled progress towards a theory of community power.

As the last chapter illustrated, competing conceptualizations over

key terms such as "elite" and "power structure" have led to a situation

in which testing is impossible. Elite and pluralist theorists are

focusing on different aspects of community decision making. The

political economy approach is offered as a way out of the conceptual

impasse of the elite-pluralist debate because it synthesizes the two

theories. It does so by emphasizing the importance of leaders in both

the governmental authority structure and the informal business power

structure. As David Garson has written:

American politics are neither the marketplace of group theory nor
the conspiracy of simple elite theories. If America is elitist,
it is elitist in a pluralistic way, or if pluralist, then
pluralist in a way that benefits an elite. Political scientists
would benefit from shedding these terms entirely in favor of a
concept of political economy as a system of power that integrates
production, culture, and power. This concept has been latent in
the writings of the more sophisticated authors in both camps for
some time now. Perhaps some convergence can be derived from
rendering this viewpoint explicit. It is misleading to speak of
elite domination when governing policies are consensual in the
main. Equally pluralist theorists obscure the manner in which
government policies systematically favor a business-based elite.
America is neither a participatory democracy, nor is it dominated
by a political-economic elite. It is, nonetheless, an elitist
political economy. By emphasizing this point, political economy
can be the basis of critical social theory that transcends the
now-sterile debate between group theorists and their critics.
(Garson, 1978, p. 207)

Just what is the political economy approach and how can it help

synthesize elite and pluralist theories? According to Martin Staniland

(1985), political economy "refers to a basic issue in social theory:

the relationship between politics and economics. This issue has both

explanatory and normative facets: it gives rise to statements of how

the two processes are related and about how they should be related"

(Staniland, 1985, p. 1). However, Staniland cautions us that there are

several different perspectives on political economy. First, there are

researchers "concerned with the economics of public policy" (Staniland,

1985, p. 3). Then, there is the "'new political economy' school, which

wants to apply the assumptions, language, and logic of neoclassical

economics to political behavior itself, and indeed to the entire range

of public and private decision-making" (Staniland, 1985, p. 3). A

third school, the opposite of the second, is "socialist political

economy." For many, Staniland says this is "synonomous with Marxism"

(Staniland, 1985, p. 3).

Staniland is concerned, however, that many who employ political

economy in their work, confuse a method with a theory. He states:

The trouble is that much writing on political economy implicitly
assumes that the term has unequivocal theoretical meaning, while
other writing mistakes an agenda for theory. Writers attached to
the two main schools [new political economy neoconservatismm) and
socialist political economy (radical)] typically make the
assumption of theoretical monopoly. This leaves a large number of
other writers who content themselves with denouncing the sins of
the existing social sciences and calling for (indeed, often
claiming to have adopted) a political economy approach. Such an
approach is said to be a "methodology" because it recognizes the
connection between politics and economics and thus transcends the
narrow assumptions of economics and political science.
(Staniland, 1985, p. 3)

This study proceeds with Staniland's formulation of political economy

as a method of study which emphasizes the importance of both the public

and private power systems, rather than a theory in itself. Staniland

warns, however, that recognition of a connection between politics and

economics is not enough.

This position is like that of a man who thinks he knows how to win
at poker because he has noticed a connection between playing cards
and getting money. The existence of a connection is not
problematic: the problem is to understand what the connection is
and how it works. In this respect, political economy may be a
victim both of its modishness and of its ideological appeal.
Fashion has lent it the status of a theory when it deserves only
that of a field-a rather broadly defined field, at that, and one
over which control is disputed between opposing theoretical
schools. The members of these schools, as well as all the others
who favor some sort of "interdisciplinary approach," contribute to
creating the impression that the desirability of a political
economy approach makes its actual specification a technical
detail. In this way, ambition is mistaken for achievement, and
the identification of a problem is confused with its solution.
(Staniland, 1985, p. 3)

The political economy approach sensitizes us to the need to put

economics and politics back together. But as Staniland points out, it

is not enough to assert that there is a connection between the two. We

must explain the dynamics of that relationship. The real test of the

political economy approach is whether it contributes to "empirical

understanding" (Staniland, 1985, p 6). To help achieve this end, a

number of research questions are offered which will be addressed

throughout this work.

First, what is the structure of community decision making? Are

both the political and economic sectors equally important? The

political economy approach allows us to examine community decision

making without having to commit to one of the theories of political

power in advance. The emphasis is on what do each of the theories

contribute to our understanding of community decision making.

Second, we wish to know how the structure of community decision

making affects policy outputs. Does the structure of community

decision making affect the capacity of a community to deal with its

problems in an effective manner? Chapter I identifies some of the

difficulties encountered by researchers attempting to account for

variations in policy outputs at the local level. Terry Clark and other

researchers who switched their focus from "who governs?" to "where,

when, and with what effects?" avoided the conceptual disagreements

between elite and pluralist theorists by simply characterizing

communities as centralized or decentralized (see Chapter I). While

this enabled them to move beyond the elite-pluralist controversies,

their approach lacked theoretical focus contributing to their inability

to obtain significant results. They failed to distinguish between

centralization in government and centralization in the private sector

which we would expect to effect the kinds of policy outputs found in

the community. The political economy approach should help clarify this

relationship by suggesting what policies might be related to

centralization in one or both sectors.

Third, we must ask, what is the relationship between business and

government leaders, if as the political economy approach suggests, this

is the most important set of leaders in the community? If both

government and private sector leaders are equally important, how do

they interact? Are their relations characterized by conflict,

cooperation, or indifference? Under what conditions will

public/private sector leaders dominate community decision making?

A fourth research question concerns the capacity of public

officials and business leaders to alter the decision making structure

in which they act. Many studies of community power treat the structure

of decision making as a permanent attribute of the community. Yet,

leaders can and do act in deliberate ways to change the structure of

decision making to suit their needs or desires. Clark et al (see

Chapter I) have been criticized for ignoring political explanations in

favor of a focus on structural and demographic variables. By examining

leaders' efforts to shape the decision making structure we may put

politics back in the equation.

Finally, are there limits to what community leaders can

accomplish, whether public or private, due to underlying systemic

biases? Recent works by Stone (1980) and Lindblom (1977) suggest that

the political-economic system biases outputs and outcomes, regardless

of the individual actors or structure of decision making, in fact, in

spite of them. Stone describes what he calls "systemic power," which

causes public officials to favor upper status interests. Lindblom

discusses the "privileged position of business" vis-a-vis other groups

in society. While it may be difficult to document the existence of

privileged groups in the community, we must remain sensitive to their

presence. An advantage of the heuristic method chosen is that it does

not impose overly restrictive rules of evidence on the researcher,

designed as it is for theory building.

We turn then to the political economy approach to help us escape

the pluralist-elite dichotomy. Let us see how this approach can assist

us in this effort. Most studies of community decision making have

simply characterized the community decision making structure as

centralized or decentralized (elite or pluralistic). However, it is

really necessary to break out the two separate dimensions of

centralization highlighted by a political economy approach. One aspect

is centralization of government. This refers to the fragmentation of

government which reduces the ability of government to coordinate


community decisions and policy. Another way to refer to government in

this context is as the authority structure of the community.

In considering the authority structure of the community, we are

interested in the administrative structure of government and its

capacity to deal with problems confronting the community. This

involves the government's ability to identify problems, formulate

policy, and implement programs to address those problems. An important

element then is whether government is in a position to coordinate

community action and whether it can mobilize the community behind its

agenda. It is particularly important in a pluralist community to have

a strong leadership position with the ability to perform this

mobilization function and even to get agreement on the community


The second dimension of community centralization is the extent to

which the economic sector is cohesive. In the community power

literature, this has usually been equated with the informal power

structure of the community. If business leaders are cohesive, they can

provide direction and coordination to community decision making which

may be lacking in the governmental sector. While most studies of

community power have treated the informal power structure as a given,

whether elite or pluralist, we shall examine whether organization of

the business community can be the result of very specific steps by

private sector leaders.

To consider decision making in the community without looking at

the two separate elements can result in a distorted view of the degree

to which decision making is centralized. This may have been the source

of some of the difficulty experienced by Terry Clark when he

characterized reform government with centralization. What he should

have said was that reform government was a step in the direction of

centralizing the authority structure of the community. This is not

necessarily equivalent to an elite decision making structure, as the

business community can still be disorganized. In reality, the degree

of centralization in community decision making hinges on the structure

of both economic and political authority. Figure 3-1 below illustrates

this point. For instance, if a community were to have a very

fragmented government structure, it might be located at a point "A" on

the Authority Structure line. This would correspond with a community

that was functionally and geographically split (i.e., many special

authorities and municipalities), with little formal coordination

between them. If the business community were located at point "U" we

would say that it was very disorganized and lacked cohesion. We can

well imagine a community experiencing growth so rapid that business

leaders do not know each other and are not organized into a central

business organization such as the Chamber of Commerce.

Authority Structure

Centralized Decentralized


Power Structure

Centralized Decentralized



If the government structure is very fragmented (Point A) and

business leaders are very unorganized (Point U), then we might have a

situation akin to what Frederick Wirt (1976, p. 350) has called

"hyperpluralism." In this case, the community is so pluralistic that

it is almost impossible to accomplish any community goals and there is

no common direction or any mechanism to provide coordination. In

reality, most communities fall somewhere more towards the middle of the

lines. These should be viewed as continuums. A completely

consolidated community, like a Jacksonville, might fall at point R in

its authority structure. Most community authority structures would

fall somewhere between Point T and Point A. Much would also depend on

the particular definition of community used by the researcher. A

county would be expected to have a more decentralized authority

structure than a city given the presence of independent cities and its

traditionally more narrow scope.

Seen in this light, the findings of Hunter (1953) and Dahl (1961)

are not necessarily contradictory. The above discussion raises the

possibility that each work is correct as far as it goes. Dahl's

interest was government decision making. He focused on urban renewal,

local elections, and public school policy. Because a different set of

leaders was found to be influential in each area, with only the mayor

exercising power across issue areas, the community was said to be

pluralistic. However, we see that Dahl was really only studying the

authority structure. In similar fashion, Hunter (1953) studied the

informal power structure, saying very little about the authority

structure. He found the private sector leaders to be very cohesive and

organized. While the tone of his work makes it clear that he believed

the authority structure was subordinate to the power structure, he


actually said rather little about the authority structure. His concern

was with the power structure and how it acted in the community. Dahl

uses a very narrow definition of community decision making, concerning

himself with the actions of government. Hunter emphasizes private

decision making. Neither gives sufficient credit to the other because

his particular conceptualization of community decision making rejects

the other's viewpoint (see Ricci, 1980).

Case Study and Theory Development

There seems to be a common perception among some researchers that

the case study is to be avoided and that reliance upon it by the

discipline is a hindrance to theory building. For example, Bonjean,

Clark, and Lineberry state:

While the case study can highlight research problems and
illustrate the infinite variety of urban systems, comparative
studies alone are able to test hypotheses and build theories.
(Bonjean, Clark, and Lineberry, 1971, p. 265)

Polsby (1980, pp. 122-23n) states that case studies are a substitute

for theory and suggests that they are on a par with metaphors in that

researchers rely upon them as alternatives to theory. These statements

imply that the case study is inconsistent with theory building, the

goal of social science research.

Few people would argue, however, that Robert Dahl's (1961) study

of New Haven, or Floyd Hunter's (1953) study of Atlanta was

theoretical. Yet both of these authors used the case study method to

build theories. Even Clark, one of the strongest advocates of

large-scale comparative study and an originator of the Permanent

Community Sample, recognizes the role of case study in theory

development. Commenting on the failure of his model to significantly

predict the level of policy outputs, he stated, "at this point we may

turn to the highly detailed case study which can perform an

indispensable function" (Clark, 1971, p. 312). That function is to

help specify the relationship between power structure and policy


A strong argument can be made for the case study when used

properly, following the guidelines played down by Eckstein (1975).

Eckstein identifies five types of case studies and their utility in

theory development. First, he discusses the

"configurative-idiographic" study which is useful in providing an

overall interpretive description of a particular case but is not

oriented toward theory building. He states:

In configurative-idiographic study the interpreter simply
considers a body of observations that are not self-explanatory,
and without hard rules of interpretation, may discern in them any
number of patterns that are more or less equally plausible.
(Eckstein, 1975, p. 97)

The second type of case study which he identifies is the

"disciplined-configurative" study which views the case as an object of

interpretation by reference to some theory in the field. Eckstein


Case study thus is tied into theoretical inquiry--but only
partially, where theories apply or can be envisioned; passively,
in the main, as a receptacle for putting theories to work;
fortuitously, as a catalytic element in the unfolding of
theoretical knowledge. (Eckstein, 1975, p. 100)

Thus general theory is used to interpret the case. At the same time,

the case may identify areas which require new theory or areas where

current theory does not fit well.

A third type of case study is the "heuristic case" where the aim

is to create theory. According to Eckstein:

Case study [is] deliberately used to stimulate the imagination
toward discerning important general problems and possible
theoretical solutions. That is the essence of heuristic case
studies (heuristic meaning "serving to find out"). Such studies,
unlike configurative-idiographic ones, tie directly into theory
building, and therefore are less concerned with overall concrete
configurations than with potentially generalizable relations
between aspects of them. (Eckstein, 1975, p. 104)

Thus the heuristic case study is used to generate theory by examining

cases which spur the researcher to explain phenomena for which no

theory or well developed theory exists. By looking at the particular

case, the researcher may discern patterns which may lead him to theory

which may be tested in other cases later on. This type of study may be

superior to comparative study because it allows the researcher to

examine many more variables than can be considered in comparative


The fourth case study which Eckstein discusses is the

"plausibility probe" which is just what it says, a preliminary probe to

determine if one's theories are worth investigating. Probes at one

level may be used "to establish that a theoretical construct is worth

considering . ., i.e., that an apparent empirical instance of it can

be found" (Eckstein, 1975, p. 109). Dahl's (1961) study of New Haven

fits this description, as Eckstein points out. Plausibility probes are

guided much more directly by theory than are heuristic case studies.

Eckstein states:

As empirical plausibility probes, case studies are often as
serviceable as, or more so than, comparative ones--and nearly
always a great deal cheaper (a prime consideration in probing
plausibility). The economic case for them is strongest where
required information is not readily available in aggregate data or
good secondary sources and is intrinsically hard to get. Case
studies can certainly serve the purpose well if well selected,
that is, if they are such that a result, for or against a theory,
cannot be readily shrugged off. (Eckstein, 1975, p. 112)

The final case study identified by Eckstein is the "crucial case

study." This is the study of a case which seems to fit a theory very

closely, or which seems to not fit a particular theory at all. Thus if

the case still contradicts the theory or the converse, if a case which

should not fit the theory does fit, then the theory is disproved.

Eckstein sees "most-likely" or "least-likely" cases as falling into

this category, in addition to "must fit" cases.

With the exception of the "configurative-idiographic" study, all

of the studies discussed above contribute to theory building, though

some more than others. From the standpoint of community power

research, the crucial case study, plausibility probe, and heuristic

case study are the most useful for advancement in the field. The

configurative idiographic and the disciplined configurative studies

already abound in the literature. New community power studies which

are merely descriptive or interpretive would not contribute appreciably

to the development of a more general body of knowledge which all

sciences strive for. Given the cost of the large-scale comparative

study and the limitations of aggregate analysis previously discussed,

by default, progress in the field will depend on the crucial case

study, the plausibility probe, or the heuristic case study. As

Eckstein points out, there is nothing to prevent researchers from

combining case study strategies.

The present study is a heuristic case, as the political economy

approach offers some new directions and understandings for both elite

and pluralist theory. Since the aggregate comparative study is

inappropriate for this task, there was little choice but to rely on the

case study. While a plausibility probe or crucial case would be the

most desired approach, at this stage of research it was felt unwise to

overly structure thinking or expectations as to what would be found in

the community. In the community power field, with all of its studies,

the greatest limitation has seemed to be researchers' inability to keep

open minds.

A Research Site

Broward County, the second largest county in Florida, was chosen

as the research site precisely because its power structure and

governmental authority structure were evolving. The structure of

community decision making was unclear. According to one newspaper

study (Lovely, 1983), it was not even possible to identify community

leaders. At the same time, leaders in the private sector had managed

to organize and conduct a community retreat to identify and discuss

community problems and set the stage for later action. Broward County

had many of the qualities desirable in a research site, given the type

of study (heuristic case) and the purpose of the study (to apply the

political economy approach to community decision making in order to

synthesize elite and pluralist theory). There was evidence that the

community was pluralistic, yet private sector leaders were acting to

create a more unified power structure.

While government appeared fragmented (29 municipalities and a

county government), several steps had and were being taken to

centralize government authority. In 1974, Broward adopted a "home rule

charter," allowing the county to make many of the decisions for itself,

that had previously been made in Tallahassee. The charter also marked

an increase in the scope of county government, in that it provided for

the assumption of final land use authority by the county over

individual cities' land use plans. The charter was followed in 1978

with a major bond issue to upgrade services across the board in the

county. More recently, a Government Efficiency Committee was set up to

study local government and make recommendations to improve its

organization an operation.

An additional reason for choosing Broward County as a research

site was its accessibility. Broward was most accessible in terms of

proximity, costs, personal knowledge of the community, and personal

contacts who could serve as valuable sources.

Identification of Community Leaders

Once deciding on the case method, a particular approach to

identify community leaders had to be selected. The purpose of

identifying community leaders is two-fold. First, obviously, it is

necessary to identify who the leaders are in a community and how they

interact. Second, and just as important, however, is the need to

identify a bank of very knowledgeable sources if one is to try to

understand local political dynamics. Community leaders are experts on

their politics and decision making. If we are to attempt to improve

our explanations of local decision making, it is necessary to root our

analysis in the realities of the community. These sources are

invaluable in accomplishing this task.

Decisional Approach

Most readers are familiar with the methodological debate between

the positional, reputational, and decisional approaches to identify

community leaders. The decisional approach, advanced by Dahl (1961),

Polsby (1980), and Wolfinger (1960), involves studying several issues

or decisions in detail noting the participants, their resources, and

most importantly, their actual behavior. Dahl's (1961) study of New

Haven is the classic example of the decisional approach to study a


The major criticism of the decisional approach is that it

overlooks the nondecision problem described by Bachrach and Baratz

(1962). Other criticisms are that (1) the choice of decisions to study

is subjective and can bias the study; (2) by focusing only on actual

behavior one may overlook "anticipated reactions" on the part of some

actors; (3) the role of government officials tends to be overstated;

and (4) that it tends to devalue the role of private sector leaders in

community decisions. Perhaps most damning of the criticisms is the

point made by Ricci (1980) that if the reason for adopting the

decisional approach is the inadequacy of the reputational method (as

stated by Dahl and others) because of its reliance on subjective

interviews rather than objective evidence, then nothing is gained.

This is because the researcher who uses the decisional method must also

rely on the interviewee's subjective account of events and assessments

as to who exercised the most influence over the outcome of decisions.

Positional Approach

The positional method was popularized by C. Wright Mills (1956).

It involves identifying major institutions and leadership roles which

exercise political power. Once these have been identified, what

remains is to trace the interconnections among these positions and

relationships (sometimes referred to as network analysis). The

positional approach may be used as the sole method of identifying a

decision making structure, or may be combined part with the decisional

and reputational approaches. Critics of the positional method point

out that leaders, whether elected or not, may be figureheads and not

truly the exercisers of power. Pluralists object to the positional

approach because one is not studying actual behavior, which they claim

is necessary to demonstrate that the holder of a position actually

participates in decisions or exercises power in some way.

Reputational Approach

Finally, there is the reputational approach, used by Hunter (1953)

in his study of Atlanta. It involves identifying knowledgeable sources

in the community (usually by the positional method) and asking them who

the most powerful individuals in the community are. The greatest

drawback to the reputational approach is its reliance on the

interviewee's subjective assessment as to who is powerful, as pointed

out above.

In criticizing the ruling elite model, Dahl (1958) implicitly

criticizes the reputational and positional approaches to identifying

decision making structures. Essentially, he is critical of three

aspects of these two approaches. First of all he says that each

"confuses a ruling elite with a group that has a high potential for

control." What he means is that while those identified as members of

the "power structure" may have the capability to control the community,

this is quite different from saying they actually control the

community. Which is to say that the reputational and positional

methods ignore the possibility that an elite group may actually have a

"low potential for unity" (Dahl, 1958, p. 465). In his view, actual

decisions must be studied as it is possible that a "group with a

relatively low potential for control but a high potential for unity may

be more politically effective than a group with a high potential for

control but a low potential for unity" (Dahl, 1958, p. 465).

Furthermore, Dahl believes that using these two approaches leads

the researcher to mislabel a group found "to have more influence than

any others in the system" (Dahl, 1958, p. 465). In other words, just

because a group may have more influence over some decisions than others

does not prove the existence of an elite. Ultimately, this is because

the vote is so widely dispersed, that the masses retain enough power to

thwart an elite group's influence in the long run. Also, other groups

may change the balance of power at any point in time.

Finally, Dahl most vehemently objects to methods which "generalize

from a single scope of influence" (Dahl, 1958, p. 465). He states:

Neither logically nor empirically does it follow that a group with
a high degree of influence over one scope [of influence] will
necessarily have a high degree of influence over another scope

within the same system. This is a matter to be determined
empirically. Any investigation that does not take into account
the possibility that different elite groups have different scopes
is suspect. (Dahl, 1958, p. 465)

Wolfinger (1960) similarly criticizes the reputational approach.

His major objection to this method is that it assumes reputation and

reality are the same thing. In addition, he is concerned that the

reputational method assumes leadership is general, while studies like

Dahl's suggest that leadership is specialized. By just asking who are

the top leaders in the community, one may overlook the possibility that

there is little overlap among leaders in different issue areas.

The decision was made to use a variant of the reputational method

in this study. While there are some problems with the reputational

approach, the decisional approach does not offer any significant

advantage over the reputational method. Both methods rely on the

interviewees' subjective assessment of empirical reality as pointed out

by Ricci (1980). In addition, there are several steps which can be

taken to improve the reputational approach. First of all, as pointed

out, it is important to distinguish the two elements of decision making

from each other. Dahl and Wolfinger mistakenly conclude that the

reputational method identifies only the power structure and not the

authority structure. If used properly, the reputational method

identifies both sets of leaders. Wolfinger and Dahl's criticisms of

the reputational approach center on the conclusions about power that a

researcher using the method is likely to make. Viewed as a method to

generate a set of community knowledgeable, the reputational method can

be quite effective. In fact Wolfinger is not critical of this view.

He states:

It can be argued that the reputational method should be regarded
as merely a systematic first step in studying a city's political
system rather than a comprehensive technique for discovering the
distribution of power. Under this modest construction the
researcher would not rely on the method to identify and rank all
of decision makers but would use it as a guide to knowledgeable
ersons who would in turn give him leads to other informants until
e had a complete picture of the political system under study.
Viewed in this unambitious light, the reputational technique is
little more than an elaborate variant of the older procedure of
asking political insiders--city hall reporters, politicians, and
so on--for a quick rundown on the local big shots in order to
identify potentially useful interviewees. (Wolfinger, 1960, p.

His objection is that

reputational researchers do not make such modest claims for their
method, nor do their critics take such a limited view. While I am
not aware of any explicit published statement to this effect, the
reputational studies give the impression that the technique is
regarded as considerably more than a ritualized introduction. The
putative validation of findings yielded by this method, the
assumption that a 'power structure' consists of those persons most
often given high rankings by panels of judges, and a tendency to
limit descriptions of decision making to the activities of the
top ranked leaders all point to a belief that this method is a
sufficient tool to study the distribution of power in community.
(Wolfinger, 1960, pp. 637-38)

Certainly the reputational method is effective as a technique to

identify knowledgeable persons in the community and solicit their views

about community decision making, though care must be taken that one

does not have a biased sample of sources which would give an incomplete

view of the system. However, Wolfinger overstates the case against the

reputational method as a means to identify community decision makers.

It is true that a decisional approach would be complementary and help

to refine and delineate the decision making structure. However, if

time and resources are limited the reputational method can give a much

better overview of community decision making. The danger is if one

attempts to classify the community with reference only to the

reputational survey results without regard to the detailed interviews

that accompany the survey of leaders.

The reputational method utilized in this study will be modified in

three ways to correct for pluralist criticism of the approach. First,

several elected officials are built into the first panel of community

knowledgeable that actually nominate the "community influentials."

Half of the first panel will be made up of elected officials in order

to make sure that the final list is not biased in any one direction,

especially towards business leaders. Second, respondents are asked to

name ten, instead of just five of the most influential members of the

community. In this way, we can try to get a larger sample of leaders

and prevent an arbitrarily low number of leaders from being identified

by this method. Then, if a small number of leaders is found, it will

not be an artifact of the question. Third, respondents will be given a

set of index cards with the names of community actors on them to refer

to as they respond to the question of who the most influential persons

in the community are. These names were culled from newspaper articles

and a positional analysis. This ensures that respondents consider

persons from a wide variety of groups and that political leaders are

included in the sample to be considered. The intent is to make sure

that respondents think in broader terms than just their own circle of

relationships. Respondents will also be encouraged to add names of

individuals not included in the index cards. (For more on this method

and how it is applied in the study see the next chapter.)

Classification of the community will be based not on the reputational

results themselves, but on the basis of descriptions provided by

leaders identified in the reputational survey. This should meet

Wolfinger's objections and overcome the problems of classification


discussed in Chapter II. This approach has been used by Wirt (1974) in

San Francisco.


In keeping with our research premise that theories of political

power ought to be operational in the community, if they are to be given

credence, let us see who Broward County's leaders are, and how they

describe their political structure. Then we may see how this fits in

with the two major theories of political power, elite and pluralist


Leaders in Broward County were identified by a two-step

reputational analysis. First, ten individuals were selected to serve

as a panel of knowledgeable to identify community influentials. An

attempt was made to secure a broad-based group of individuals to serve

on the first panel. The positions they occupied were as follows:

1. Banker 6. Port Commissioner
2. County Commissioner 7. Condominium Leader
3. Political Party Official 8. Large Employer
4. State Legislator 9. Media Representative
5. Minority Leader 10. Labor Leader

By including several elected officials in the first panel, an attempt

was made to overcome the pluralist objection that the reputational

method is biased towards finding a small economic elite.

Each person on the panel was asked the following question:

Communities throughout the country typically contain certain
persons who influence community actions greatly. In your opinion,
who are the ten most influential persons in your community and

Respondents were then given a set of approximately fifty index cards

containing the names of community actors. The cards were arranged in

alphabetical order, the names having been drawn from a positional

analysis. Respondents were encouraged to add names of individuals who

they considered influential, even if there were no card on them. Names

were added and deleted to the set of cards in order to keep the total

number of cards manageable.

The second step of the reputational approach consisted of

interviewing as many individuals as possible who got two or more

nominations from the panel of knowledgeable. A snowball technique was

used, in that anyone who received two or more nominations was added to

the pool to be interviewed. In all, thirty-six individuals received

two or more nominations. Thirty-one of these individuals were

interviewed about Broward County decision making, leaders, and issues

in the community. In addition to the open-ended reputational study,

approximately twenty other knowledgeable were interviewed in their

areas of expertise. Seven of the original panel of knowledgeable were

later found to have two or more nominations. There were, however,

significant differences in the rankings between the two steps. Table

4-1 lists the results of the two-step reputational analysis.

Elite or Pluralist?

Who are Broward's leaders? How many community influentials are

there? In response to the question posed above, we get a picture of

Broward's leadership structure. First of all, the respondents differed

amongst themselves about the number of influential persons in the

community. One respondent, a banker, said there were more than 200

leaders in Broward, and one could not single out just ten as the most

influential. An elected official said there were over 1000 leaders in

Broward, again saying ten was too few to talk about. He then proceeded

to name so called "stars." A third respondent, also an elected

official, cautioned that just because he identified ten as the most

influential in Broward, it did not mean that there really were ten

leaders in Broward who got together and decided things (reminiscent of

Polsby's criticism of the the reputational method). A fourth leader,

also an elected official, said he did not think he could name just ten

leaders, but then said I had the leaderships' names in my set of index


This was in contrast to the views of several other Broward

leaders. A banker said there were between 30 and 50 leaders in

Broward, closer to 30, who were really influential. An executive of a

large company in Broward said there were only about 20 to 25 leaders

who were involved on a regular basis. Another said there were between

10 to 15 individuals who were very active. This was complicated by the

tendency of businessmen to consider only private sector individuals as

leaders. Several respondents failed to name any public or elected

officials as among the most influential persons in Broward County.

Nevertheless, a picture does emerge from the respondents' answers.

Regardless of the protestations of a few of Broward's leaders that over

100 or even a 1000 persons were very influential in the county, the

two-step reputational method in fact identified just 36 leaders. The

great majority of Broward's community influentials, as found in

interviews, identified only a relatively few number of leaders in

response to the question asked above.

While some pluralist critics might argue that the question asked

limited the number of influentials identified, the question asked

leaders to identify "ten" influentials instead of the normal "five"

posed in most reputational studies. Thus, starting with panel 1, the

knowledgeable, a potential 100 different names could have been

identified as community influentials, if there were no overlap in

responses. From here, the number of leaders named as influentials

could have gone into several hundred or thousand.

Table 4-1 identifies the top leaders in Broward County as found in

the reputational survey. Table 4-2 compares these leaders with the

rest of the residents of the county. An examination of this table

quickly reveals that Broward County leaders are not representative of

the community as a whole. No blacks and only four women were

identified as top leaders. While this does not necessarily mean that

women and blacks are without influence in the community, it does

suggest that despite progress that women and blacks have made in

securing equal rights and opportunities in society, they have not yet

achieved parity with white males.

These leaders are by no means homogeneous. The religious

background of the top leaders is shown in the table below. If this

group is an elite, it is not a white Anglo Saxon Protestant elite.

Over one-third of Broward's top leaders are Jewish, and one-fifth are

Catholic. These leaders are alike in several other ways, however. In

addition to being all white, and predominantly male, they are

overwhelmingly democratic and college educated. Only four of Broward's

leaders have never been to college. More than half of them have

graduate degrees, mostly law. Almost three-fourths of them have a

bachelors degree or higher. This is even more notable when we see that


POSITION 1 2 3 4 5 6 7

Forman [Ham]
Forman [How]



Barnett Bank South
Leonard Farber Inc.
ACR Electronics
Causeway Lumber
United Federal S & L
M.R. McTigue & Co.
State Senator/Attorney
State Legislator/Attorney
State Legislator/Pharmacist
Sun Bank South
County Commissioner
Broward Community College
Gulfstream Development
Ft. Lauderdale News
Florida Power & Light
Attorney/Board of Regents
Broward Federal S & L
Hollywood Inc.
County Commissioner
State Senator/Attorney
Condominim Leader Lauder-
dale Lakes Councilman
Nova University
County Commissioner
Arvida Corporation
Mayor, City of Sunrise/
Democratic Party Chair
County Commissioner
County Commissioner
County Commissioner
Retired [Landmark Bank]
Fort Lauderdale City

14 17 7 1 1 3 1



x x
x x
x x

Table 4-1 continued

2=PUBLIC OFFICIAL [Public or Private]
3=PROFESSIONAL [Lawyer (only practicing lawyers were put in this
category), Pharmacist]
5=MEDIA [also treated as business]

Several leaders' positions changed during the course of the study which
could have affected their rankings. Houston left his position at Barnett
Bank, though most respondents felt this would not affect his position in the
community. He and Farber are now collaborating on a bank.
Campbell was promoted to the Los Angeles Times in the middle of the
study. Therefore, people stopped selecting him as a community leader and his
overall rank is probably substantially lower than it otherwise would have
been. His replacement was not yet known to respondents.
Lomelo was ousted as chairman of the Democratic Party and replaced by
George Platt shortly after field work was completed. Platt would probably
rise in the rankings as a result and Lomelo would drop. (Actually, Lomelo is
probably no longer a factor in Broward politics. He was indicted and
convicted of extortion, and is presently serving time in prison.)

The data presented here were collected between June and December of
1983. Thirty of the 36 leaders who received two or more nominations were
interviewed. Two did not respond to the question of who the most influential
persons in the community were. Three of the 28 who answered the question
said there were too many influential leaders in the community to talk of just
ten. These results are based on 25 respondents who answered the question.
Twelve individuals received one vote each.









Black and other



Fort Lauderdale News (1980),
p. 9.

100% (36)
0% (0)


69% (25)
11% (4)

88% (897,670)
12% (120,530)

Florida Statistical Abstract
(1983) Table 1.42, p. 24.

47% (483,557)
53% (534,643)




Florida Statistical Abstract
(1983) Table 1.35, p. 18.



77% (27)
17% (6)
6% (2)


Extremely Liberal
Slightly Liberal
Slightly Conservative
Extremely Conservative


60% (346,800)
32% (184,399)
8% (43,205)

Broward County Supervisor
of Elections Office

15% (4)
52% (14)
7% (2)
22% (6)
4% (1)


Fort Lauderdale News, (1980),
p. 9.


Table 4-2 Continued

Below High School
4 Years of High School
1-3 Years of College
4 Years of College
5 or more years


Interviews, news
articles and resumes.

1980 Census Handbook
Florida Counties, Table
4.06, p. 162, 165.





only 15 percent of the residents of Broward County have a college

degree. Finally, Broward's community leaders tend to be moderate, many

fewer at the political extremes than in the public at large. About half

of the leaders interviewed identified themselves as moderate.

Twenty-eight percent of the residents called themselves liberal and 46

percent conservative.

Classifying the Community

The fact that there was substantial overlap among the leaders

identified as community influentials strongly suggests that power is

not widely dispersed in the community. However, as pointed earlier,

the number of leaders found through the reputational method alone is

not sufficient to classify a community as elite or pluralistic. More

important is the relationship among the leaders.

How then are we to classify the community? If we accept the

notion that whatever else these persons identified by the reputational

analysis are, they are experts on their community politics, then we may

begin here. Community leaders, as found in the reputational survey,

were asked to characterize Broward County's political structure.

Twenty-six of the leaders interviewed described a community which we

would commonly label pluralist [1].

The majority of respondents used phrasings which parallel

pluralist descriptions of communities such as

-changing coalitions depending on the issue

-no cohesion

-no small group of individuals

-vested interests

-diverse population with differing interests

-lots of entry points

-no ongoing structure

-very fragmented

It will be helpful to look at some of the statements made by

leaders in characterizing the community's decision making structure

[2]. A developer put it this way:

There is no structure in Broward like elsewhere. People do not
trust each other here--jealous of control, suspicious. There are
tiny empires, vested interests. Ineffective and inefficient as a
result. Broward is about as uncontrolled a situation as you would
find. As the city gets bigger, it's out of control.

A banker described Broward's decision making in a similar fashion:

It's very fragmented. Everybody has his own interests. Sometimes
they overlap. Sometimes they ask help of each other. I do not
always know what the others are up to, nor them, me. . .In most
instances, there is a different mixture of groups in each issue.
In the county commission, interplay, conflict, debate, and the
answer to solve the problem comes out.

Another businessman summed it up this way:

People come together for only short term durations on issues.
There is no ongoing continuous power structure. These people come
together, work on projects and disassemble. Some give time to the
community because they want to live and work in a stable
community, any benefits are secondary. While for others, the
benefits are more direct. Power in Broward is dispersed. That is
not a problem if there is good leadership. . In Broward there
is no cohesiveness. In Broward you can accomplish something that
is pretty obvious. The issue itself has to be one that will
attract a favorable response. It borders on the least common
denominator. For example, the bond issue to provide capital
improvements was structured to include something for everyone,

An attorney characterized Broward as follows:

There was a book on Florida power structure in 1973 [Butcher,
1973] which found in Broward there was no distinct leadership
elite, power was fragmented. No single individual. So many
factions, at war with itself. This just precisely described the
situation today. Some names have changed. It's very fragmented,
complicated, complex. Broward is at war with itself. [3]

Factors Associated With Pluralism

Why did leaders believe Broward was so pluralistic? Leaders

identified a number of reasons for this including the newness of the

area, rapid growth, geographic divisions and social diversity, the

different orientations of the young and the old, fragmented government,

and the lack of county-wide structures. A major business leader said

there is

a failure of unity in Broward for two reasons. First, there are
28 to 29 cities in Broward with provincialism so we are left with
an inefficient government structure with duplication. Second--the
young and the old. Older people are not as concerned with
education. Generally, the older people came from some other city.
Younger people feel 180 degrees opposite from their positions. As
there are more older people, there will occasionally be more
political problems.

This view was echoed by other leaders in the community. A developer,

after describing Broward as pluralistic, was asked why this was so. He

explained that the community was pluralistic "because no individual or

group is strong enough to bring together the community. No group is

able to say get together. .. Time and money keeps people apart." He


Broward is relatively new, about 20 years. Players don't know
each other. Areas don't talk. Old people want a voice but also
want to be left alone. It is not their home. They paid taxes and
identify with where they last came from.

It was not just the elderly, however, as "business leaders are not

always sure who others are in Broward." He compared the situation to

that of Jacksonville.

In Jacksonville, they are more cohesive. They have not had the
dramatic growth. There is a structure created and people know it,
though it is permeable. People can come and go. Players there
are established and known powers. If an issue comes up, you know
who to get together.

But this still does not tell us why Broward has not developed an

effective cohesive power structure. Certainly rapid growth is a

factor, as pointed out by the developer above. Trounstine and

Christensen (1982) found rapid growth was very much a factor in the

pluralist power structure found in San Jose, California:

While virtually every change broadens participation, nearly every
one is related to growth, which may be the single strongest
summarizing factor in alterring a city's power structure. The
irony is that although it is usually old-guard elites that force
growth on a community, as they bring growth they sow the seeds of
their own destruction. And what happens when growth stops?
Presumably, the community power structure freezes, or if the
decline of the community is sufficient to produce changes in any
of the characteristics listed the trend reverses itself.
(Trounstine and Christensen, 1982, pp. 46-47)

In Broward, it would appear that rapid growth brought a different

population increasing the social diversity of the community, a major

cause of pluralism, according to Dahl. The new migrants were elderly

and in large part, Jewish. These new residents were mostly Democratic,

locating in the western and southern parts of the county resulting in

geographic splits and generational conflict.

But other areas have also experienced rapid growth without it

seeming to affect the power structure in the same way. Bert Swanson is

currently researching Houston and characterizes it as having a business

elite power structure which dominates community decision making.

Sylvia Thompson has been studying Dade County, Florida, which has also

experienced rapid growth and a changing ethnic and racial population.

Her preliminary findings indicated that an elite dominates community

decision making there. Why then did Broward County develop such a

pluralistic community decision making structure? From interviews, a

possible answer emerged [4].

It is not just rapid growth which causes pluralism, but whether

the community can integrate the new population and either absorb new

power centers into the existing structure or prevent the emergence of

new power centers which can challenge the existing order. In Broward,

this capacity did not exist according to several leaders. The social,

political, and economic mechanisms that integrate the community and

create a small unified group with similar interests are absent. As an

elected official put it:

There is no cadre of leadership that can make decisions.
Geographically, the county is divided into the north, central, and
south. Leaders in the south are unknown in the north. Little
economic interests span the county. With the 29 cities,
fragmentation. The major city [Fort Lauderdale] has 10 to 12
percent of the population. There are park, hospital and water
districts. There is divided influence without central authority.


A banker pointed out that Broward did not have a single paper read

by everyone in the county as is the case Miami. In South Broward, they

either read the Miami Herald or the Hollywood Sun Tattler. In Central

and North Broward, they read the Fort Lauderdale News. Broward does

not have a major television station so people must rely on stations

from Palm Beach or Miami with Broward bureaus for their news. This

means Broward usually gets secondary treatment. This, the banker said,

hinders the development of a community identity. The banker said you

need county-wide structures, whether organizations are civic or
otherwise. A chance to get together. Not just because it's a
county cultural center, convention center or downtown. The
physical presence gives identity to the community. That's why
they are important.

An elected official emphasized the clash between the old and the

new residents in terms of party membership.

Broward will not get a small group of leaders like Dade. Dade was
organized before labor or condos came. Everything was
concentrated in the downtown. Broward was Republican, the new
people were Democrats. Power was diffused. Broward is a more
open community than Dade. People can get into politics without
anyone's support. A self-starter can make it.

In other communities, there may be social diversity and government

fragmentation, yet the business community, often centered in the

Chamber of Commerce, provides the focus for a cohesive elite. In

Broward, however, the business community is as split as the political.

A developer compared the situation in Broward to that of Dade County.

There is one Chamber of Commerce in Dade. The Greater Miami
Chamber is the business power. Its consolidated in Dade and they
have the support of banks and utilities. Broward is diffuse. We
have brought the West Broward Chamber in with the Fort Lauderdale

Chamber. We should bring in Pompano and Hollywood. It won't
happen because of staff. Business in Dade did it. There is more
big industry in Dade. In Broward, shopkeepers and local banks do
not want it either.

Consequences of Pluralism

Though the majority of respondents reported a highly pluralistic

community, they were somewhat critical of this decision making system.

This is ironic given the common view that pluralism is as close to

democracy as we can practically attain. The leaders identified a

number of problems associated with pluralist decision making. Among

them were

-an inability to get big deals (large projects for the

-difficulty getting an effective program from the

-discouraging trade and industry from locating in the
county (hindered efforts to attract)

-makes it difficult if not impossible to accomplish

-prevents the emergence of leaders

The following excerpts should clarify these community leaders'

objections to pluralist decision making. After describing Broward as a

pluralist community, a developer was asked whether it would be better

to have a well integrated, more unified power structure. Yes, he


It would be good. The Broward Workshop [an organization of top
private sector leaders] is the latest effort. Miami has a group.
When they speak, they are listened to. In Miami they move
projects, and get good legislative candidates. They are able to

get legislation. They are able to get transportation facilities,
bond issues, revitalization. Trade and industry come.

Here in Broward we don't have these things. If the XYZ company
wants to move its plant to Broward, is there any one guy to call
and get it done? No. If you needed 50,000 dollars for a campaign
for a bond issue, there are probably not a couple of leaders who
could get it.

An attorney also talked about the difficulty in getting things from the

legislature because of Broward's pluralism.

Broward is short-changed because it can't mount a unified approach
in Washington or Tallahassee. There is no consensus amongst

This was echoed by another developer.

We do not have an effective organized program for the legislature
related to state issues and even advanced to the national.

Elected officials also see Broward's pluralism as a problem. An

elected official was asked whether it mattered that leadership was

splintered in Broward, as he had described. He said that if you do

"not have strong support, you are not successful. You must get

everyone together." This is very difficult in Broward. He drew this

analogy to development: "little deals are like little developments," in

that you are left with alot of "spaces to fill in. It won't be as big

or as well planned as a large development." He said in Broward, no

"big deals" could be accomplished due to its pluralistic system of

decision making. He said little deals do not take many people to

complete. An example he gave was the Performing Arts Center planned

for downtown Broward County. It required a commitment from the City of

Fort Lauderdale, Broward County, the State of Florida, and the Downtown

Development Authority. Only a few people are involved in an effort

like this. Each committed to support the Performing Arts Center to the

tune of 5 million dollars.

To many of us this might seem like a "big deal," but in this day

and age, 20 million dollars is really not that much money, especially

when four government entities are providing support. When pressed for

an example of a "big deal," the official was hard pressed for an

answer. After some prodding, he thought perhaps the Charter adopted in

1974, which changed the structure of county government might be an

example of a big deal, though he had no first-hand knowledge of this.

Another source in the community described how the lack of a more

unified power structure may have prevented or at least delayed a

Broward legislator from becoming Speaker of the Florida House of

Representatives. According to this source, in running for Speaker,

"solid backing from the hometown is crucial." He said, "the most

influential and top leader in Broward was not for Tom Gustafson in his

race against Jon Mills for the 1986 Speaker position. As a result, we

lost two of the Broward delegation to the Gainesville man [Jon Mills]."

He was referring to J. Edward Houston, president of Barnett Bank South.

According to this leader, "if Barnett Bank said we want a politician

from another part of the state to be Speaker, Houston would follow."

Barnett Bank, the head office of which is in Jacksonville, was

supporting Jon Mills of Gainesville and Houston "will do what is good

for Barnett Bank first."

Another banker shed some light on problems resulting from a

pluralistic decision making structure.

It is really difficult to do something. You must start from
scratch each time. If there was an ongoing group, a sounding
board to develop different things, it would help. There isn't, we
don't do that in Broward.

Statements like these suggest that we take another look at the

way we have approached the linkage between power structure and policy

outputs. In Chapter I, it was pointed out that a number of hypotheses

about power structure and policy outputs have been formulated and

tested, with very inconclusive results. Most of the studies trying to

make a connection between power and policy have looked at the level of

policy outputs in the community, usually in terms of expenditures or

participation in federal grant programs. However, interviews with

community influentials in Broward County suggest that perhaps

researchers are looking at the wrong level. Most federal programs

instituted in the 1960s were based on communities meeting certain

criteria. Whether a community participated in Model Cities or poverty

programs may have more to do with community characteristics that

community politics, in that many of these programs are formula driven.

In short, according to leaders in Broward County, their

pluralistic decision making structure has undesirable

consequences--less success in economic development than more

centralized communities, difficulty in getting good legislative

candidates, fewer leadership positions in state government, fewer

resources from the state and difficulty putting together "big deals."

Lastly, and this may be the most severe problem with a decentralized

decision making structure, individuals tend to drift into and out of

leadership positions. Consider this leader's frustration:

There is no leadership in Broward. There are smart successful
people, not leaders, that can take charge and go for it . .
People would follow, if there were a leader. There is leadership
on specific causes. The 1978 bond issue--Ed Houston did a good
job on that cause. Afterwards, he was not effective, too busy in
other areas. Chuck Cobb put together the South Florida
Coordinating Council made up of 100 corporations doing business in
three counties [Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach]. They played a
leadership role with a good executive director. After he left, it
went down hill because they did not have leadership. Roger Hall
put together the Broward Legislative Fly-In [state legislators
were brought to the county and given an overview of Broward's
problems and needs, as well as wined and dined]. He raised funds
from the private sector and it came off well. It was a good job
but it took alot of energy. This is not something these people
would want to do every day.

Asked why there is not permanent leadership, only leaders for specific

causes, he replied:

There are so many forces that go against it. It's wearing and
difficult. People shoot at you all the time. It's difficult to
get people to move in one direction. Look at the history of the
airport improvement plan since 1972. Consultants, money, ten
years--crazy lack of leadership. The forces against prevent
permanent leadership. We are provincial from municipality,
council, mayor, to chamber.

He was asked why no one has stayed as a leader after their specific


I am not sure it is worth it for anyone because of the degree of
difficulty. Maybe a guy like Lomelo [mayor of the City of Sunrise
and chairman of the Democratic Party--currently serving time in
federal prison for fraud] persistent and energetic in Sunrise, but
most people would go against it though.

Leadership in a Pluralist System

In the preceding section, we saw that leaders in Broward described

a system of decision making consistent with pluralist theory. They do

not see a small group of leaders who run things, and they decried the

lack of a permanent on-going leadership, identifying a number of

specific problems associated with pluralist decision making in which

they operated. In spite of these problems, leaders do act and

decisions do get made. Exactly how do leaders operate in a pluralist

system? This question was put to a number of community leaders

identified in the reputational analysis.

In interpreting their answers, one sees that the clarity of the

two separate theories breaks down. While Broward County is not

necessarily an average community, there is little reason to expect that

Broward is atypical in this respect. Whatever differences exist

theoretically between the two schools of thought, elite and pluralist,

seem to be blurred in the community. Almost every description of

leadership behavior can be interpreted equally well by either theory

without distorting the leaders' responses. Without ideological

predispositions to interpret the findings, it becomes difficult if not

impossible to say one is correct and the other false.

How Do They Operate?

A banker explained that "there is a nucleus of individuals who are

involved, but they must expand beyond that to go anywhere if they want

county-wide support." This phrasing is important if we are to make any

sense of the conflict between elite and pluralist theory. For the

elite theorist, this suggests that there is an inner core, while the

pluralist emphasizes that this "nucleus" must "expand beyond" that to

gain "county-wide support." Obviously, the pluralist would say, there

is little sense in talking about an elite that is not powerful enough

to act on its own. Other groups and the people must be brought in to

accomplish projects or move ahead with agendas. The following account

of how leaders act in the community illustrates the ambiguity of these


According to a prominent businessman, the head of a major employer

in the county, "who is involved depends on the issues. These ten

leaders stand out. There are maybe 20 to 25 people in Broward who are

involved, take time and put money in to get things accomplished." He

explained further:

These leaders, particularly the top ten, form coalitions to
orchestrate what needs to be done before it ever gets to the
county commission. The county commission is the organization that
passes upon issues. For example, on the convention center, these
leaders did the legwork and research and then took it to the
county commission. The leaders do not see alot of each other.

The businessman pointed out, however, that the leaders could not do it

all on their own. They-had their limits. He said:

On a long term project such as the convention center, these ten
cannot convince the whole community. They must go out and build a
broad coalition-go to the cities, county, private business,
tourism, and the elderly. They must explain why it is beneficial
to them and then get the financing. These 20 to 30 leaders have
vested interests. It is difficult to get agreement within the
group of leaders itself. In addition, each city wants the
convention center. For instance, Plantation wants the convention
center even though it has no hotels.

The use of the term "orchestrate" to describe what the leaders do,

as well as his characterization of the top leaders as a "nucleus of

individuals," would suggest more structure and organization than one

would normally associate with a pluralist system of decision making.

It recalls Hunter's Atlanta, a community with a hidden elite deciding

things out of the public's view. In describing how a small group of

leaders helped quash a tax revolt and a recall petition against county

commissioners that threatened a major bond issue (see Chapter VI), this

businessman sounded even more conspiratorial.

There was a small group who met and worked on the tax revolt. We
prefer that people just know that there is some force that does
something quietly, unknown. It was a handful of people who got
together and discussed it. If they wanted to help, fine.
Otherwise, can go, but keep mouth shut. We wanted to remain
anonymous and out of view. To identify the participants would
violate confidences.

He was asked whether leaders ever get together on other things besides

the tax revolt issue. He said:

It depends on what surfaces. Nothing else that visible, but the
ongoing future development of the county. Every community is
different. No one group. There is a core of people perceived as
movers and shakers, a nucleus. Start a convention center, go
here, do that, over a long period of time. The names that appear
on everyone's list are the one's I'm talking about. Not those who
get five votes, but those with 10 or 15. It's not cliques, more
dynamic than that. There are different varied interests. In
business area, not as cliquish. There are few leaders and many
followers. All want to be associated with someone perceived as a
leader. A few idea people--here's how to do it and the time
frame. Others are good at implementing, followers. Everybody is
moving at a different pace but a common goal--the improvement of
the community at all levels.

Asked whether public officials are ever part of this group, he offered

the tax revolt issue as an illustration:

Public officials are brought in later. When the commissions about
to be deposed, they are brought in and told, we will help you but
you must be more responsive in the future, but we want a,b,c, and
d. Now we will fight this by saying this is not the time or way
to object. We need unity. Give and take. If the commissioners
said no, then the group would not assist them. We would pull back
and say roast. The commissioners don't come directly to the
group. They come through an intermediary. The group asks what do
they want. Cut deal. Still politics, but now in the front room
and not the back. A tax revolt is only once every five years.

But he does not think there is an organized elite: it is a "very

unstructured system. Issue by issue. Not only deal with detrimental

things. We work more on how to do something beneficial for the

community. It goes on quietly."

His answers could be discounted were he the only leader to have so

described Broward County. However, several other community

influentials gave similar opinions. Another business leader talked of

a small group of leaders which resembles the elite described by Hunter,

but acts in a pluralist system. His description could fit either

Hunter's Atlanta or Dahl's New Haven. He started out by explaining

"Broward is fragmented, but still 20 names should stand out." He

continued, "each person creates an orbit that e moves in, those he

sees. Some of the circles overlap. Everyone's is different. No two

people with certain circles completely identical."

Asked whether news articles about Broward's dispersed power

centers were misleading (Lovely, 1983), he replied:

I do not like the term fragmented. All of the leaders are in
different orbits. A certain number at a meeting will do things.
Not all of them have to get together. If you took all the names
in your card file, a group like that, or even the top 10 or 20 of
them, if they ever were totally committed to anything, any needs
in Broward, it could not miss with all the talent and power that
is represented there. The Workshop is bringing together such a
group. A nucleus of leaders get together and say have got to do
something. If it is a worthwhile deal, the others can't say no.
The same people finance, provide leadership, and motivation.

Dahl would not have any great problem with the above statement

arguing that this businessman only points out that the group identified

has a high potential for control; a criticism he makes of the ruling

elite theorists is that they do not distinguish between potential power

and actual power (Dahl, 1958). This is the same distinction Clark


(1975) makes when he defines a "power structure" as the distribution of

potential power in the community, and a "decision making structure" as

the distribution of actual exercised influence. However, leadership

behavior in Broward cannot be explained away so easily.

We will see in the next two chapters that Broward leaders have

acted to change a decision making structure which they perceive as

flawed. To overcome the problems of pluralism, they have attempted to

centralize community decision making, first, by changing the

governmental authority structure and second, by organizing and

formalizing leadership in the private sector. In the language of

community power, they have sought to create a more unified power

structure. Both of these efforts are examined in the following



1. Initially, respondents were presented with a series of four types
of communities. Type 1 was a community in which there was controversy
over community issues, but it was always the same groups and
individuals versus each other no matter what issue was under
consideration. In Type 2, there was also controversy, but it was
different individuals and groups pitted against each other depending
upon the issue under consideration. Type 3 was a community in which
there was little controversy over issues and a high degree of consensus
about what should be done among leaders. Type 4 was a community where
the bureaucracy pretty much kept things running and addressed problems
regardless of what was going on in the leadership.

This approach to determine the type of community Broward County most
approximated was discontinued after a few interviews because it took a
great deal of time to list the different types of communities to
respondents and tended to cut off discussion. In place of this
question, a more open ended approach was utilized, asking respondents
to describe in their own words how community issues were addressed and
whether the community resembled either an elite or pluralist decision
making structure. For instance, respondents were told that in some
communities a relatively few leaders got together and decided community
issues. They were then asked whether this pattern was descriptive of
Broward County. This method was found to be very effective and
resulted in more thought out answers with examples. It also lended
itself to further probing.

2. Quotes of community leaders are reconstructed quotes based on
extensive notes taken during interviews. While a tape recording would
have guaranteed accurate quotation, it was felt leaders would be
reluctant to speak openly with a tape running. In some instances, to
ensure the confidentiality of respondents, quotes have been altered.
The substance of the quotes, however, was never changed. If passages
were deleted from quotes, it is indicated by ". .". Regardless of
the gender of a source, the person was always referred to as "he."

3. I was surprised at how far the community power jargon had
penetrated the community. This respondent was not the only one
interviewed to be familiar with such terms.

4. Bert Swanson is presently working on a study of Houston's power
structure. Sylvia Thompson was interviewed in December of 1983 at the
University of Miami.


Leaders in Broward County discussed a number of movements towards

centralizing community decision making. It seems that Broward's

leaders do not merely voice discontent with pluralist decision making,

they have taken concrete steps to centralize decision making. This

will force us to reconsider our views not only about the desirability

of pluralism as a way to make decisions, but also the extent to which

community leaders may shape the system within which they operate. It

has already been pointed out that leaders feel the present structure

does not allow them to deal with the problems of their community in an

effective manner. This chapter discusses what has and is being done to

overcome these limitations in the area of political reforms. The next

chapter considers efforts to centralize the informal power structure in

the business community. The structure of government and the informal

power structure are not simply givens; rather the degree of

centralization in community decision making is to a great extent

dependent on the deliberate actions of community leaders, working to

shape these structures to suit their needs.

Growth and Development in Broward County

In the last chapter leaders identified a number of factors

associated with pluralism in the community and how these further

fragmented community decision making. Chief among these was growth and