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Douglas Harper's Etymology Dictionary

1951; see elite + -ism.


alt. 1 The belief that a society or system should be run by an elite. 2 The superior attitude or behaviour associated with an elite. n. 1 The belief that a society or system should be run by an elite. 2 The superior attitude or behaviour associated with an elite.


n. the attitude that society should be governed by an elite group of individuals


Elitism is the belief or attitude that some individuals who form an elite—a select group of people with a certain ancestry, intrinsic quality or worth, high intellect, wealth, specialized training or experience, or other distinctive attributes—are those whose influence or authority is greater than that of others; whose views on a matter are to be taken more seriously or carry more weight; whose views or actions are more likely to be constructive to society as a whole; or whose extraordinary skills, abilities, or wisdom render them especially fit to govern.

Alternatively, the term elitism may be used to describe a situation in which power is concentrated in the hands of a limited number of people. Oppositions of elitism include anti-elitism, egalitarianism, populism and political theory of pluralism. Elite theory is the sociological or political science analysis of elite influence in society: elite theorists regard pluralism as a utopian ideal.

'Elitism' also refers to situations in which an individual assumes special 'privileges' and responsibilities in the hope that this arrangement will benefit humanity or themselves. Elitism is closely related to social class and what sociologists call social stratification. Members of the upper classes are sometimes known as the social elite. The term elitism is also sometimes used to denote situations in which a group of people claiming to possess high abilities or simply an in-group or cadre grant themselves extra privileges at the expense of others. This form of elitism may be described as discrimination.

Usage examples of "elitism".

The right kind of elitism can restore the butterfat to a homogenized society.

We based our criteria for excellence on the ability at the Latin Theme, we abandoned all that with horror as outdated elitism, and we now do exactly the same thing, with algebraic formulae substituting for Ciceronian pedantries.

Suddenly it made sense to me-the clubbiness, the lade-da neighbors, all this rampant elitism.

Sterling might be portraying the Troupers this way in order to expose the elitism at the heart of hackerdom and abjure it.

I inveigh against illogical beliefs and say that the mortal dreads are the ones that drive you to crazy beliefs in Scientology, est, the power of dope, hatred of elitism and intellectual pursuits, astrology, messiahs like Sun Myung Moon or Jim Jones, fundamentalist religions.

Elitism is counterproductive, it alienates you from other people, and we depend on a working relationship with many other groups like Special Branch or the security services.

Attendance had been dwindling, she knew, ever since Priesly and his loud-faced Jects had started harping on what they liked to call "Cobra elitism.

Her resentments at the class elitism of the Solarian League were neither here nor there, as far as the immediate issue at hand was concerned.