Traditional, aristocratic and authentic elites

May 28, 2012

The word elite is usually accompanied by qualifiers, such as professional, cultural, moral, ethnic, and so forth. For this reason, it is useful to describe the meaning of three frequent qualifiers for the word: traditional, aristocratic, and authentic.

A professional elite can be traditional without being aristocratic. It can, for example, be made up of the best fishermen who have practiced their profession along the New England coast for many generations.

Fisherman's Memorial in Gloucester, Massachusetts, is a tribute to the 10,000 Gloucester fishermen who have lost their lives at sea over the centuries and the courage and fortitude of Gloucester fishermen.

An aristocratic elite is composed of members who exercise an activity compatible with the aristocratic condition. It also must be rooted in tradition, that is, to have existed for a period of time adequate to confer upon it a traditional character.

Sarah Livingston Jay married John Jay in 1774. She was the fifth daughter of William Livingston, the War Governor of New Jersey.

The authenticity of an elite, both traditional and aristocratic, comes from the excellence of its activities and lifestyle. It also arises from the fact that its members are truly what they claim to be. An elite of costume jewelry makers, however qualified and old, is not authentic if its members define themselves as fine jewelers.

Shirley Plantation is the oldest active plantation in Virginia and is the oldest family-owned business in North America. Eleven generations have successfully owned, operated, and worked Virginia's first plantation.


Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira, Nobility and Analogous Traditional Elites in the Allocutions of Pius XII: A Theme Illuminating American Social History (York, Penn.: The American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family, and Property, 1993), American Appendix, p. 185. Editorial Comment: —

The word “elites” is being bandied around today irresponsibly in a way that vilifies and condemns any and all leadership in society. This can only favor those who want an anarchical society, without government or leadership of any kind, and where any semblance of culture and civilization has been stripped from society, and men have become brutes and savages.
Rejecting this subversive tendency, Prof. Plinio Correa de Oliveira upholds and defends the need for elites in society. They should be stimulated, not repressed or persecuted. They should understand and love their leadership role and be helped in its pursuit.
Exactly because elites should exist in every class, they are not all the same. In this excerpt, Prof. Correa de Oliveira explains how all elites must be authentic, (1) pursuing excellence; and (2) being genuine. He also explains that when such authentic elites have maintained this elite status for some generations, they become traditional elites. And when such traditional elites live in an aristocratic manner, they become an aristocratic elite, analogous to the established European nobility of old.


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