Who are the New Elite? First, read my earlier post http://wrinkledweasel.blogspot.com/2011/01/defining-social-class.html
In it I said that Class has always been identifiable by three things; Choice, Mobility and Influence. I said that most of us consider ourselves to be Middle Class but that there was a New Elite who have replaced tired cliches about the landed gentry.
The old elite, the landed gentry and the aristocracy wield little influence these days. 200 years ago they effectively owned Members of Parliament but now there is a tiny remnant left in the Upper House and the trend is down. Societal Elites have always comprised bandits or the sons of bandits. You only have to look at our own history to see this. I define bandit as anyone who can take money from others and kill them if necessary and get away with it. Getting away with it is key. Elton John is not the New Elite. He can get a table at The Ivy without too much trouble and can probably get through immigration quicker than I can. He could afford to have someone killed, but he could not get away with it. Elton, and Becks and Simon and Piers are not the New Elite, they are minor cogs in the engine of Capitalism. They are merely, for the purposes of our definition, high value consumers and spenders. Elton could probably buy a small country, but he does not have the resources or the power to control it. Most of the media glitterati, the A listers, can keep a story out of the news and many do. But that is a function of having money, not influence. Max Clifford has influence, but only because he is involved in a mutual back-scratching racket with the press. Should the fourth estate grow a set of cojones and some imagination, Clifford would be selling timeshares.
So I have said that the New Elite is not the landed gentry and neither is it the raft of celebs who we all adore.
Thirdly, it is not an international conspiracy. For the New Elite is not one homogenous group, it comprises a set of sub-groups who, like feudal barons, are motivated primarily by self-interest. They will only coalesce for reasons of self-preservation, forming ad hoc alliances with other Elites.
We have this week seen the toppling of one of its members, the President of Tunisia. His case is a true paradigm of what I am talking about. Mr Ben Ali is apparently now in Saudi Arabia, after fleeing his country amid a wave of protests and riots about the dire state of the Tunisian economy and its repressive regime. It is interesting that he headed for Saudi but quite predictable because he would by no means be the first despot to be given comfort and succour there. Elites understand the value of allies in the event of a nuclear option. Should North Korea's Kim Jong-il be deposed he will flee to China and enjoy a quiet, superannuated retirement. No country wants to take on people who frankly are an embarrassment but they have a by the Grace of God strategy that has as its underlying theme the idea that one day it might be them waiting on the tarmac as the soldiers barricade the Aiport. It is the same reason that the Russians fete Spies who have their cover blown. Effectively useless, the promise of a pension and a medal means that the blown spy can be an ecouragement to others. Rival gangs may hate each other and rub each other out but, until recently the code of omerta was solid. This is the self-preservation society in action.
Modern banditry among the New Elites is characterised by global interference and sacking of the economy, murder, repression interference with democractic controls and control of the media. Tunisia's President did all of these things. His mistake was merely to be so far removed from the populace that he failed to stop the banditry before it was too late. cf King Charles I, Saddam Hussein, Ceaucescu et al.
So although there is a cap on what the New Elite can do, within this they operate with impugnity. Political Elites are one thing, Economic Elites are wholly other. Some individuals can affect the global economy significantly. A global raider will typically have no fixed abode, money everywhere and in everything and one or two tame despots he can run to. In some ways he is above the political despot because he is pan national. Though not above the law, it is unlikely he will come to grief unless other elites wish it so and his power is predicated on the will of world markets which are largely also impervious to political and social control. So in effect he is an anarchist.
How do you become a member? See Tony Blair. He has successfully gone down the road of merely privileged, public school, Oxford and Parliament. Since leaving office he has consolidated his power far above that of his successor and can now be considered to be one of the New Elite. (Just check out the criteria).
How does it all effect me? Well it does, and to such a degree that we should be appalled. If you live somewhere like Tunisia or Italy it affects you more than it does here, in terms of your standard of living and your freedom. Calbria was described in a diplomatic message to the effect that it would be a failed state were it not part of Italy. Calabria is a lawless region run by the Mafia who are an Elite sub-group who live in symbiotic relations to the political sub-group of Berlusconi. In Italy you have a sublime kind of opression that manages to mix Olive Oil cut with Duckhams 20/50 and Prada, and so far has managed to keep the lid on popular disaffection.
The fact is that every time I buy petrol, when I pay my taxes, when I try and move around, to some extent I am directly or indirectly controlled by the will of the New Elite. And really, they are just the old elite with a bit more technology.