The reason for this ability to control and influence usually stems from the many resources, powers, authority, and moral prestige at the disposal of the elites.
Therefore, a focus on the discourse, influence, and role of elites constitutes a change in the understanding of political relations, whether from a Marxist perspective, which attaches primacy to classes and their conflict (as if classes are one homogeneous unit) or even from the perspective of national ideology, which divides groups on the same basis (as if nations also are one homogeneous unit). Both perspectives almost neglect the role of elites. Therefore, examining the role of elites means examining actual decision-making methods and the direct and daily impact of decision-makers, taking into account their identity, concerns, and interests as members of an elite group.
When studying elites, attention needs to be paid to certain themes, beginning with the nature and diversity of these elites – professional elites, such as those involved in law, media and academia, as opposed to political, military, economic, and religious elites. The first of these questions relates to the nature of the relationship between the types of elites: does the economic elite form a foundation and production source for political elites or vice versa? Is there a kind of elite that forms the basis and pillar of the rest of the elites, controlling their rhythm, so that one can talk of central and subsidiary elites? Is there a hierarchy among the different types of elites or are there equal relations based on distribution of roles?
Another question relates to the identity of individuals and forces that control the positions of power in these domains. Is there an overlap in the identities of these elites? Are media elites and economic elites is the same? Is there a significant overlap between legal and political elites or between political and economic elites? Obviously, the larger these overlaps are, the smaller the group that controls the joints of government, while a greater separation and diversity in the identities of elites would mean greater multiplicity of decision-making positions.
Finally, one should ask about changes within the elites and the identity of their members. Is there a change in the identity of individuals and groups? Are elite groups closed or equally open? Are there alterations in the individuals and groups that control a certain domain/elite, a decision-making position or an area of dominance? Is there a relationship between a certain domain and an ethnic or religious identity, for example? How, when, and why does the identity of the elites change in a specific domain, and how does this identity change affect the role of this elite group? How does this affect other elites and the distribution of roles between them?
These are some of the questions that this issue addresses in the Israeli context.