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Controlled by the power elite

by Phil Bartle, PhD

Training Handout

The conflict perspective sees law (enforcement officers, laws, courts, prisons, parole departments, the whole system) as a means for the elite to maintain their position of power, prestige and property, and to keep the poor people poor.

The conflict perspective sees that power is maintained largely by elite white, wealthy males.  These individuals work carefully, often in a hidden manner, to ensure that their interests are represented in government.  For the most part, they identify with the power centres and executives of the corporate community, and support the corporate culture.  They are called the "Power Elite."

The working class pose a threat to the privilege and the power that the elite control, which is why there are many arrests of those who step out of line.  People are arrested at rates that reflect their social class; a street person would more likely be arrested than a wealthy person.  First Nations persons are arrested at a much higher rate than mainstream persons.

Much of the media is controlled by powerful and wealthy people, through corporate ownership.  To a large extent, they control what is seen by the public, which means that they can withhold specific information or make bad news sound good or neutral, by spin doctoring or "newspeak."

Crimes committed by the powerful are often left unnoticed because they generally have the money to pay off the people who know their secrets, or hold enough power for them to commit crimes without people noticing.


If you are a member of a visible minority, and a successful dentist, who likes to drive an expensive sports car, be prepared to be stopped often by police who may assume you are a drug dealer. Members of mainstream society, however, are resistant to the idea that racism is practised in our society. See notes on the Vertical Mosaic.

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