Sociology Essay How useful is the concept of elite' for understanding the distribution of power in either Britain or the United States? Introduction In America perhaps only race is a more sensitive subject than the way we sort ourselves out in the struggle for success. The eminent sociologist Robert Merton calls it the structure of opportunity'. In the understanding of the usefulness of the term elite', there are some common historical variables, which must be looked at in order to appreciate the power organisms at work even in American society, and how from the days of Thomas Jefferson to the era of Newt Gingrich, the assumption of superiority is an undercurrent in American life and society. In this essay I will attempt to show that elitist power in America is controlled by a few at the top of the political, corporate, social and religious pyramid. Moreover, the concept of natural aristocracy, or meritocracy, has a powerful resonance even in the United States of America. Historical Antecedents In understanding the usefulness of the term elite in American society, late 19th and 20th century history provides the pretext for what was called a " fluid society ". This was a highly mechanized, industrial age in which people's roles were being determined by their merit, talents, character and grit'. By 1910, Harvard Professor Frederick Jackson Turner was influential in transforming this ministerial training school into an Ivy League institution, dominated by the children of a distinct upper class most Northeastern and mostly business. This class came to be known as the Episcopacy, after its predominant religion - Episcopalianism. The genesis of the Episcopacy at the end of the 19th century represented the merger of what appeared to be an irreconcilable conflict between two rival elite groups: the old pre-industrial New England - based on upper-class norms, with its high-minded, non-urban mores, and the big, rough New York based - Gilded Age rich.