Krein explores the thought of James Burnham and its development throughout his life. Of particular importance are Burnham’s theory of the managerial revolution and its further development in his later works.
Conservative polemicists have long presented a caricature of a decadent liberal elite, and liberals have offered a competing caricature of a conservative plutocracy. But few have attempted to understand how these ostensible opponents function as elements of the same elite, or how they have participated in maintaining the broader intellectual, political, and economic status quo. Today, with the old partisan categories in disarray, many pundits have begun to acknowledge the existence of a transpartisan elite with its own interests, if only as the antithesis of so-called populists. Yet although many efforts have been made to examine the motives—and, almost always, the pathologies—of populism, little serious thought has been given to the interests and character of the elite as a class.
This refusal to interrogate or even conceive of a ruling class of elites reflects the once prevalent—and still lingering—belief that ideological conflict ended after the Cold War. Without a critique of the dominant ideology, the distinct class consciousness and interests of the elite seem to disappear. If there is no critique of the general political consensus, then there is no critique of the political elite, for it is that elite which constitutes and defines the larger society.