Pareto, Vilfredo

An Italian economist and sociologist, subject of an extensive treatment in Talcott Parsons's The Structure of Social Action(1937) as a co-founder of the ‘voluntaristic theory of action’, but since largely ignored by sociologists.
Already famous for his contributions to equilibrium theory as a mathematical economist, in his later years Pareto turned his hand to sociology, and in 1916 published his magnum opus theTrattato di sociologia generale (translated in four volumes asThe Mind and Society in 1935). Although some read it as a proto-fascist work, the publication of the Trattato confirmed Pareto's fame in his own lifetime, although little of this reputation has survived into the present. Pareto is probably best known today for being the first person to use the term ‘élite’ to refer to the few who rule the many. He also exerted an early influence on the development of social systems theory . Samuel E. Finer's Vilfredo Pareto, Sociological Writings (1966) contains a useful selection of his most important sociological texts, together with a substantial introductory essay by Finer himself. See also élite theory ; Pareto principle.

Dictionary of sociology. 2013.

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