System and Succession provides a comparative analysis of the social composition of national political leadership in the United States, Russia, Germany, and Mexico. These systems were chosen as case studies because their forms of government are representative of many others, because they are conveniently suited for comparison, and because they have high internal control over their own means of recruitment. Drawing on a mass of data and an extensive bibliography, Nagle's comprehensive study exhibits a mastery of the intricacies of these four quite divergent political systems. Complete time-series data covering several generations of elite recruitment provide the basis for a new methodological approach to comparative elite analysis.
The author investigates, among other issues, elite displacements associated with revolution, economic crises, and postwar peace and prosperity. Especially important differences along class and generational lines are found in the elite displacements associated with the revolutions in Germany (1918), Russia (1917–1921), and Mexico (1910–1920). The American case serves as a nonrevolutionary control case. The overriding theoretical issue throughout System and Succession is the debate among Marxists, radical democrats, and pluralists over the importance of elite social composition for equitable representation of social or class interests. Nagle develops a convincing argument supporting the Marxist thesis that the importance of class in elite recruitment is a defining characteristic of the political system.
System and Succession will be of particular interest to scholars in comparative politics. Political scientists in other areas, as well as historians and sociologists interested in the four countries examined, will also find this book provocative.