What is the difference between the elite and the upper class?
The elite is the source of the upper class. Let us take the example of a small city to facilitate understanding the difference between the two. As noted, the elite of a city is formed by those who exercise prestigious activities and who are preeminent within their fields. But this still does not necessarily constitute a social class.
A social class is constituted when these individuals and their descendants acquire stability in their prominent positions. Such habitual eminence shapes them, and forms them into a single class.
On the other hand, an elite is an informal group of individuals. We can only speak of a social class if the respective families also interrelate among themselves.
In short the upper class is formed by a group of families who attained a certain degree of perfection by which they are molded and through which they became established.
Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira, Nobility and Analogous Traditional Elites in the Allocutions of Pius XII: A Theme Illuminating American Social History (York, Penn.: The American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family, and Property, 1993), American Appendix, p. 185.
Nobility.org Editorial Comment:
It is so easy in our individualistic society to develop a mistaken notion of what is and who belongs to society’s “upper class.” Prof. Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira provides an explanation of “upper class” that rises from very solid foundations: Families (not individuals) who enjoy stability in their social prominence, have attained a degree of perfection, and allow themselves to be shaped by this perfection.
Members of such families are ideally placed and prepared to lead society. They have a responsibility to lead well, for “unto whomsoever much is given, of him much shall be required.” (Luke, 12:48).