Though Marx developed a fairly large following, many other sociologists and political philosophers of his time disagreed with his reasoning and predictions. Vilfredo Pareto and Gaetano Mosca were among these dissenters. They argued that a classless society is undesirable and impossible. Pareto believed that in every vocation and activity there are elites: "I'm not interested here in what is desirable. I'm making a simple study of what is. In a broad sense I mean by the elite in a society people who possess in marked degree qualities of intelligence, character, skill, capacity, of whatever kind." He noted that some lawyers are sharper than others, some thieves more successful than other, and some royal mistresses more influential than others. Pareto argued that politics are no different. Historically, many small governing elites distinguished by such qualities as organization have ruled the masses by virtue of their superiority. In their analysis of history, Pareto and Mosca's findings seem to mirror Marx's. Mosca notes that in all societies, no matter how civilized, two classes of people always appear, "a class that rules and a class that is ruled." The first class, which is always smaller, performs all political functions, holds all the power, and enjoys the advantages that power brings. The second, more numerous class, is controlled by the first and "supplies the first, in appearance at least, with material means of subsistence and with the instrumentalities that are essential to the vitality of the political organism" (Light 396).
In their definition of the elite class, Pareto and Mosca were not referring a strictly hereditary class because they believed that hereditary ruling classes become degenerate. When this happens "the governing class is restored…by families rising from the lower classes and bringing with them the vigor and the proportions of residues necessary for keeping themselves in power…in virtue of class circulation, the governing elite is always in a state of slow and continuous transformation," Pareto said. In their views of the elite ruling class, Mosca and Pareto were very much in agreement with Michels' Iron Rule of Oligarchy with the added stipulation that the makeup of the governing elites is always changing. Pareto called this "circulating elites." In the 20th century, most political theorists can be divided into two primary groups: those whose ideas are similar to those of Marx, who argue that power is held by economic elites and stress the coercive and exploitative uses of power and those whose ideas stem from Pareto and Mosca who argue that there are many diverse and "circulating elites" (Light 396-397).