Political developments in Ceylon during the 1950's drew attention to the forward thrust of a social formation in the Sinhala districts which has been described variously as “the rural middle classes,” “the lower middle-class traditionalists,” a “new village leadership” and so on. The political antecedents of this “group” were not traced beyond the 1930's, though several writers recognized that it was part of a social category which existed in British times. In recent articles it has been argued that the political activities of individuals drawn from this social category date back to the late nineteenth century. Be that as it may, it is obviously of value to clarify the lines of differentiation between this middle-level social category and the indigenous elite placed hierarchically above them. The former can be described as a “sub-elite,” a “subordinate elite,” an “intermediate elite,” or a “local elite.” The latter can be described as a “macro-elite,” a “central elite” or a “national elite.” Though convenience dictates the choice of one of these combinations, a reference to the alternatives is necessary because each captures a facet which the other labels do not convey.

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