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Superclass: The Global Power Elite and the World They Are Making Hardcover – March 18, 2008

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Books on world elites tend to focus on the superwealthy, but political scholar Rothkopf (Running the World) has written a serious and eminently readable evaluation of the superpowerful. Until recent decades, great-power governments provided most of the superclass, accompanied by a few heads of international movements (i.e., the pope) and entrepreneurs (Rothschilds, Rockefellers). Today, economic clout—fueled by the explosive expansion of international trade, travel and communication—rules. The nation state's power has diminished, according to Rothkopf, shrinking politicians to minority power broker status. Leaders in international business, finance and the defense industry not only dominate the superclass, they move freely into high positions in their nations' governments and back to private life largely beyond the notice of elected legislatures (including the U.S. Congress), which remain abysmally ignorant of affairs beyond their borders. The superelites' disproportionate influence over national policy is often constructive, but always self-interested. Across the world, the author contends, few object to corruption and oppressive governments provided they can do business in these countries. Neither hand-wringing nor worshipful, this book delivers an unsettling account of what the immense and growing power of this superclass bodes for the future. (Mar.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


“Whether you like it or not, there is no way to deny the enormous, disproportionate, concentration of power and wealth in the hands of a relatively small number of people in the world today.  David Rothkopf has vividly described who they are, and how they operate and interact, in his valuable (and often disturbing) new book.”   —Richard Holbrooke, Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations

“No, no vast conspiracy runs the world. But, according to Rothkopf’s book, a tiny but diverse global elite, a Superclass, comes close. His finely-honed prose takes the reader on a joyous, entertaining, and erudite romp around the globe in search of that class.” —Alan Blinder, Former Vice Chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of the United States

“Thanks to Rothkopf’s special blend of analysis, direct interaction with his subjects and vivid writing, this is a must read book for people interested in understanding the genesis of leadership in the new global economy.”   —Ernesto Zedillo, Director of the Yale Center for the Study of Globalization and Former President of Mexico

“David Rothkopf has written a super book about the people presently executing an historic shift of world economic and political power and about how they are doing it and why. If you want to know how your choices are being determined and the circumstances of your life conditioned, you must read this book.” —Clyde Prestowitz, President of the Economic Strategy Institute and author of Three Billion New Capitalists

“The activities of a growing cosmopolitan elite are having profound effects. They can be highly desirable when they promote international cooperation or more problematic when the interests of the elites diverge from those of their citizens. David Rothkopf’s Superclass skillfully probes these issues and many more and should be read by all those concerned with the international economy and the evolving global system.”  —Lawrence Summers, former U.S. Secretary of the Treasury

“Superclass is a timely and detailed analysis of the disproportionate power and hence responsibility of an incredibly small group of individuals: the global power elites whose strongest allegiances are not with their countries but with each other.  Understanding the implications of this shift beyond the nation-state is of great importance and Rothkopf has made a significant first step.”   —Bob Wright, Vice Chairman, General Electric, and former President and CEO, NBC Universal

“An entertaining and well researched taxonomy of the rich and powerful who shape foreign policy and business in our globalized world. Rothkopf gives us the story behind Davos Man." —Joseph E. Stiglitz, Nobel Prize Winner in Economics and author of Making Globalization Work and Globalization and its Discontents

“A masterful portrait of this century’s global elite: who they are, how they run the world, and why you should worry about the increasing concentration of influence, wealth and power they represent. An insider and a globalizer himself, Rothkopf knows his people and his politics, and uses history, psychology, economics and a lot of awfully good stories to ask troubling new questions about globalization as we know it. It’s smart and it’s fun. And if you are a globophile who trusts greater prosperity and stability to disinterested markets, it will make you think again.”     —Nancy Birdsall, President, Center for Global Development

“In his lively and brilliantly written book Superclass, David Rothkopf has captured the multitude and density of cross-border connections and interactions among the influential, rich and famous throughout the world. He compellingly describes how those links are shaping the global economic and political landscape today—and how they will powerfully influence the future institutions and politics of our planet.”   —Robert Hormats, Vice Chairman, Goldman Sachs (International) and author of The Price of Liberty: Paying for America's Wars

Praise for David Rothkopf's Running the World:

"A timely and important new book."   --Thomas Friedman, New York Times
"The historical narrative is like catnip for conspiracy theorists. The NSC is the ultimate Washington insiders club."   --Dan Dunsky, Toronto Globe & Mail
"David Rothkopf has written an enlightening insider's history of what he calls 'the committee in charge of running the world"   --Evan Thomas, New York Times Book Review
"Rothkopf's interest in process may be most valuable when [it] wends its way to the decision-making apparatus of the administration."   --Washington Post Book World

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; 1st edition (March 18, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374272107
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374272104
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.4 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (64 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #816,325 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

David Rothkoph's book is full of facts, figures, and psychological insights.
Contrary to the author, there is no necessity for this form of global elite to exist.
J. Grattan
I thought it was a terrific book, a great read and recommend it enthusiastically.
Mark Holechek

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

287 of 310 people found the following review helpful By Robert David STEELE Vivas HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWER on March 29, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I grew up in the 1970's studying multinational corporations and inter-locking directorates, reading Richard Barnett's Global Reach, and so on. I am also familiar with the $60,000 a year special database that charts the top dogs and every membership, association, investment, etc.

The two major deficiencies in this book that left me disappointed are:

1. Does not name names nor show network diagrams such as you can pull from (Factiva is not even close).

2. Shows no appreciation for past research and findings. This is a current overview, closer to journalism than to authorship or research.

The book earns four stars instead of three for two reasons:

1. There is a very subtle but crystal-clear sense of goodness, ethics, and "good intention" or "right thinking" by the author. As diplomatic as he might be, he clearly sees the insanity of Exxon refusing to think about anything other than maximizing petroleum while externalizing $12 in costs for every $3.50 gallon that they sell--they did NOT "earn" $40 billion in profit this past year--they essentially stole it from the population at large and future generations).

2. Each chapter has a serious point or series of points, and I especially liked the author's constant presentation of tangible numbers on virtually every page.

Having said all that, I will list two books below that I found more interesting than this one, and then list a few notes that made it to my flyleafs.

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120 of 131 people found the following review helpful By J. Grattan VINE VOICE on April 8, 2008
Format: Hardcover
The essential fact to understand going into this book is that the author is a former employee of Kissinger's firm dealing with international issues and now has his own business that provides advice to the very people of whom he writes. As a consequence, this book is hardly a critique of the global elite; it's more on the line of "I understand who you are, your needs, your thinking, and your contributions to the world order." It seems as though previous reviewers are unconcerned with the author's overly respectful stance.

The author invokes C. Wright Mill's THE POWER ELITE mostly as a device to demonstrate that he has escaped Mill's narrow US focus and his concerns for the disenfranchisement of average citizens. In fact, the author makes quite clear that the global order would suffer tremendously if global elites, mostly corporate and financial sector CEOs, could not hobnob almost 24/7, whether it be in exclusive meeting places like Davos, Switzerland, or from expensive jets equipped with only the most advanced communications devices, away from opposing viewpoints. He suggests that merely knowing that powerful people are ordering our world is comforting in the same sense as religion.

The author does not identify his six thousand global elites, claiming shifting membership as well as an arbitrary cutoff, but he emphasizes their power and/or influence. Money alone does not gain admittance. The author gives short shrift to "the world they are making." He acknowledges that global elites are for the most part very self-interested, which obviously impacts their efforts to make the world. The author notes the charitable organizations of the elites, but fails to fully appreciate the mere tokenism of such efforts.
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48 of 52 people found the following review helpful By Etienne ROLLAND-PIEGUE on April 18, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I was drawn to this book by the lavish endorsements on its back cover. If eminent persons such as a former head of state, a top government official, a senior business leader, a Nobel-prize winner in economics, and the head of an influential think-tank in Washington could extend such praise to a book that is basically a book about themselves, then I needed no further proof that the book was relevant to the topic it was addressing.

But reading David Rothkopf' Superclass was, in the end, a disappointment, and the book fell short of my expectations. To be sure, the author is well connected, he has done some research on the who's who in international affairs, and he writes in an engaging, easy-to-read style. But he does not strike the right balance between critical distance and adherence to his subject-matter, and he remains either too close or too disengaged from the world that he is describing.

Rothkopf has neither the broad perspective of an academic who puts his subject into context and adopts critical lenses to assess its social and political implications, nor the narrow focus of a practitioner who would draw practical lessons from his analysis to address pressing global problems. Neither insider nor outsider, he is more like the devoted fan who came to the party to see the celebrities and who is happy with rubbing shoulders and exchanging a few words with famous people.

The author quotes many interviews that he had with members of the global power elite. These interviews add a cachet of exclusivity to the book and prove that the author has had access to a wide array of powerful people (it is not clear whether the interviews were made in the process of researching the book or as news articles published in the several magazines that the author edited.
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