289 of 312 people found the following review helpful
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 Silobreaker.com (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.
Richistan: A Journey Through the American Wealth Boom and the Lives of the New Rich
All the Money in the World: How the Forbes 400 Make--and Spend--Their Fortunes
Notes from the book:
6,000 top people (in total of 6 billion, I think that's .0001--the author, who's no doubt better at math, says each is 1 in a million)
Top 1,000 rich own as much or earn as much as the bottom 2.5 billion poor.
Early on he says he decided not to do a list because it changes. I believe him, but I was truly disappointed to not find a lot of meat in this book--it has facts, anecdotes, a story line, but one does not get the "feeling in the fingertips" or the raw feel.
Early on he reviews and dismisses conspiracy theories, and returns to this in the final chapter where he reviews the Masons, Bohemian Grove, Skull and Bones, all in a cursory manner (for example, there is no table, a single page would do, of top Skull and Bones power figures today).
Power is shifting away from Nations. This is true. The author focuses on those who have money and live globally. He is not focusing on those who control their own spending, global assemblages. For that see
Blessed Unrest: How the Largest Movement in the World Came into Being and Why No One Saw It Coming
No Logo: No Space, No Choice, No Jobs
Global Assemblages: Technology, Politics, and Ethics as Anthropological Problems
Human interactions are the glue connects the superclass members--corridor meetings that take place on the periphery of "big events" where the important stuff is not the event, but the encounters--Davos, World Cup, Grand Prix, Allen & Co, Geneva Auto Show, Winter Olympics, the Chinese meeting on Hainan Island (the Boao Forum).
Corporate/Finance the top of the barrel, 2000 top organizations control $103 trillion in assets, do $27 trillion in annual sales.
Access/time is the most precious asset, one reason the Gulf Stream is really a solid indicator of top of the top--it provides time saved, mobility, flexibility, privacy, security, work en route, sleep well, etc.
The author tells us he is focusing on influence, not just wealth or accomplishments, but very candidly, while the book is coherent and there is nothing wrong with its facts or sequence of observations, one simply does not come away with a clear picture. This is like a verbal description of a trip around the world, which it is, but without the photos, smells, tastes, etc. It also avoids any substantive (as opposed to discreetly moral "in passing" commentary) attention to costs and consequences--a balance sheet showing choices being made (e.g. by Exxon) and who benefits, who loses, would no doubt terminate this author's welcome on the fringes of the super-elite as it would be devastatingly negative.
20-50 people control any given sector, worldwide
In the book the author seeks to discuss six central issues:
1. Nature of the superclass power
2. Link if any (ha ha) between concentrated wealth and the five billion at the bottom of the pyramid
3. Whether the superclass calls into question the sufficiency of our global legal and governance institutions
4. Whether the division in interests between the rich and the poor will be the central conflict of our time
5. Would we choose this superclass?
6. How is the superclass evolving
Markets not working fully, need some non-market "controlling authority"
Elites are not taking responsibility for the poor in their own countries
Meritocracy is no longer--same merit, one becomes a billionaire from connections, the other a mere millionaire
Private equity is where its at in terms of starting salaries in the $300,000 range.
Globalists versus nationalist
Anti-globalists include leaders of Iran, Russia, and Venezuela
Tottering institutions--International Monetary Fund may not be funded by countries much longer
Global military-to-military relations work, political-diplomatic do not, and the money is mis-spent (billions here and there, and no money for spare parts to keep air forces flying, much cheaper good will spending)
Criminal elite a part of this (read Moises Naim's book Illicit: How Smugglers, Traffickers, and Copycats are Hijacking the Global Economy
USA has a power vacuum in that both the President and Congress have taken power that is not theirs and abused it, but the US voter has ceded power by failing to understand and deliberate on the issues.
He surprises me by bing familiar with General Smedley Butler's book, War is a Racket: The Antiwar Classic by America's Most Decorated Soldier
Two coolest sentences in the book for me:
"Most dangerous mind-altering substance on earth is oil."
"Cost is simply not caring." (Corporations that enrich dictators while ignoring the billions whose commonwealth is being stolen). For more on this evil and how the USA supports 42 of 44 dictators, see Breaking the Real Axis of Evil: How to Oust the World's Last Dictators by 2025
There is nothing in this book, published in 2008, on Sovereign Wealth Funds, nor does the author focus on dictators and "royalty" as part of the superclass. As Lawrence Lessig has noted, end corruption, end scarcity, begin a true harvesting of the common wealth for the common good. Right now we are all where "Animal Farm" put us--fodder for the wealthy.
The publisher's choice of ink colors for the jacket flaps and rear cover is terrible, those portions of the book are difficult to read.
The book is over-sold: "draws back the curtain on a privileged society." Not really. This is a solid book of facts that is as close to bland and generic and inoffensive as one can get--but then, that was probably the author's intent since he wants to be able to see these people again.....
The Global Class War: How America's Bipartisan Elite Lost Our Future - and What It Will Take to Win It Back
For a direct opposite of this book, seek out books on Collective Intelligence, Wisdom Councils, World Cafe, Social Entrepreneurship, All Rise, Power Governments Cannot Suppress, and so on. We live in interesting times.
121 of 133 people found the following review helpful
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. The fact that global business at this time basically transcends national and citizen control is of minimal concern to the author and is regarded as an inevitable form of world order.
This author is the wrong man to write a book concerning the rise of global elites and their impact on governance, the environment, citizen empowerment, etc. They are not necessarily the best and the brightest. Many are simply well-connected. Contrary to the author, there is no necessity for this form of global elite to exist. It may be a slower process, but empowered citizens can form international bodies to deal with all global issues important to mankind, including the power of global corporations and the manipulations of financial firms. It's books like this that reveal how elites really feel about democracy. It's a buzz word that attempts to hide the real structure of plutocracy. Mills is far more prescient.
49 of 53 people found the following review helpful
on April 18, 2008
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.) But these quotations, reproduced in oral style and narrowly framed by the author's questions, are often dumbed down versions of what the same people have stated more eloquently in books, articles, or lectures.
The book, which quotes many sources, could also have benefited from more references to scholarly debates. The academic studies that are mentioned, such as research on the increase in top income concentration and wealth inequalities, are presented in a very concise manner and some important contributions, such as recent research on CEO compensation, are not mentioned at all. A little bit of editing could also have eliminated some egregious mistakes and overstatements: who would believe, for instance, that the so-called Ten Commandments for Drivers promulgated in 2007 by the Vatican have the effect of law on the daily lives of more than one billion Catholics in the world, as is alleged on p. 41?
Perhaps the biggest revelation in the book is that there is no big secret, no hidden conspiracy or world-wide shadow organization running the show. As Rothkopf concludes, "the individuals who take part in these institutions and who participate in certain elite events, clubs and conferences and casual dinners, probably do not have secret designs for world domination, but most likely do have common interests." They are agenda-setters, not conspirators, and power remains elusive. The most amusing quote I found was the remark of a disgruntled Davos participant who, like the teenager complaining that the really cool party must be someplace else, noted: "you always feel like you are in the wrong place in Davos, like there is some better meeting going on elsewhere in one of the hotels that you really ought to be at. Like the real Davos is happening in secret somewhere."
39 of 43 people found the following review helpful
on February 3, 2010
As a fervent follower of the globalization debate I like to maintain an objective view of both sides of the arguement, hence I borrowed this book from a friend in order to perhaps gain a better understanding of the culture and dynamics of the "superclass". However, it did not take me much time to gauge the direction in which this book was heading but nevertheless I kept on reading until I had finished it.
So, my verdict? At best this book adorns and justifies the existence of such an elite "superclass" as a natural evolution of mankind. At worst this is but a verbose and meandering volume of sychophantic drivel that panders to the elites and relegates the rest of humanity to the role of an ignorant and helpless herd of sheep.
Much like Squealer in Orwell's Animal Farm, Mr Rothkopf attempts in vain to elucidate at great lengths what makes these individuals special and why they should be entrusted to carry our species forward towards much prosperity and development. However, what he fails to address in detail (despite his agreement that many of these individuals and corporations carry more clout than most nation states) how the rest of humanity will be better off by taking the backseat and letting these megalomaniacs (he himself rather admits to that fact) take to the wheel. All he adduces for support is the standard trickle-down economics hogwash advocated by adherents of free-market capitalism and the hope that one day, we ourselves might one day join the ranks of the "superclass" (Small print: You must be a white male, belong to an elite family, be a middle aged-old fart, attend an elite western university, have inherited or created a sizeable fortune, network with the rich and powerful, be a high-ranking member or owner of a global corporation)
Mr Rothkopf has no qualms that this "superclass", unlike national governments have no accountability whatsoever towards the common man, but rather they are only accountable to their own shareholders and bank accounts. They are they elected by no people, yet reap most of the benefits generated by the common man's labour and pillaging of OUR resources. Most interestingly, he firmly adheres to the notion that these superclasses who transcend national governments should remain self-regulated rather be meddled with (tell that to Wall Street!) In essence, he is an advocate of the fox guarding the hen house theory.
One mustn't forget that Mr. Rothkopf is one of Henry Kissinger's cohorts and an ex-managing director of KISSINGER ASSOCIATES, the New York based international consulting firm, founded and run by Henry Kissinger. Thus, it is in his own best interest to paint a rosy, jovial and altruistic picture of the world of these 'enlightened' elites, many of whom perchance happen to be favoured and prestigious clients.
ALL ANIMALS ARE EQUAL
BUT SOME ANIMALS ARE MORE EQUAL THAN OTHERS
46 of 53 people found the following review helpful
on September 20, 2008
This book takes a LOT of time to say very little. In summary, here's what the author takes several hundred pages to tell us:
a) The world is ruled by an informal group of about 6,000 people;
b) I [the author] am one of them! Aren't I special?
c) I know who the others are---but I'm not going to tell you!
d) They all get together once each year in Davos;
e) Davos is quaint, and has good restaurants, but inadequate lodging; and,
f) Oh, did I forget to tell you? I'M one of the Davos world elite! I AM special!
33 of 41 people found the following review helpful
on July 9, 2008
David Rothkopf, an ex-director of Kissinger Associates, has written a revealing book. He notes that a tiny group of about 6,000 people has vastly more power than any other group on the planet, and that the richest 1,000 have more than twice the wealth of the poorest 2.5 billion.
This class comprises mostly top businessmen, mainly from the USA and the EU. Concentration of capital leads to fewer and richer CEOs. Giant firms, banks and private equity companies are this class's base. It advances its interests through self-regulation, liberalised markets, privatisation, and the free movement of capital, labour and services. Increasingly, private firms now decide what public, elected bodies used to decide.
This class pretends to help solve AIDS and Africa's poverty by throwing money at the problems - but who does the work of doctoring and nursing, of planting and harvesting? Not Bill Gates or George Soros!
What drives this accumulation of wealth at one pole and of poverty at the other? Could there be some connection? Rothkopf never thinks to ask where all this wealth comes from.
He notes that some `defend elites for their role in globalization, believing that by globalizing they will ultimately help create a more equitable system'. But this globalising has created this hugely unjust system. How could it turn into its opposite and create a fairer society?
He argues, of course, against national sovereignty, and praises all capital's favoured bodies - the EU, the IMF, the World Bank, etc. But far from analysing what is happening and why, Rothkopf tells us little stories about his brief chats with the rich and famous. His favourite meeting is the annual World Economic Forum at Davos, where he can fawn on the godlike figures of Merkel, Sarkozy, Brown and Straw.
This is an embarrassing book, like a long Hello! Magazine without the pictures. Preparing it doubtless extended Mr Rothkopf's social network, but it reveals little of the class he dotes on, while showing all too clearly that he has the mind and morals of a groupie.
19 of 23 people found the following review helpful
on January 20, 2010
This is an absolutely preposterous book - allegedly a report on the elite of this world, but actually a sycophantic effusion from a world-class stooge. Using real statistics and fake consideration of the real evil and on-going criminality of this class, this work of lickspittle nonsense deserves worst book of the decade nomination. Ever wonder what the morons on top of the world think - check out this gaseous piffle and learn about fondue at DAvos.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on December 2, 2009
This guy is trying to gain points from the Globalists. The whole premise of this very dull and unimaginative book is to make people think that "They are just like Us" and the globalists just talk about tennis and French food at their secret meetings. I cannot stand reading a book when what I am reading is mostly distracting filler; you can get that from any inane Television show. If you are looking for real content, look elsewhere.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on June 4, 2008
When C. Wright Mills investigated the power structure of the US in the 1950s and published his findings in his landmark work The Power Elite, the world was a much simpler place. Politically and economically it was a collection of more or less self-contained nation states. Although there was cross-border trade, it represented only a small percentage of national GDPs. Nation states as such had there ruling classes, and those classes, when they were not looking out for themselves, looked out after the lower classes that sustained them. This, says David Rothkopf, is no longer the case.
Globalization has created new centers of power outside the confines of the nation state, and by the same token a new power elite. Rothkopf calls this new elite the "superclass." His previous work was called Ruling the World, in which he interviewed the top 150 people running the US foreign policy establishment. He informed us that every US national security advisor since the Eisenhower period has either worked for or with Henry Kissinger. Rothkopf himself has worked with Kissinger and is now with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, so he is no stranger to the new global elite.
Who is in the superclass and what makes them super? Out of a world population of 6 billion, the author narrows it down to the top 6,000. The requirements for being in this class are never clear. Being super rich is helpful; the richest 1% of the population own about 40% of the world's wealth. That, however, may not be sufficient; one must also be influential. There are CEOs and financers who run global companies, as well as leaders of major countries and people who run international organizations. He also includes artists and celebrities such as Paolo Coelho, Bono, and Angelina Jolie. And interestingly enough, he includes leaders of international criminal gangs and terrorist groups. If one has read Philip Bobbitt's Terror and Consent : The Wars for the Twenty-First Century, this is not as far-fetched as it sounds.
No doubt the superclass, each member in his or her own way, is trying to set a global political and economic agenda, but is this a unified agenda? The heads of state, CEOs, terrorists, and celebrities all have different interests, they can hardly be called a class. The only thing they have in common is that they have done well with the status quo. Rothkopf fails to notice that the weakening of the nation state also disperses the power of the elites. The new global elites have less hard power than the old national elites. The have name recognition and they make lots of money, but they are much more limited in their capacities to get things done. (Bill Clinton made over $100 million in the last 7 years, but just how influential was he and aid organizaton during this time?)
It is not only frightening that the superclass controls so much wealth, it is also frightening that they don't actually have things in control. The global economy is more like a rudderless ship. These elites don't really rule the world, but they've made a fortune pretending that they do.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on September 2, 2013
Rothkopf writes a book saying there is no "conspiracy" to screw everyone, then writes a book describing how they're plotting to screw everyone anyway they can. The book is worshipful like others have described it and Rothkopf comes across like a brown nosing scribe lost in a dream world of afluance and excess. It's enough to turn someone into a Maoist at times...At times, I found myself fantasizing anout lining up these people and disposing of them with folding chairs and rocks....As someone who doesn't particularly like or identify Maoism or communism these feelings felt alien to me as I read. Over all Rothkopf's pandering and gloating an apologist attitude gave me the douche chills. These are the "warrior poets" Plato wrote about? What an awful realization that these degenerates run the world....They should be looked at and JUDGED for the parasites that they are. Flees on the back of the beast.Spending their time buying watch after watch and car after car....Accomplishing nothing and causing exponential misery across the globe... The book left me feeling empty by the end. It's a real small club and you'll never be apart of it. And Rothkopf is the "groom of the stool" for the bastards of our world...