- Paperback: 288 pages
- Publisher: McGraw-Hill Humanities/Social Sciences/Languages; 4 edition (June 29, 2001)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0767416376
- ISBN-13: 978-0767416375
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.5 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 5 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,808,106 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Who Rules America? Power and Politics 4th Edition
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For years, I have been aware that our government and elected representatives under our Constitution are not the real power in our nation. They are only puppets, bought and paid for, by the real power behind the scenes, our Shadow Government. My education and experience over these many years notwithstanding, I still couldn't put my finger on exactly who was behind this shadow government and how it worked until I read this book.
The problem (or issue) of a Shadow Government governing our nation, taking power from our people has recently been exacerbated by the Supreme Court in their decision to view corporations as people (For those who would argue corporations have always been considered as people, I take exception. Corporations have, in the past, been considered legal entities–not people). No voter (most of us anyway) in our country can compete with the millions upon millions of dollars and favors paid to politicians for their representation in Congress. Domhoff's book will tell you how the whole thing works, lock, stock, and barrel. Instead of Shadow Government, he calls them the “Power Elite”. You’ll see. Go for it.
I, also, liked the author’s use of book notes and bibliographies along with, in my opinion, his apolitical presentation.
G. William Domhoff is a professor of psychology and sociology at the University of California. He has written numerous books and articles on the subject of social and political power. Domhoff examined the American power structure and presents evidence that a fixed group of privileged people dominate the American economy and government. Less than one percent of the population occupies key positions in the corporate community and dominate government through special-interest lobbying, policy planning, and candidate selection.
Chapter 1 says the purpose of this book is to present evidence that the social upper class is a ruling class by its dominant rule in the economy and government. It has its basis in banks and large corporations, shapes the social and political climate, and dominates the federal government through a variety of methods and organizations. The evidence in this book challenges the conventional wisdom of American social science so this book will proceed step-by-step in providing empirical evidence on how each part of the system works (p.3). A social class is made up of families, not individuals (p.6). One way is to measure power is still "who benefits" (p.11). Another is the percentages of leadership in businesses and government (p.12). Given conflicts over issues, "who wins?" is policy decisions is an indicator.
The purpose of Chapter 2 is to show the existence of an upper class as a set of interrelated social institutions (schools, clubs, resorts, and social activities) that produce a distinctive life-style. Marriage patterns identify families and social cliques of great wealth (p.18). A separate educational system provides and outlook and life-style (p.24). These boarding schools were developed in the late 19th century (p.25). [This was when corporations created a super-rich class.] Is there a hidden agenda in volunteer work (p.39)? Extravagant social activities provide a demonstration of their rank (p.53).
Chapter 3 will that the primary financial basis for the upper class is the most important corporations, commercial banks, investment banks, and corporate law firms that form the corporate community (p.56). A Family Office handles financial transactions and legal matters for the super-rich (p.60). Holding companies can serve the same functions (p.63). Page 77 explains the power of corporations over the great majority of Americans. Chapter 4 explains how the upper class develop their policies and how they shape public opinion through foundations, university institutes, and lobbies (or "non-profit organizations"). The Council on Foreign Relations in the 1940s and 1950s decided that South Vietnam was to be defended "at all costs" (p.87). [Presidents only followed orders.] Foundations push the policies of corporations (p.95), not for the greatest good for the greatest number (p.103).
Chapter 5 tells how the power-elite selects candidates through large campaign donations. What Domhoff calls collusion on page 120 is an example of the power-elite fixing the election; they do control the major parties. The expense of campaigns tilts their control toward the super-rich (p.122). Regulatory agencies are controlled by the entities they regulate (p.131). Chapter 6 discusses local power structures who seek to increase the value of their land and buildings through intensifying land use and creating population growth. They usually try to attract capital investments. "Urban Renewal" is where many small properties are acquired by law to sell to millionaire developers (p.164). Big landowners are most concerned with local real estate values (p.173). The Greer-Hansen proposal explains how taxpayers would enrich big corporations (pp.175-176). Urban renewal is part of a general struggle over the control of land (p.181). Those who are on Congressional committees act to favor their constituents (p.194). [I once read that the big landowners of NY city controlled its government since the 18th century.]
In Chapter 7 Domhoff comments on the likely criticisms of this book. The Pluralists will object to his claim that "who benefits" as a power indicator. Those who acquire the largest share of goods, services, and opportunities are the ones with the most power. Wealth and income inequality, representatives in government, and influence on specific issues testify to a class system. Marxists will object to the personalities and individualistic emphasis. But history shows the effects from a personality change in Russia or China. Elitists will claim the "power-elite" who occupy offices and institutions are the rulers. But who chooses the people for these offices? Domhoff says a wide variation in wealth and income indicates a ruling class, since income and related inequalities have declined in countries with strong labor unions and "cohesive social democratic" parties (p.221). Domhoff discusses what people believe is based on how they accept his arguments (p.222). A study is only as good as the known facts, and all is not known. The last paragraph describes the power elite as those who own private wealth and corporate stock, are in power in corporations and the federal government, win on issues like the tax structure, labor law, and consumer and environmental protection. Domhoff does not mention control of the media to influence or control people's thinking. Newspapers and the broadcast industry have become more concentrated since this 1983 book was published.
"Using membership network analysis, this book attempts to show there is a corporate community (Chapter 2) that is the basis for a social upper class (Chapter 3). This intertwined corporate community and social upper class have developed a policy-planning network (Chapter 4) and an opinion-shaping network (Chapter 5) that give them the means to win a majority of seats in the electoral process (Chapter 6) and to shape the policies of interest to them within the federal government (Chapter 7)."
The arguments made here are very well researched, with quantitative analysis of how corporate leaders are linked with each other through their common elite socialization and self-interests, corporate directorship positions, foundation trustee status, policy planning groups, and government positions.
Domhoff gives the subject of power an honest and insightful treatment. After reading this book, I can't imagine a more logical and convincing description of how the unequal distribution of power in America is maintained, and further consolidated. Given its $30 price tag for less than 300 page paperback, I'd check the library before buying this one. Still, highly recommended!