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Post Concentration of Power in America: Two Classic Books
Created by John Eipper on 09/23/21 3:59 AM

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Concentration of Power in America: Two Classic Books (Francisco Ramirez, USA, 09/23/21 3:59 am)

These are two examples of earlier works that highlighted the concentration of power in America.

The Power Elite is a 1956 book by sociologist C. Wright Mills, in which Mills calls attention to the interwoven interests of the leaders of the military, corporate, and political elements of society and suggests that the ordinary citizen is a relatively powerless subject of manipulation by those entities.

Originally published: 1956
Author: C. Wright Mills

Who Rules America? is a book by research psychologist and sociologist G. William Domhoff, PhD, published in 1967 as a best-seller. WRA is frequently assigned as a sociology textbook and documents the dangerous concentration of power and wealth in the American upper class.

Originally published: 1967
Author: G. William Domhoff

Give the Golden Calf due credit for popularizing the words Deep State. Had the words been "Deep Capitalism," their impact would have been limited. After more than fifty years in the USA, I have come to the conclusion that the deep culture of America is libertarianism or if you prefer, 19th-century liberalism. No one thundered Give me Equality or Give me Death! Such a culture primes one to be receptive of Deep State critiques, regardless of party affiliation.

The above authors come from the Left while much of the critique now appears to come from the Right. The critiques assume a lot of coherence among elites or the ruling class, while elite or class segmentation may in fact be the reality in some countries during some eras. The New Deal, for example, was attacked by some elites but supported by others. The coherent class theory is critiqued in the context of the New Deal (Skocpol, Theda, "Political Response to Capitalist Crisis: Marxist Theories of the State and the Case of the New Deal," Politics and Society, March 1980.

The Golden Calf had no use for the Bald Bezos, but are they not both part of the power elite?

JE comments:  Francisco, you've put this in much-needed perspective.  The terminology changes over time, but the realities remain constant.  We could go back even further, to the 19th-century Robber Barons, who actually did congregate in smoke-filled rooms.  Interestingly, the Mills and Domhoff books came out at the time when there were probably the lowest levels of inequality in the US.

Ever notice that the Deficit Hawks-Tea Party types of ten years ago are strangely silent?  A result of the pandemic, or is it another achievement of Trump?

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  • Theda and Bill Skocpol in Flint, Michigan (Patrick Mears, -Germany 09/23/21 5:43 AM)
    This is more in the nature of gossip, but if you want to post it, it is fine by me. [Absolutely! This is a textbook example of the "WAIS Effect"--JE]

    In Francisco Ramírez's post, he cites an article written by Theda Barron Skocpol, who was born in Detroit in 1947. In 1967, she married Bill Skocpol, a physics major from Texas who attended Michigan State University, where they had met as students. In the fall of 1968, they had moved to Flint, Michigan, where Bill was hired by St. Agnes High School to teach Physics to seniors like myself. He was an extremely intelligent, kind, and thoughtful person and teacher. I never had the opportunity to meet his wife, unfortunately. I am not surprised that their son clerked for Justice Sonia Sotomayor.

    Here is her Wikipedia entry. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theda_Skocpol

    JE comments:  Pat, Small World indeed!  This question has never appeared on WAIS, but it might yield some fascinating fruit:  Did any of you have a high school, or even elementary school, teacher who went on to great achievements?  Granted, an inspirational HS teacher is a tremendous achievement in itself.

    Theda Skocpol (Harvard U) is possibly best known for the State Autonomy theory.  Here's my bare-bones gloss:  Government bureaucracies take on a life of their own, completely divorced from the societies they purportedly serve.  I am convinced.  We could say the same thing about all institutional bureaucracies--corporate, academic, military...

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  • Deep State and Hidden Bureaucracies: Bagehot, Glennon (David A. Westbrook, USA 09/23/21 9:12 AM)
    With regard to the Deep State discussion, one might also mention the 19th-century political economist (and editor of the Economist) Walter Bagehot, who wrote of the development of a hidden bureaucratic apparatus for doing the actual business of government that was (re)presented by the more visible organs, such as Parliament.

    One should be careful, though. I think it is too "loose" to equate the idea of the Deep State with elites writ large--you lose all analytic rigor. Even confining the concept to government, ordinarily understood, the idea is ancient. Surely Machiavelli was comfortable with the idea that the visible/obscured parts of government are in tension with one another. Governments, and especially militaries, have always required administration, coordination, counting, taxes, and so forth. The first thing William the Conqueror did was have everything in England counted.

    The idea that even our putatively enlightened, democratic, transparent, etc., government really is not what it appears to be was updated, with regard to US security and the Forever War in particular, by Michael Glennon, in "National Security and Double Government." I posted an appreciative review on WAIS way back in 2014 (wow).


    That was during the Obama administration. Rereading today, and with Clinton/Trump in mind, I was struck by this:

    "Instead, Glennon shows how bureaucracy constrains and ultimately vitiates democratic possibility. In doing so, the security state not only disenfranchises, but discourages, 'Joe Sixpack.' We watch football, and elections as football, but we cease to be democratic actors--we the people are not overthrown, but dissolved, and each make our separate ways....

    "At some point, democracy is dependent on the virtues of the people, the demos. And maybe this nation of so many millions is losing its capacity to instill civic virtue--which is after all a paternalistic, and in that sense illiberal, task--in a sufficient number of its people to produce 'a people' capable of self-governance.

    "Glennon, in short, is discussing how the American project may end."

    JE comments:  Bert, I re-read your post from seven years ago, and it reads more true now than then.  Glennon stresses that it's not the case of the elite lording over the ignorant masses for their own good (Frederick the Great?), but an elite that is entangled in its own web of ambitions and rivalries.  All this begs the (unanswerable?) question:  what is to be done?  Glennon described the conditions for the rise of Trumpism, but more so he explained why Hillary Clinton would not prevail.  Trump's "draining the swamp" was one solution, albeit an incoherent and ultimately failed one.

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