How Useful Is The Concept Of Elite To The Distribtion Of Power

.. p. 71 – 92 Sociology Essay Terence M. Blackett How useful is the concept of elite for understanding the distribution of power in either Britain or the United States? Introduction In America perhaps only race is a more sensitive subject than the way we sort ourselves out in the struggle for success. The eminent sociologist Robert Merton calls it the structure of opportunity. In the understanding of the usefulness of the term elite, there are some common historical variables, which must be looked at in order to appreciate the power organisms at work even in American society, and how from the days of Thomas Jefferson to the era of Newt Gingrich, the assumption of superiority is an undercurrent in American life and society.

In this essay I will attempt to show that elitist power in America is controlled by a few at the top of the political, corporate, social and religious pyramid. Moreover, the concept of natural aristocracy, or meritocracy, has a powerful resonance even in the United States of America. Historical Antecedents In understanding the usefulness of the term elite in American society, late 19th and 20th century history provides the pretext for what was called a fluid society . This was a highly mechanized, industrial age in which peoples roles were being determined by their merit, talents, character and grit. By 1910, Harvard Professor Frederick Jackson Turner was influential in transforming this ministerial training school into an Ivy League institution, dominated by the children of a distinct upper class most Northeastern and mostly business. This class came to be known as the Episcopacy, after its predominant religion Episcopalianism. The genesis of the Episcopacy at the end of the 19th century represented the merger of what appeared to be an irreconcilable conflict between two rival elite groups: the old pre-industrial New England based on upper-class norms, with its high-minded, non-urban mores, and the big, rough New York based Gilded Age rich.

This merger of the traditional with the modern socialite grandeur of the New Yorker was pivotal to the formation of the American elite. Out of this marriage came the founding of British-style boarding schools like Groton and Hotchkiss, new social institutions such as private country clubs, debutante societies, and restricted suburbs. Outsiders who somehow found their way into the educational institutions of the Episcopacy were usually horrified by what they saw. The enormous inheritability of status, the devolution of the ideals of gentlemanliness into a glorification of undergraduate carousing, the lack of academic standards, the casual and unearned assumption of superiority, the inability to see immigrants, Catholics, Jews, and the poor as fully human. The Episcopacy provided plenty of evidence to support the idea that it was, as Newt Gingrich would say, a corrupt elite (The Atlantic Monthly 1995 ) Political Power: Two Major Theories The two broad theories of how power work or is distributed in societies, the first suggest that power in the USA resides with its citizens (one person, one vote), or in the groups where citizens belong. This is called the pluralist view.

Pluralists argue that power is distributed around society through representatives who act on behalf of others or other groups, and are controlled in expressing the wishes of the groups involved. Criticisms of this theory suggest that people at the top mislead the American public, which means that people with greater information have more power. Appointed positions wield considerable power, more than just a vote, and that campaign financing leaves politicians indebted to contributors not to everyone as is assumed. (Domhoff 1967 ) The other point of view is the elitist view or conflict view. The argument is that in reality, power is concentrated in the hands of a few, a very small group of people (an elite ) who manipulate the masses through control of the media, visible government leaders, with a right wing conspiracy version which argues that the elitist ideology is subversive, anti-capitalist, anti-individualist, anti-patriotic, pro-welfare, and pro-one world government, with the sole aim of undermining traditional American values. Power Elite (made popular by C. .W.

Mills ) argue that the corporate, executive, and military run the government elite. Mills suggest that the three components of the elitist structure are more or less equal in power, with the corporate elite becoming a little stronger in recent years. (C .Wright Mills 1956 ) Criticisms of this theory may ask the questions: Are there conflicts between the elite groups and are the elites really equal in power? Are there issues not under the influence of these groups or issues they dont care about? And is congress really a puppet of these groups? Corporate Ruling Class Theory If a ruling class hypothesis says anything, surely it asserts that within some specific political system there exist a group of people who to some degree exercise power or influence over other actors in the system . (Dahl 1957 ) Within American society there is an upper class that gets more than its share of wealth, income and power. Its membership in controlling institutions and key decision making groups gives it disproportionate influence.

It is broader based than Mills power elite and it influences, but it does not control Congress. It exercises control by financing candidates, its control of parties, its control of investments, and by being appointed to government positions. (Dumhoff 1968 ) Leaders within Corporate America Researchers continue to seek ways to explain the image or the shape of the power structure in America, whether it is polylithic, monolithic, parallelograms, towers, or hexagons. Floyd Hunter saw power as a pyramid with a small number of top leaders at the peak, a somewhat larger number below [middle level leaders] and a large segment below [powerless individuals]. (Hunter 1953 ) Much of the capitalist wealth of America today has been created by a dynasty of some the nations richest families of the Industrial Age, i.e. the Carnegies, Rockefellers, Fords, Motts, Pews and others.

According to research done by Middle American News, the Foundations set up by these rich and powerful families constitute a hidden economy of some $300 billion, a sum which exceeds the GDP of Switzerland and is used to bankroll elitist activism profoundly influencing social policy and legislature. (Holland 1998 ) According to Robert Holland, these giant foundations or non-profit organizations are channeling their resources into key liberal and radical projects, so as to influence social policy. Some examples are: ? The Violence Policy Center, a group that advocates gun control even more extreme than Sarah Bradys Handgun Control, Inc., runs almost 90% on foundation money. Some of its enthusiastic backers are the George Gund Foundation, the Joyce Foundation and the MacArthur Foundation. ? Since 1990, the Ford Foundation has funded a Campus Diversity Initiative at dozens of major universities.

These programs have insisted on group preferences in admissions and hiring, feminist and Afrocentric curricula, sensitivity training to get students and faculty engaged in group-think, and campus convocations to trumpet the need for much more self-conscious diversity-mongering. ? The Rockefeller Foundation has been the chief bankroller of radical multiculturalism in education and the arts. In recent years, it has put the clout of its $2 billion portfolio aggressively behind the notion that diversity trumps quality in the arts. For example, it dispensed grants in 1994 to the likes of the National Black Arts Festival, Inc., in Atlanta, for Celebrate Africa!; the Nuvorican Poets Caf in New York for a series of development screenplay readings by Puerto Ricans living in New York; $50,000 to the National Cultural Alliance, which lobbies for continued tax support of the National Endowment for the Arts; and Arthur Dong for They Called Us Lesbians. Holland concludes, that these powerful organizations have the money and the clout to shape American social and ethical policy, laws and culture in a way that Middle America despise. The question is whether there are politicians courageous enough to try and curb their elitist power.

(Holland 1998 ) Corporate Oligopoly and the TNC During the 1970s, the US transnational corporations had revenue equal to 30% of the planets entire gross annual product (Madsen 1980 ). In 1989 the revenues of the ten transnationals, with the highest sales (Mitsui, General Motors, C. Itoh, Sumitomo, Marubeni, Mitsubishi, Ford, Exxon, Shell, and Nissno Iwai ) totaled $1,000 billion nearly twice as large as Canadas GNP. The combined profits of the ten most profitable transnationals (IBM, Ford, Exxon, Dow, AT&T, General Electric, DuPont, General Motors, Shell, British Telecom ) at $40 billion equaled Iraqs entire GNP in the year before the Gulf War. (Business Week 1989 ) In 1992 TNCs employed 73 million people, 10% of global non-farm jobs and 20% of jobs in more prosperous countries. The 100 largest TNCs controlled one quarter of all global output.

The power of these privately owned collectives is greater than the numbers imply. According to World Investment Report 1994, published by the United Nations, TNCs indirectly employed another 77 million people. The reports concluded that the power of these giant companies and the power they wield are still in the hands of an elite group whose global dominance is unmistakable. Oligarchy and Mass Media Domination One of the important issues of the 21st century is monopoly ownership of the mass media. The issue is not that the elite own virtually all the Western media, but the fact that it is owned by a very small handful of media moguls. The shocking truth is that ownership of newspapers and TV stations has already been consolidated to such a staggering degree that unmanipulated news coverage has practically ceased to exist.

Only one man and his media holding need be mentioned to provide some semblance of understanding of the scale of this dilemma. His name is Rupert Murdoch. His holding spans four continents. He own 5 magazines in Britain, 20 magazines in the US, and more than 100 newspapers in Australia, he owns a 4 channel satellite television network called SKY television in Britain, Metromedia in the US worth $2 billion, which include 20th Century Fox, Harper Row Publishers, The Star, New York Magazine, New Woman, Elle, In Fashion, and others. Mr.

Murdoch has also agreed to pay $3 billion for TV guide, Good Food, the Daily Racing Form and Seventeen. With wealth of this magnitude involved, it is not difficult to establish first of all that the bottom 90% of society is virtually excluded from media ownership. He himself has referred to newspapers as a series of capital intensive local monopolies. (Newsweek 1988 p. 45 ) Reinhard Mohn is another such owner of one of the worlds largest media conglomerates. According to Fortune Magazine, Sept 12, 1988 edition, Mohn fortune is estimated in the billions.

The Newhouse Family of New York is reported by the said Fortune magazine to be the 5th richest family on the planet. Billionaire Randolph Hearst and family, owns 14 daily newspapers, 6 TV stations, 7 radio stations and some book publishing companies. Lastly, Kenneth Irving and family of Canada, the world 8th richest billionaire has virtually monopolized ownership of all English speaking papers in Canada. Each of these media moguls probably echoes the wishes of Rupert Murdoch who has been quoted by Fortune, as saying that his objective is a global communications company. Covertly they are part of this elite team. Their coordination and control is best exemplified by considering how well they work together to elect the teams political functionaries into public office. Governments today are still won or lost through the power of media manipulation.

Max Weber contributed what remains the influential analysis of the role of formal organizations in the modern world. Specialization, limited spheres of competence, hierarchies of offices, specified responsibilities, rights, rules, and rewards, are all elements of the rise of bureaucratization in the world. Along with Weber most writers exempt administrators and heads of bureaucratic organizations from the rules and regulations of the organizations they supervise. Only the supreme chief of the organization occupies his position of authority by virtue of appropriation, of election, or having been designated for the succession. Thus at the top of bureaucratic organizations, there is necessarily an element which is at least not purely bureaucratic.

(Parsons and Henderson 1947 ) The members of the strategic elites constitute administrators for the society at large and they, too, must be partially viewed as being exempt from the constraints imposed on ordinary members of society. (Keller 1968 ) Conclusion The current world situation was deliberately created by elitist power. Though politics and government are the social structures, which dictate our human existence, many are agreed that powers still rest in the hands of a mere few. The past 100 years has seen the development of both left and right elements, which are now designed through the process of globalization, to bring us into a New World Order. It is almost as if the skillful orchestration and manipulation of both the left right is placed in conflict to bring about a synthesis.

According to Bro. William Branham, since the rise of Kant (who stressed reason and experience ) in German philosophy, we can identify two opposing ideas of the State, society and culture. In the US, as in Britain, philosophy is based on the individual and the rights of the individual. Whereas in German from the time of Kant through to Fitche and Hegel up to 1945, basic philosophy has been universal brotherhood, rejection of individualism, and opposition to Western classical liberal thought in almost all of its aspects. It is from this Hegelian system of political thought, alien to most in the West, stem such absurdities as the State seen as the March of God through history and that the State is also God, and the only duty of a citizen is to serve God by serving the State, and that the State is Absolute Reason and its citizens can only find freedom by worship and utter obedience to the State.

For Hegel the individual is nothing, the individual has no rights, and morality consists solely in following a leader. To elitists like The Order in the US, The Group in the UK, The Illuminati in Germany, and The Politburo in Russia, the State is supreme, and a self-appointed elite running the State acts as God on earth. We can draw our own determinations as to the usefulness of the word elite , but the overwhelming evidence in our post-modern world will attest to the fact that there are subliminal undercurrents which gives us an ominous sense that the revolving patterns of human history will continue to evolve more frighteningly as we emerge into a more synthesized planet. BIBLIOGRAPHY Dahl, R. (1975 ) The Concept of Power , Behavioral Science, Vol.

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