In his book Who Rules America, author G. William Domhoff seeks to explain the theory of class domination by advancing a class and a power based framework which adequately describes the American society. Particularly, as the author puts it across, it is always impossible to explain one particular definition of power or rather define a certain way in which power can be determined. Nonetheless, as for the case of the United States, it is evident that the upper class has always held power and will in future, continue to hold power unless a radical social change takes place. This being the case, the core intent of this expository essay is to explain Domhoffs idea of class domination theory with reference to the existence of corporate community and a social class of power.
Firstly, with reference to the relationship between the American social class and power, Domhoff contends that an elite power group wields power in America through the support accorded to them by foundations, think-tanks, academic departments and also commissions (89). In this regard, the author explains that some people in America have kept power for so long to the point that they have begun to believe that they are power elite and should, therefore, be considered as the rightful owners of power. Quoting his book, Domhoff contends that, Domination by the few does not mean complete control, but rather the ability to set the terms under which other groups and classes must operate (Domhoff, 21). Therefore, in America, the relationship between power and social class is realized in the sense that, the owners and managers of large income generating properties are said to be the ones ruling the country. This group of people is, therefore, said to benefit greatly from the ownership of power and as a result, they govern and ultimately win.
Besides, based on the fact that the upper class has kept the power for so long, the setting of both the social and economic norms are left in the hands of the rich. Therefore, dealing with both the economy and the income, the rich in the American society have indeed made it difficult for the lower class people to succeed. This being the case, each social class has slowly grown to have its own social norms since the two classes, the upper and the lower class have different goals and hence no one particular universal goal is to be achieved by the two.
In a similar vein, there is an existence of a corporate community in America, in which case those people who are considered to have the money, or rather the people owning income producing land and businesses have power over the rest of the citizens. More specifically, in the modern day today, the existence of a corporate community in America means that corporations, banks, agribusinesses, as well as real estate developers who work on a separate lane particularly on a majority of policy issues, are responsible for setting the rules that are used to wage policy battles. Quoting this particular reading, Domhoff contends that, The corporations, banks, and agribusinesses, of those in the dominant power group forms a corporate community that shapes the federal government on the policy issues of interest to it, issues that have a major impact on the income, job security as well as the well-being of most other Americans (17) This being said, Domhoff questions how it is possible to have such extreme domination in a country that is considered a democratic nation. More specifically, the most striking aspect of this particular paradox is the fact that in most other democratic countries, corporations do not have as much power as that which is assumed by the corporations in the United States. Besides, based on the history of the United States, the economic power network has been the only network which under capitalism inherently generates a corporate community considered as the business owning and working class which consists of self-employed craft workers, small business owners and also a relatively limited number of highly trained professionals such as scientists, lawyers and architects among others (19).
With reference to the relationship between the corporate community and the upper class, Domhoff points out that it is possible for the much highly competitive group of corporate leaders, who form the corporate community in the United States, to corporate well enough to the point of forming a social class particularly for themselves. In this regard, it is believed that one of the key reasons why a relationship between the corporate community and the upper social class exists is due to the fact that these members of the corporate community share great wealth as well as common economic interests which, with time, have helped these people to band together in development of their own private lives. In other words, this means that the corporate community has been able to form their own social institutions which includes gated neighborhoods, private schools, exclusive social clubs , and secluded summer resorts. Thus, concerning this context, Domhoff makes the contention that, owing to these social institutions, these distinguished members of the corporate community get the chance to create a sense of group belonging from which these wealthy members mold themselves into a social upper class.
Similarly, the upper class relates more to the corporate community in the sense that, members of the upper class often control corporations through what is commonly referred to as holding companies. Therefore, based on this particular context, members of the upper class, therefore, own a majority of the corporate stock and are hence known to be the ones with a significant over-representation on the boards of directors. Thus, in a nutshell, citing the who governs power indicator, Domhoff concludes that the relationship that exists between the upper class and the corporate community is based on the fact that the upper class dominates and at the same time controls all the corporations that consist of the corporate community.
Besides, the relationship between the upper class and the corporate community is realized from the fact that it is more likely for the corporate community to assume a social cohesion in which case they are aware of the interests that they have in common and hence enabling them to organize themselves well enough to dominate the government. Notably, according to Domhoffs contention, the reason why it is easier for the members of the corporate community to form a rigid social upper class is based on a couple of aspects. For instance, greater social cohesions are formed in cases where the particular social group in question, is seen to be exclusive and of a higher status. Similarly, this kind of social cohesion is even more strengthened when the interactions of the parties involved take place in some forms of informal settings, which in most cases are these social institutions which are only fit best by the upper class.
While the corporate community is comprised of the upper social class who particularly consider themselves as the power elite, Domhoff points out that there are various methods in which this particular corporate community dominates the United States political system. Firstly, in this reading, Domhoff argues that there is a great possibility of the power elite to directly involve themselves in the federal government, through different methods and procedures. This being said, the following are the three basic processes through which the power elite dominate the United States political system;
1. Through the policy making process, through which, those policies that are developed in the common policy planning network are brought to both the White House and the Congress.
2. Through the special interest process: In this particular method, very distinct families, corporations as well as industrial sectors can realize both their short-run and narrow interests on subsidies, taxes, and regulations while dealing with congressional committees, regulations, and also executive departments.
3. The candidate selection method: This is the process through which the power elite members have the power to influence the electoral campaigns through offering campaign donations to their desired political aspirants (Domhoff 7).
As discussed in the reading, although the major national-level businesses in the United States are closely interconnected in enough ways to form the corporate community, the American Corporate power has various factors limiting its potential. For instance, one of the greatest limits to the structural or rather the corporate power has to be the American economy. Precisely, derived from the fact that the American economy is independent of any attempts by the structural power to directly influence the government officials, then this essentially puts a limit to the potentials of the corporate powers in the United States. This being said, although the corporate power is in itself very great, it is however, not sufficient enough to allow those who are considered as corporate rich to dominate the American government especially during political or economic crisis.
In a similar regard, another limiting factor to the American corporate power is the fact that this particular power does not guarantee that the employees in the country will easily accept the existence of an ongoing economic depression without the risk of destroying private property or even taking over private property. This being said, the corporate community which happens to form the elite power must have to be able to call on the government so that unauthorised persons are kept away from their property and hence preventing any possible jeopardy that may affect their private property.
In conclusion, it is with no doubt that predominant power in the United States is owned by those with who have money. Particularly, according to William Domhoff, the theory of class domination is rooted on the fact that those that rule America, do so through lobbying open as well as the direct involvement in general policy planning on the big issues, participation in political campaigns and the consequent elections, and finally through the appointment of the primary decision making positions in government. Thus, in a nutshell, the power elite, who are majorly the members of the upper social class play a very dominant role not only in the American society but also on the federal government.
Domhoff, G William. Who Rules America Now? Waveland P, 1997.
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