Who Rules America?  By G. William Domhoff, University of California at Santa Cruz

Information for Students (and Others) Reading Who Rules America? The Triumph of the Corporate Rich

Dear Readers:

Welcome to this supplementary web site for the latest version of Who Rules America?, which has been updated and improved in many ways. I hope your arrival here means that the book has proven to be readable and informative. I'm also hoping you will find this web site useful and that some of it is enjoyable as well.

There are ten specific on-line articles that are mentioned in the 7th edition of Who Rules America:

  • How To Do Power Structure Research (Chapter 1): This document provides all the background information that is needed to do research of your own at the national or local level, including step-by-step suggestions on how to proceed and where to find the necessary information.
  • Growth Coalition Theory (Chapter 2): Explains power conflicts at the local level. Also, Santa Cruz: The Leftmost City is a study of a rare instance in which a city was run by neighborhood leaders and environmentalists -- instead of those who want to make their land more valuable no matter what the impacts on ordinary citizens. In addition to explaining the history of urban power struggles and the devastating impact of urban renewal on large cities, both documents discuss some of the progressive regimes that have had successes in a few cities.
  • The Bohemian Grove (Chapter 3): This one is meant to be fun as well as informative, and I reveal some of the problems I encountered in order to get to the bottom of things. It tells the story, using many photos, of a private campground in the redwoods of Northern California that has served as a midsummer retreat for the power elite since the 1890s. Links to other accounts of the Grove scene, some based on personal experience, are included.
  • Wealth, Income, and Power (Chapter 3): This document is based largely on numerous studies by economists who focus on wealth and income data. Much of this information comes directly from information supplied by the government. What we've done is to put their findings into the context of a power structure analysis that is hopefully jargon-free and therefore readable.
  • Pension Fund Capitalism or Wall Street Bonanza? (Chapter 3): Examines the claim that public employee and union pension funds have acquired power over corporations. It shows that there is no substance to this idea. Moreover, union and public employee pension funds in fact are money pots that private financial institutions use and abuse in a variety of ways that are discussed in the document or on links that are provided.
  • The Ford Foundation in the Inner City (Chapter 4): This account of the Ford Foundation's involvement in the inner city through its funding of programs is a case study of how the corporate-financed policy-planning network evolves to deal with new problems. The network started out as a way to deal with tensions caused by urban renewal in the 1950s, but it soon developed a focus on reducing conflicts between neighborhoods. Now it provides a set of nonprofit organizations to provide housing and social services for people in the inner city. It is in some ways like a parallel or shadow government. Two key goals remained constant: preserving land values for wealthy landowners and trying to quell unrest.
  • How Corporate Moderates Created Social Security (Chapter 4): The counterintuitive story of how and why corporate moderates created the Social Security Act. It goes into historical depth using new archival documents to show that a program often attributed to the influence of liberals and unions was in fact the product of corporate moderates and the experts they employed within think tanks that are part of the policy-planning network. It also discusses the fact that the same one-time corporate moderates turned against any improvements in the Social Security Act by 1980.
  • Federal Advisory Committees (Chapter 7): This document provides a more complete discussion of the importance of these advisory committees than could be presented in the Who Rules America? chapter on how the power elite dominate the federal government. Drawing on several different studies, this document provides detailed evidence about one small but often very important part of corporate involvement in departments of the executive branch.
  • The Rise and Fall of Labor Unions in the U.S. (Chapter 7): In 1934 & 1935, corporate moderates suffered a sudden and surprising defeat in their attempts to block or water down the National Labor Relations Act. They despised this legislation because it granted workers the right to create unions and also created a National Labor Relations Board in an effort to give some teeth to those rights. This document tells that story, and also explains in detail just how and why a united corporate community was able to hamstring and then defeat the efforts of the National Labor Relations Board after World War II ended. To set the stage for this story of a very atypical piece of legislation, the document begins with the early history of the labor movement in the United States, so readers have a sense of how successful corporate leaders had been from the 1830s to the 1930s in battling unions, usually through the violence and calls for the courts to issue injunctions against striking workers.

In addition to the aforementioned documents, there are additional materials on this Web site that allow you to pursue other topics to whatever depth you may wish. They range from the history of power structure research to a more complete statement of a general theory of power (the Four Networks theory), which is only touched upon lightly in the book. There are also critiques of rival theories, and information on what social scientists have to say about social change, including what seems to work and what doesn't.

There's also a piece on what psychologists and other social scientists have to say about the similarities and differences between political leftists and political rightists, in case that question has always been a puzzle for you (as it has been for me). In the end, it is amazing how similar leftists and rightists are in some ways (having to do with moral anger and intellectual "purity") even though they are very different in their styles of thinking, their personalities, and their values.

Whatever your theoretical interests or political orientation, my goal has been to make the site informative and useful for everyone.

G. William Domhoff
Santa Cruz, California
Spring 2013

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