Definitions

Power elite

Power elite

A power elite, in political and sociological theory, is a small group of people who control a disproportionate amount of wealth, privilege, and access to decision-making of global consequence. The term was coined by Charles Wright Mills in his 1956 book, The Power Elite. The Power Elite (1956) describes the relationship between political, military, and economic elite (people at the pinnacles of these three institutions), noting that these people share a common world view, 1) the "military metaphysic"- a military definition of reality, possess 2) "class identity"- recognizing themselves separate and superior to the rest of society, have 3) interchangibility: i.e. the move within and between the three institutional structures and hold interlocking directorates 4) cooptation/socialization: of prospective new members is done based on how well they "clone" themselves socially after such elite. Further these elite in the "big three" institutional orders have an "uneasy" alliance based upon their "community of interests" driven by the military metaphysic, which has transformed the economy into a 'permanent war economy'.

In critical work, the U.S. power elite consists of members of the Business/Corporate Community, Academia, politicians, media editors, military service personnel, and high-profile journalists. From here on, a general form of consensus building and homogenizing of elite members' views is eventually achieved.

Social structure forming "power elite"

The "American Way" and the "American Dream" has been defined as
that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement. It is a difficult dream for the European upper classes to interpret adequately, and too many of us ourselves have grown weary and mistrustful of it. It is not a dream of motor cars and high wages merely, but a dream of social order in which each man and each woman shall be able to attain to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable, and be recognized by others for what they are, regardless of the fortuitous circumstances of birth or position.
It has been argued that a relatively fixed group of privileged Americans shape our economy and government solely because of their higher wealth and social status. This idea goes against the original American way, and begins a new one. This new American way involves a fixed group of Americans, called the "power elite".

The "power elite" stems from many groups that form into one:

  • Corporate Community: This group includes rich corporations, banks and agribusinesses. These tend to dominate the federal government in Washington.
  • Growth Coalitions: This group includes real estate, construction and land development companies. These tend to dominate the local governments.

Both the corporate communities and growth coalitions sometimes will have conflicting ideas and competition between each other over profits and investment opportunities. However, they tend to have the same policies affecting their general welfare. These groups have the ability to organize and defend their interests due to their large wealth and income. The owners and managers of these large income producing properties hold a great share of all of the income and wealth in the US. This is more than any other industrial democracy (they are 1% of the entire U.S. population). By holding this share of income, these groups clearly create the dominating class in the U.S. This dominating class has name of its own:

  • Corporate Rich: This group becomes more of a common social group. They belong to the same social clubs, they vacation at the same summer and winter resorts and they send their children to the same private schools. They create the "social upper class".
  • Place Entrepreneurs: This group tends to be filled with members of the "growth coalition". They sell locations and buildings. By doing this, they become the local upper class in their respective cities. Because of this, they tend to mingle with the "corporate rich" in vacation/resort settings or educational settings.
  • Policy – Formation Network: This group tends to be filled with members from both the "corporate rich" and the "place entrepreneurs/growth coalition". They develop and direct non-profit organizations, charity foundations and policy discussion groups. As these non-profit groups join at a national level, they are able to create policies for local communities and national level city development organizations.

All of these groups take a part in creating the ultimate "power elite", the leadership group for the corporate rich as a whole.

  • "Power elite": This group tends to have corporate owners join with top level executives in the "corporate community" and the "policy formation network". This group tends to be the wealthiest in the US and use this group title to create policies for the US to use on a national level. However, it is clear that not all people in the power elite group are involved in governance. Some simply enjoy the lifestyle wealth can bring.

Academics who have written on the "power elite"

Groups described as members of the "power elite"

Further reading

See also

References

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