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Power. power elite. part of the social historical context (conflict view) a social problem in itself. Formal structure of American democracy:. Executive. Judicial. Legislative. Balance of powers. What Mills sees happening.

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power elite

  • part of the social historical context (conflict view)

  • a social problem in itself

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Formal structure of American democracy:




Balance of powers

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What Mills sees happening

  • Business and government “more intricately and deeply involved with each other”

  • Military ascendancy; “enlarged and military state”

  • Permanent-war economy; military capitalism; “military has benefited the most” (45)

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Power Elite

  • Mills defined it as a concentration of power among socially allied members of three key sectors:

    • Economic: large corporations

    • Political: especially the executive branch of the federal government

    • Military

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Power elite

  • “ascendancy of the corporation’s man as a political eminence…” (Mills, 1956)

  • “tied to their dominant locales…”

  • “however, they…transcend the particularity of interest…[and] lace the three types of milieux together.”

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Power elite

  • Not a conspiracy; but official secrecy increases

  • Institutional trends

  • Social similarities and psychological affinities

  • power elite “encroach” upon the old balances

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The Power Elite acc. Domhoff

Social Upper Class

The Power Elite

Corporate Community

Policy-Formation Organizations

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Domhoff on power and class

  • Value assumptions:

    • Democracy in politics

    • Mobility in class

  • Power elite dominates (“power to set the terms…not total control”)

  • Corporate-conservative coalition vs. liberal-labor coalition

  • This is a class conflict

  • Domhoff’s website:http://sociology.ucsc.edu/whorulesamerica/

  • They rule: http://www.theyrule.net/

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Enron and the power elite

  • Kenneth Lay, former employee of old Federal Power Commission put Enron together in 1980s

  • 1993: Wendy Gramm (wife of TX. Sen. Phil), chair of Commodity Futures Trading Commission; exempts energy derivative contracts from oversight. Weeks later, joins Enron Board.

  • 1994: lobbies Securities and Exchange Commission for utility monopoly exemption, wins

  • 1996: Federal Energy Regulatory Commission allows electricity deregulation; five years later California has electricity crisis

  • 2000: Commodity Futures Modernization Act allows Enron to further its speculative activity in commodities from electricity to water

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Enron and the power elite

  • Spent $5.9 million on federal politics since 1989

  • President Bush’s largest contributor: $1 million for campaigns for governor and president

  • Kenneth Lay had close personal ties

    • Played golf with Bill Clinton

    • George W. Bush called him “Kenny Boy”

    • Interviewed prospective cabinet members

    • Private meetings with Vice President Cheney on energy policy (GAO lawsuit)

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Enron and the power elite

Members of current administration with former Enron ties

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What about elections?

  • Which sector of P.E. do we elect?

  • Describe the process

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What is the contradiction?

  • P.E. vs. masses

  • Elite interests vs. democracy

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Social movements

  • “sustained, organized, collective effort that focuses on some aspect of social change” (Blackwell Dictionary or Sociology, 262)

  • usually arise when institutional (mainstream, legitimate) means of social change unavailable

  • expression of grassroots democracy?