Who Rules America?

In his book, William Domhoff argues that a powerful elite exercises power in the United States

by means of support through foundations, think-tanks, academic departments, and commissions. In addition to that, the author presents an argument that the elite are in control of the key institutions in the country by means of blatant authority, not by means of covert popularity or influence. At the beginning of the book, William Domhoff notes that his publication was given inspiration by the work of four gentlemen: sociologists C. Wright Mills, E. Digby Baltzell, economist Paul Sweezy, and political scientist Robert A. Dahl. This paper is going to give invaluable insights with respect to William Domhoff’s take on who rules America.

The Class-Domination Theory of Power

is what the author banks on with respect to the most conceivable explanation of who rules America. More specifically, the author mentions that from 1776 to the present day, those that have predominant power in North America are those that have money; money is owned by families that have ownership of income-producing businesses and land. For instance, the author mentions that George Washington happened to be one of the greatest landowners up to this date; “American presidents in the late 19th century were adjacent to railroad interests; for the Bush family; it was oil, gas and a host of other natural resources, finance and agribusiness” (Domhoff B 100).

William Domhoff’s theoretical perspective

also affirms that in this day and age, agribusiness, banks, companies, and developers of big real estates, functioning separately on many policy matters, but together work on the most relevant mutual issues (like taxation, opposition to labor laws, and trade treaties with neighboring countries) set the conditions in which policy wars are waged. As such, the author makes it very clear that the only power network that has meaningfully impacted the history of the United States is the economic one. Economic power under the framework of capitalism has machinated a working class and a business-owning class, together with skilled craft laborers that are self-employed and small businesses, and a comparatively limited number of highly qualified professionals like lawyers, architects, scientists, and physicians (Domhoff A 83).

It is worth mentioning that the reason why money owners (business owners)

have been able to rule the United States is that their workers were divided from the start; making labor unions ineffective in fighting for higher wages and other rights of workers. The divisions of workers in the factories revolved around African Americans and white; slave and free; and later into many immigrants tribal affiliation as well. This has made it complicated for laborers as a whole to come together politically to contend the upper class when it comes to matters of improved social welfares; and such is the weakness of the working class (Domhoff C 55).

According to William Dumhoff, “those in power or the power elite make up the national policy planning network”

In America, the people who hold power include the corporate community, the social upper class, and the policy-panning network. In some instances, the three groups mentioned above are perceived as a single individual or group of people, but they are many times made up of individual people with different means or skills. The social upper class is those individuals who not only have a lot of money, but they are also the ones that set the standards that individuals in their class align to. Secondly, the corporate community is an assembly of people that are in more than one board of directors by virtue of their business connections. Finally, the policy-planning network makes up the third group; it comprises non-profits like lobbying groups and think tanks who have a direct impact on governmental policy. The power elite is then made up of individuals within the three above-mentioned groups.

Opinion shaping is important in relation to ruling America

As a process, it revolves around a wide variety of methods and organizations through which members of the power elite try to influence the attitudes, beliefs, and opinions of the general population. The leaders that define the opinion-shaping process try to “bank on and strengthen the fundamental values of the American belief system which center on laissez-faire liberalism”. The values center on free enterprise, individualism, equality of opportunity, and limited dependence on the government with respect to realizing societal affairs (Tenenbaum 15). It is worth mentioning that the institutions that materialize the opinion-shaping network work hard to be the guardians of whatever opinions and policies measure up to good Americanism, and the ones that are “un-American,” connoting treasonous and foreign at the very least. The power elite through several institutions attempt to define for everybody what opinions best align to the national interest and American policies.

The process of candidate selection

is the means through which elective offices are occupied in the United States of America. Even though the powers that be want the process to seem very “political” the truth is candidate selection is a process that is very engrossed with personal ambitions and image building as opposed to substantive issues. It is a procedure whereby a majority of politicians work out ties that bind to each other and clique surrounded by power elite while at the same time pretending to speak for “the people” and caring about them (Domhoff A 129). William Dumhoff goes further ahead to say that the elite have particular interest with respect to regulation, taxation, and other governmental duties. They make use of money, influence in congressional committees, and government departments to see to it that their special interests become successful. In fact, the candidate selection process is very much tied to the special interest process.

The class-domination theory of power manifests itself in the policy-formation process

Policy-formation as a progression is an approach through which the power elite make up laws on grander matters. It is well inside the machinations of the policy-making system that several distinctive comforts coalesce to make up, even though gropingly and slowly, the overall rules and laws that will benefit them at large. It is in the in the course of the policy-making process that several factions of the corporate world go beyond their interest-group consciousness and come up with a general class consciousness (Domhoff A 61).


It is worth mentioning that corporate power and potential limits are not sufficient to take over the four networks of power. Another way to put it is that the power structures that rule America revolve around economic, ideological, political, and military structures. These power structures are such that one form of power can be converted to the next form of power and with respect to American history no power structure supersedes the rest. However, it is worth mentioning that one among the four power forms mentioned above has always presupposed the existence of the others. In the United States of America, it just so happens that economic power networks have been principal over the other three and it is this specific fact that brought about class domination. As such, it is individuals that make up the highest echelons of the social class that rule the United States of America.

Works Cited

Domhoff, G. William A. Who Rules America?. Mcgraw-Hill Higher Education, 2010.

Domhoff, G. William B. Studying the Power Elite: Fifty Years of Who Rules America? Taylor " Francis, 2017.

Domhoff, G. William C. Looseleaf for Who Rules America?

McGraw-Hill Education. 2015

Tenenbaum, Shelly, and J. S. Ross Robert. "Who Rules America?". Teaching Sociology, vol 34, no. 4, 2006, pp. 389-397. SAGE Publications, doi:10.1177/0092055x0603400405.

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