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Wealth And Power Of The Upper Class: An Organized Elite

1123 words - 4 pages

G. William Domhoff is by trade a psychologist and sociologist and is the author of several books on the theory of power and class structure. In his book, Who rules America Now? Domhoff provides an in depth analysis of the structure of wealth and power in America. He asserts the existence of an institutional upper class in America that is able to dictate/direct the politics, economy and government by virtue of its wealth and power. I contend that Domhoff through his analysis of the wealth and power structure of the American upper class can be considered as a lay cultural theorist. This is based upon his identification of the cultural processes of the upper class - those learned shared patterns of behaviors and interactions that allow them to “sustain and optimize opportunities and forms of sociality” (Stryker 2011), for survival. In this paper, I will argue the existence of an institutional upper class in America identified by its infrastructure, wealth and power. (Domhoff 2005) This class is a minority in terms of population, in particular the 5% of this social class who possess the majority of wealth in this nation. They have “the ability to set the terms under which other groups and classes must operate” (Domhoff 2005).
To demonstrate the existence of an institutional American upper class it must first be defined. Most people think of social class as distinctions between income, occupations, and education. They view the upper class as those who have more wealth and influence in society, but certainly not power or control. Domhoff defines social class as a group of “intermarrying and interacting families who see each other as equals, share a common style of life, and have a common viewpoint on the world” (Domhoff 2005), not as a relationship between social levels. The distinction he explicates between the upper class and other social levels is wealth and power. Wealth in relation to the upper class is defined not as income, but “the value of everything a person or family owns, minus any debts” (Domhoff 2005). Income according to Domhoff, “is what people earn from work, but also from dividends, interest, and any rents or royalties that are paid to them on properties they own” (Domhoff 2011). Those who own a great deal of wealth do not derive it from income, although they may have a high income resulting from the returns on their wealth. (Domhoff 2011) As for the power the upper class wields on politics, the economy and the government, it is indirectly carried out “through the activities of a wide variety of organizations and institutions. These organizations and institutions are financed and directed by those members of the upper class who have the interest and ability to involve themselves in protecting and enhancing the privileged social position of their class” (Domhoff 2005). This description of the upper class by Domhoff provides the basis for the argument that it institutionally exist - an organized, cohesive group set apart by its...

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