Book Report: Rules America? G. William Domhoff's Sociological Analysis

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¶ … Rules America?

G. William Domhoff's sociological analysis Who Rules America? argues that the reins of power within America are tightly controlled by the interests of corporations, the financial industry, and members of America's elite 'upper class.' While officially America is supposed to be a classless society, Domhoff argues that the nation is actually polarized in a classic 'haves' versus 'have-nots' conflict. The representatives of labor and other disenfranchised groups (such as women and ethnic and racial minorities) attempt to gain power by pressuring the political system to raise taxes on the wealthy and elite institutions and distribute benefits and opportunities more fairly throughout society. However, conservative and corporate interests (including so-called 'agri-business') attempt to retain their stronghold upon power through deregulation and limiting access to elected and unelected positions within government institutions.

Empirical evidence that Domhoff provides to support his general argument

Argument 1: Wealth distribution

1% of households (the upper class) own one-half of all stocks, financial securities, trust equities, two-thirds of existing business equity, and 36% of all real estate in America (Domhoff 66).

Argument 2: Stability of wealth

1.6% of Americans receive $100,000 or more in inheritance money. Passing on the benefits of being members of an elite from generation to generation is thus a critical part of American economic life. Another 1.1% of the population receives $50,000 to $100,000 in inheritance. Yet the vast majority of Americans, 91.9%, receive nothing (Domhoff 66). These statistics fly in the face of the notion that it is common to be a self-made person in America: most entrepreneurs have the benefit of at least some inherited wealth.

Argument 3: Dominance of elite institutions

1/3 of the individuals who oversee the largest corporate firms in America attended Yale, Harvard, or Princeton, and the rest attended other elite schools (Domhoff 64). Attending an elite institution gives an individual access to social networking opportunities as well as teaches him or her how to behave in elite society.

Argument 4: Concentration of corporate power

15-20% of all corporate directors sit on one or more corporate boards. This also illustrates how economic power held by only a small number of individuals in America: the idea that a small businessperson can 'make it big' is unlikely, given the concentration of corporate wealth and power in the nation (Domhoff 15).

Argument 5: The myth of immigration

While the common ideal of an immigrant may be someone who came over the Atlantic with 'nothing,' contrary to the stereotype, most immigrants came over with at least some inherited wealth (Domhoff 58).

President Obama, his cabinet and Supreme Court appointments (Sotomayor)

President Obama is an African-American who has faced prejudice and discrimination in his life. However, his father pursued PhD studies at Harvard and his mother was an academic. While not of a classically privileged background, Obama has had more advantages than the 'average' person, as well as possesses undergraduate and graduate degrees from two Ivy League institutions (Obama, Biography, 2010). Hillary Clinton, Obama's Secretary of State, is a graduate of Wellesley College, another elite institution, and Yale Law school. Obama's Secretary of Defense is a hold-over from George Bush's administration. Eric Holder, the Attorney General is a… [END OF PREVIEW]

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"Rules America? G. William Domhoff's Sociological Analysis."  Essaytown.com.  June 2, 2010.  Accessed December 7, 2019.
https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/rules-america-g-william-domhoff-sociological/897.