Power, Politics, & Social Change

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Above Photo: Flickr/ Feral78

Welcome to WhoRulesAmerica.net, a site about how power is distributed and wielded in the United States. It both builds upon and greatly supplements the book Who Rules America?, now in its 7th edition. The book’s new subtitle, “The Triumph of the Corporate Rich,” reflects the success of the wealthy few in defeating all of their rivals (e.g., organized labor, liberals, environmentalists) over the course of the past 35 years. The story of how the corporate rich won all the big battles is complicated, but most of the answers are in the new Who Rules America?and/or this Web site; there’s also a YouTube video of Bill giving an invited lecture on the topic.

Among the many things you’ll find here: supplementary information and updates for readers of WRA; an overview of the American power structure at the national level and an in-depth look at power at the local level; a look at the wealth and income distribution in the U.S.; and an overview of the Four Networks theory of power, which provides the best general theory of power and social change within which to situate the class-domination theory we’ve developed specifically for the United States.

There’s a special section (including photos and first-hand accounts) about a unique elite social club that’s been holding its annual California summer retreat for well over a century: The Bohemian Club & The Bohemian Grove. And there are analyses of social movements and social change based on research in the social sciences; critiquesof alternative theories of power; links to Web sites and books about power and social change in the United States; and much more. You can use the menu on the left side of the page to navigate through the site (each section heading clicks open to reveal several documents).

Questions and Answers

Q:  So, who does rule America?

A:  The owners and managers of large income-producing properties; i.e., the owners of corporations, banks, other financial institutions, and agri-businesses. But they have plenty of help from the managers and experts they hire. You can read the essential details of the argument on this site, or read the new seventh edition of Who Rules America?.

Q:  Do the same people rule at the local level that rule at the federal level?

A:  No, not quite. The local level is dominated by the land owners and businesses that own downtown real estate and big shopping malls. They come together as growth coalitions, which turn cities into “growth machines” when they gain control of local government. Everything is about land values for them, and that requires office buildings, stadiums, museums, concert halls, shoppers, conventions, and tourists.

Q:  Do they rule secretly from behind the scenes, as a conspiracy?

A:  No, conspiracy theories are all wrong for many reasons. It’s true that some corporate leaders lie and steal, and that some government officials — including the President — initiate secret actions and then try (and usually fail) to keep them out of the newspapers. But those activities are not what is meant by a conspiracy theory, most of which involve an imagined small group of people secretly plotting to gain or retain control of the government through illegal means.

Q:  Then how do they rule?

A:  That’s a complicated story, but the short answer is through lobbying, open and direct involvement in general policy planning on the big issues, participation (in large part through campaign donations) in political campaigns and elections, and through appointments to key decision-making positions in government.

Q:  Are you saying that elections don’t matter?

A:  No, but they usually matter a lot less than they could, and a lot less in America than they do in other industrialized democracies. That’s because of the nature of the electoral rules and the unique history of the South.

Q:  Does social science research have anything useful to say about making progressive social change more effective?

A:  Yes, it does, but few if any people pay much attention to that research.

Q:  Is WhoRulesAmerica.net connected to the “Who Rules America?” documents on natvan.com or ncoal.com?

A:  No! Those sites (and many others with documents purporting to tell you “who rules America”) are run by white supremacist/neo-Nazi organizations.

  • TecumsehUnfaced

    I read G. William Domhoff’s first Who Rules American over 40 years ago. I’m delighted that he wrote an update, but I’m disappointed that he mocks conspiracies. There are always conspiracies at many levels since the beginning of human settlements. Why does he think there is so much secrecy and obfuscation in government, business, and NGOs? Conspiracy is as natural to human beings as breathing together. But he is right that many people theorizing about conspiracies do it without adequate study, hence very clumsily, and make fools of themselves by insufficiently examined speculation.

    Second, the conspiratorial view assumes that the behind-the-scenes
    leaders are extremely clever and knowledgeable, whereas social science
    and historical research shows that leaders often make shortsighted or
    mistaken decisions due to the limits placed on their thinking by their
    social backgrounds and institutional roles.

    Here, Domhoff is talking about the very clumsy conspiratorial theorists, who posit superhuman perception and thinking for the apex of the power elite. At the same time, he ignores that the higher in the power structure and more information, tools, and expertise is available to assist them in their decisions. Those at the very top have a sophistication that dwarfs all those in the subject classes.

    Domhoff even mocks the hunger for power. By that we know that beyond all his erudition he is playing a con game on us.

  • DHFabian

    Yes, always worth summing up the mess to clarify what we’re dealing with. The US is a corporate state. US corporations are now international entities, no longer dependent on US workers and consumers. In a nutshell, the US itself has slowly been transitioning into just another third world labor state. In the process, the overall quality of life plunged from #1 when Reagan was first elected (far from perfect, but much better) down to #48 by the time Obama was elected.

    The masses were kept distracted and divided by class and race, pitted against each other, and media served this role well. Most of the years of this admin. went into maintaining a pep rally for the middle class (later, the working class), disappearing our poverty crisis — the result of our deregulated capitalism. Then came BLM!, with wide support among those who aren’t on the right wing. The problem was the enraged backlash against those who pointed out that (as the data show) the majority of victims of police violence have been poor/white.

    With the proverbial “masses” successfully divided and subdivided, the people have no power, and the fascists (by definition) took over, under the figurehead of Donald Trump.

  • DHFabian

    Maybe I give him the benefit of the doubt, but isn’t the author mocking the explosion of (some pretty off-the-wall) conspiracy theories, rather than the fact of conspiracies?

  • TecumsehUnfaced

    His title is: There Are No Conspiracies.

  • TecumsehUnfaced

    Meanwhile, the ZioNazi thugs have colonized America for the repeated sinking of their fangs by the operation of traitors who would drain American to serve the ZioNazi thugdom.

  • DHFabian

    Aside from routine American bigotry, that doesn’t make any sense.

  • TecumsehUnfaced

    In you, ignorance is an incurable situation. You babble, get corrected, you babble again. You are totally unbothered by the European ZioNazi thugs genocidally stealing the homes of another people, and insist absurdly that a thugdom built and maintained by atrocities has a right to exist.

    No, the colonization of American by the ZioNazi thugs

    is evident by arrogant disregard for our right and politics by the ZioNazi thugs.

    Boehner bowing down to a foreign leader

    Prostitutes gathering to be fed by Bibi


    ‘Beholden to AIPAC’ – Senators Warren, Murphy, Brown Sign Letter To Limit Obama’s Actions
    By Philip Weiss September 24, 2016


  • jaguara777

    How do you blame the media? The media are mostly reporters of current events.

  • jaguara777

    I completely disagree with your words, “Conspiracy is as natural to human beings as breathing together”

    A multitude of Anthropology studies say that the main attribute of humans is for cooperation, not for aggression. Only humans who love aggression would love conspiracy. Yes, it is present but not a highly natural component of human behavior. That is my surmisal.Of course, I am biased. My BA is in Anthropology. My MS is another social science. I do agree with you about Domhoff mocking hunger for power. But here, again, some intellectuals will have differing views and your disagreement does not necessarily mean that one is wrong and the other is right. Perhaps, it means that there is no perfect congruence in certain social scientific conclusions. I certainly do not think that Domhoff is playing a con game. I do agree his chapters are full of complex sentences and erudition.

  • Maria Casey

    I agree with you, mostly, about the US being a corporate state. I do think that the higher officials (congress) do, some or much of the time do not follow the constitution. They decide in favor of themselves, the rich. It is time for a third party in this country. https://electqualifiedmiddleclass.org/

  • jaguara777

    On Aug. 19th 2019, the Business Roundtable, a thinktank of international corporation put out an obvious piece of propaganda. They think the consumers and citizens in countries are deaf, dumb and mute. I mean no insult to people with such developmental disabilities.


    Shortly after this statement that a corporation does serve to help the economy and consumers, etc. crapola – — Jeff Bezos took away health insurance form the 20 hour a week or more part timers at Whole Foods Stores. He bought Whole Foods within the last 2 years, I believe. When he bought the Wash. Post newspaper, the journalist said he did the same thing, removing their health insurance. I want to know the US government has atrocious tax laws that let a company like Amazon not pay anything to repair our roads, subway systems, highways, etc. I remember about 20- 30 yrs. ago GE was paying zero in taxes. No corporation should ever be have loopholes or whatever that allow zero taxes to be paid.