>Who Rules America: Theories of Power


Theories of Power

This section provides some historically specific discussions of power in the United States at the national and local levels. You may also be interested in the Studying Power section of this site, which covers methodological issues.

The Four Networks Theory of Power

Power is based in ideological, economic, military and political networks — Michael Mann’s “IEMP model.” It’s my preferred approach, leading to a class-domination theory when applied to the United States.

Alternative Theories

The main rivals to the Four Network theory: pluralism, state autonomy theory, elite theory, and Marxism.

Conspiracy Theories

I contrast the untenable psychological assumptions of conspiracy theories, which lead them to be wrong on the key issues, with the more solidly grounded sociological assumptions that are used by social scientists who study power.

C. Wright Mills, Floyd Hunter, and 50 Years of Power Structure Research

Some historical background on power structure research; a detailed critique of pluralism; and a critique of structural Marxists.

Mills’s The Power Elite, 50 Years Later

This is my take on how Mills’s classic book, The Power Elite, looked 50 years after its publication in 2006. It reads better than ever with respect to the higher levels of the social ladder, but not very well concerning the rest of the society and how events would unfold. Mills’ theory was too narrow to allow for the possibility of the Civil Rights Movement and the other social movements of the 1960s.

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