The 4 Freedoms Library

It takes a nation to protect the nation

The Power Elite is a book written by the sociologistC. Wright Mills, in 1956. In it Mills calls attention to the interwoven interests of the leaders of the military, corporate, and political elements of society and suggests that the ordinary citizen is a relatively powerless subject of manipulation by those entities. The structural basis of The Power Elite is that, following World War II, the United States was the leading country in military and economic terms. According to Mills, the Power Elite are those that occupy the dominant positions, in the dominant institutions (military, economic and political) of a dominant country, and their decisions (or lack of decisions) have enormous consequences, not only for the U.S. population but, "the underlying populations of the world." Mills outlines the historical structural trends that led to the ascension of the power elite as involving a concentration of economic power and the cultural apparatus in the hands of a few, the emergence of a permanent war economy in the U.S. during and after WW2, the emergence of a bureaucratically standardized and conditioned (controlled) mass society and a political vacuum that was filled by economic and military elites. Due to the interchangeability of top positions within these three institutions, the members of the power elite develop class consciousness and a community of interests guided by a militarized culture, or what Mills described as the military metaphysic.

The book is something of a counterpart of Mills' 1951 work, White Collar: The American Middle Classes, which examines the then-growing role of middle managers in American society. A main inspiration for the book was Franz Leopold Neumann's bookBehemoth: The Structure and Practice of National Socialism in 1942, a study of how Nazism came into a position of power in a democratic state like Germany. Behemoth had a major impact on Mills and he claimed that Behemoth had given him the "tools to grasp and analyse the entire total structure and as a warning of what could happen in a modern capitalist democracy".[1]

Contents

The book

Chapter 1: The Higher Circles

  • This chapter provides a description of the power elite and the mechanism through which it acquires and exercises its power on a national level.
  • He describes the contemporary means of power as the hierarchies of state, military and the big corporate institutions. Other, previously decisive institutions such as family and religion are pushed aside in the contemporary United States. They adapt to contemporary life, which in turn is set and determined by the new means of power.
  • Wealth, power, and popularity, in this system, attach to the positions that individuals occupy, and not to the individuals themselves.
  • The power elite of the US, which never faced competition due to the absence of feudal structures (aristocracy and religion), monopolize power from the get-go.
    1. It becomes a caste within the upper classes, and makes all decisions that have important consequences.
    2. It is not a group of rulers whose every decision is correct and every consequence of such decisions is as expected.
    3. It is limited by the means of power, the techniques of power, and the means of communication. However, their limitations are much less compared to previous ruling classes, due to the expansion and centralization in the means of power.
  • To study the unity of the US power elite, one should investigate:
    1. the psychology of the elite in their respective environments (their psychological similarities)
    2. the interrelations between the military, economical, and political institutions they are part of (the social intermingling of the means of power)
    3. the co-operation between the means of power (i.e. the military, big corporations, and state)
  • The main theses of the book, as set by Mills, are:
    1. Historical circumstances have led to the rise of power elite,
    2. They now make key decisions,
    3. The enlargement and centralization of means of power increased the potency of the consequences of their decisions,
    4. The power elite is much more unified and powerful than the "mass society",[2] which is fragmented and impotent.

Chapter 11: The Theory of Balance

  • In this chapter, Mills describes and critiques the theory of balance that constitutes an important element of contemporary US ideology regarding economy and government.
  • According to the theory of balance, the state and the economy are kept in balance by competing interests. In economy, this was translated from the economic theory that stated that there was no authoritarian center to the sovereign economic system. In politics, this was translated from the theory that the division of political powers would balance the powers and leave no space to despotism.
  • Mills identifies a number of flaws with this theory:
    1. Balance of power implies equality of power. However, one's power balance means for another a power imbalance.
    2. The doctrine of the harmony of interests / balance of power makes dissidence appear to be the source of chaos and disturbance.
    3. The prime focus of the theory is the Congress, however its members are members of the upper classes and cannot actually be the representatives of the interests of the lower classes of the society. Furthermore, the power in congress comes with seniority, hence congress people will have to stay in the Congress as long as possible, which makes it impossible for them to become dissidents. In the mean time, the seniors manipulate and determine what will happen in the Congress. And the major issues of the electorate usually cannot find space in political campaigns, the congress itself, or even the congressional committees. If they come up, they are structured so that discussion is limited to certain viewpoints and the substantive issue will be stalemated. It is not the political power of the Congress, or that of key Congressmen, that has expanded and centralized.
    4. The founding fathers' idea of a checks-and-balances-state is grounded in their belief in the US middle class as the stabilizer and the pivot of the class balance in the US. In contemporary US economy, however, the small entrepreneurs that once consisted the economy are replaced by a handful of centralized corporations. Moreover, the middle class has come to be dependent on the state and replaced by a new middle class (white-collar employees), whose jobs cannot provide them with tools (political freedom and economic security) to be independent, that is yet another part of the impotent mass society. Labour unions themselves became institutions that choose leaders and send them to corporate positions once those leaders become established.
    5. The 'checks-and-balances' system is outdated and inapplicable to contemporary US political and economical life.
    6. It assumes that the different balances that keep the society in equilibrium requires them to be independent of each other. However, none of them (labour, business, state, military and so on) are independent of each other any longer, and hence, they cannot be seen as elements of a balancing system.
    7. Major interests do not compete with each other, but instead co-operate to promote several interests as they coincide.
    8. The lobbies that are supposed to be checks-and-balances are now part of the state.

Chapter 12: The Power Elite

  • The American power elite has gone through 4 stages, and is in a fifth stage as of Mills' writing.
    1. From the Revolution through the administration of John Adams: as military, state and corporate entities were more or less united, power elite was able to move from one role to another.
    2. During the early nineteenth cc: the power elite became a number of top groups, each of which loosely constructed and loosely overlapping.
    3. From 1886 until World War I: corporations acquired the rights of a person and received the initiative to govern (from the state).
    4. The New Deal, from World War I until the end of World War II: competing (and balanced) centers of power within the power elite form in political and economic areas; corporate chiefs enter the political sphere.
    5. Since World War II:
      1. American democracy is now only a formality; State and Corporate entities became hardly distinguishable; democracy is being dominated by the corporate chiefs.
      2. As the focus of the power elite "shifted their attention from domestic to international affairs" (read: from colonizing the Americas to colonizing all of it), warlords became very influential in US politics; State and Military became hardly distinguishable.
      3. The economy is now both a war economy and a private corporate economy. Not the politicians but the warlords and the corporate chiefs decide about military actions.
  • The phrase "Power Elite" captures the simplicity of other theorists:
    1. Marx, with his overemphasis on the capitalist as the only holder of power
    2. Liberals, who see the politician as the head of the system
    3. Those who view warlords as the dictators of the system.
    4. Instead the phrase "Power Elite" forces us to consider the union of the military, economic, and state power.
  • He defends his critique of power elite as such:
    1. They may be honorable people. However, honor is not universal. The question is not whether they are honorable or not. The key question is what their honor codes are. And of course, their honor codes will be those that support their own interests.
    2. They do not, and cannot adapt to the necessities of their jobs as they rise in stature. They (i.e. no one) do not have such flexibility. They have certain personal and business interests and "to ask a man suddenly to divest himself of these interests and sensibilities is almost like asking a man to become a woman."[3]
    3. Like codes of honor, patriotism and its principles vary greatly. These too are rooted in one's personal history.
    4. One cannot argue that they are doing their duties. In fact, they are the ones who are determining what those very duties are.
  • Even though the power elite itself as a ruling force is constant, the individuals who constitute it and occupy positions in the dominant hierarchies of the state, the economy, and the military is not. Even though these individuals know each other, there is not unified policy / ideology that ties them together or in one position.
  • The inner core of the power elite consists of those who interchange commanding roles in various dominant hierarchies (the "big three") and the corporate lawyer and the financial banker, who play the role of the unifier between the big three.
  • The constant involvement of the nation in wars (and the making of crises as permanent and total) makes it possible for the power elite to use national security as a pretext for secrecy of intentions and in planning and execution.

Chapter 13: The Mass Society

  • The public (of the public opinion) is the essence of 18th century theory of democracy. This is a fairy tale: it is not even close to how the US system of power works – the issues that determine their fate are neither discussed nor determined by the public.
  • However, contemporary systems are transforming the communities of public into mass society.
  • Differences between (criteria for determining whether it is) a public and a mass:
    1. the ratio of givers and takers of opinion.
    2. possibility of answering back an opinion without the fear of reprisal.
    3. the opportunity for people to act out their opinions collectively.
    4. the penetration of institutional authority into the public.
  • In terms of scale, the restricted size of the public (by education, sex, age, and property [race]) turned into an enlarged mass with the only qualification of citizenship and age.
  • In terms of organization, there has been a shift from private communities to the mass party as the major unit of organization. And there is a widening gap between the leaders and the members of these mass parties. The members get lost in the crowd and the participating members become the leader's tools of manipulation.
  • With the expansion of the means of mass persuasion (also known as "mass deception"), the public of the public opinion became the target of intense efforts of control, manipulation, and intimidation. Opinion-making (through mass media and compulsory education) therefore became an accepted technique of getting and holding on to power. They now guide our very experiences, construct our standards and sense of reality, wants, needs, identity, and self. Hence they destroy any expectation of reasonable exchange of opinion.
  • The creation of a pseudo-world by the mass media is made possible by the structure of the society which enables people to choose only that which is of the same opinion as they are. The remote possibility of debate and discussion, let alone action, disappears as the experience of the public turns into that of the mass: narrower and limited to their routine and structural (out-of-their-own-control) environment from which they cannot escape.
  • or in his own words in The Power Elite,"In a public, as we may understand the term, (1) virtually as many people express opinions as receive them, (2) Public communications are so organised that there is a chance immediately and effectively to answer back any opinion expressed in public. Opinion formed by such discussion (3) readily finds an outlet in effective action, even against – if necessary – the prevailing system of authority. And (4) authoritative institutions do not penetrate the public, which is thus more or less autonomous in its operations.-In a mass, (1) far fewer people express opinions than receive them; for the community of publics becomes an abstract collection of individuals who receive impressions from the mass media. (2) The communications that prevail are so organised that it is difficult or impossible for the individual to answer back immediately or with any effect. (3) The realisation of opinion in action is controlled by authorities who organise and control the channels of such action. (4) The mass has no autonomy from institutions; on the contrary, agents of authorised institutions penetrate this mass, reducing any autonomy it may have in the formation of opinion by discussion".

Chapter 14: The Conservative Mood

  • The conservative theories that seek to legitimize the power elite's actions are faulty.
    1. The conservative defends irrational traditionalism against human reason and denies people's right to self-control and self-determination.
    2. Even though conservatives push for a certain traditionalism, the very people at the top of the hierarchy lack such ideologies useful for public consumption -their only cultural heritage is that of getting and holding on to money. They do not have any ideology.
    3. Simultaneously, because the US lacks the feudal stage, these conservative theorists also lack pre-capitalist figures (aristocracy, peasant, petty bourgeoisie etc.) to hold on to and to promote as models of their theories. They lack pre-industrial elements who might subscribe to these traditionalist ideas: the power elite itself abhor conservatism.
  • American liberalism has been made painless for the power elite. It went into a moral and intellectual decline in the last half century. Political rhetoric became monolithic, divergent liberal positions came to be employed in the same homogeneous liberal terms.

Chapter 15: The Higher Immorality

  • Especially following the second half of the 1900s, the US power elite has been getting increasingly immoral, irresponsible, ignorant, stupid (in terms of not valuing reason as one's key characteristic in life), and mindless in its quest for wealth and power.
  • The higher immorality is a systematic, institutionalized feature of the US power elite, and the general acceptance of this immorality is an essential feature of the mass society.
  • The mass society itself is also left without any moral standards to hold on to, or even rise against. While fear, uncertainty, and doubt is spread through military and economic crisis, "as individuals they are defenseless; as groups, they are politically indifferent." Even though most relate (and wrongfully so) power with knowledge and ability, some have given in to the immorality embodied in accomplishment.

Limitations and Criticisms of The Power Elite

Sociologist Christopher B. Doob maintains that C. Wright Mills' The Power Elite is limited in terms of elitist activity in society. "Mills provided little detail about the contemporary elites' activities. For instance, he never mentioned either the Council on Foreign Relations or the Committee on Economic Development, two elite-dominated, policy-making organizations that were already prominent players in his time. In addition, through no fault of his own, Mills described an era when it was still possible to analyze the power elite by focusing only on the United States. The subsequent expansion of globalization has made his theory appearanachronistic." [4][5] However, Doob does appraise Mills' work in The Power Elite, stating Mills was a "pioneer, propelling his power-elite theory into a pluralism-dominated academic world, where his novel ideas, according to G. William Domhoff, "caused a firestorm in academic and political circles, leading to innumerable reviews in scholarly journals and the popular press, most of them negative." Over time, however, The Power Elite has become a classic, recognized as "the first full-scale study of the structure and distribution of power in the United States," using the complete set of theoretical and research tools then available.[6] Both Domhoff's andThomas Dye's theories have built upon Mill's conclusions, providing more detail about such issues as the make-up of the ruling group and the process by which policies are established and implemented. Their more contemporary works simply recent information about this powerful group's role in society." [7]

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Replies to This Discussion

I have cross-posted this book summary from Wikipedia, so that we can more easily discuss its ideas and merits.

Comment from Joe

I think the criticism of Mills work as anachronistic is a sham.  He wrote it in 1956, a world very different from now.  Note how influential it is regarded.  It was up to others to update his work for a world that has changed.  I think it is incredibly prescient.  And we see very few modern commentators even accept that the situation he describes exists.  If it wasn't for the inadvertent invention of the internet, Mills dark vision would have become even darker these past 15 years.

It's considered a modern classic of social & political theory, yet apart from me, I don'tthink I've ever heard another person refer to it in the past 30 years.  Clearly the respect it has is only within the departments of political science at universities.  My first lecturein political science said we would be mocked if we ever referred to political views as "left v. right".  And yet what is dismissed in week 1 of Politics 101 is almost the onlyvocabulary used by the 10 million people in Britain who discuss politics.

Comment from Peter

Its not so much that I don't agree with you, I just think its a waste of time discussing conspiracy theories. Maybe my idea of CT differs from yours but we have to be careful about treading that road. i mean who are they? Jews/Zionists/protocols? Illuminati/freemasons? Shape-shifting Aliens? 
When we last spoke on the subject I asked who are these so called 'power elite' and you said it did't matter - or words to that effect. If we cannot identify who they are then who cares. Without being able to identify them there is little we can do about it, we are just wasting our time chasing Alex Jones ghosts.

Comment from Joe

It doesn't matter who they are.  They are not "a private club", or "a religion" with membership.
They are not unified by this shared membership of an identifiable club.  They could be directors of companies, they could be trade-union leaders. To want to imagine them as "of a type" -- 
Jews/Zionists/protocols? Illuminati/freemasons? Shape-shifting Aliens? -- is actually rather child-like.  People like Burlusconi, Bill Gates, VladimiPutin, George Soros and Gaddaffi have far more in common with each other than you do with any of them.

They are a force (or forces) who operate above/beyond the level that people believe is the ultimate source of top-down control in a democracy i.e. the government, the political parties.  Whilst people think that it is the government/political parties who are the ultimate source of control, then that is who they seek to address and that is who they examine, looking for explanations of what is going on, what was/is the motivation for decisions that are made.

One of the things that wikipedia "article" does in criticising Mills, is to object that he fails to talk about membership of various agencies.  I think there is some merit in that, and what Bat Ye'or does (to some extent) is to concentrate on those cross-party, cross-national organisationsand pays (some attention) to the individuals who make them up.  But step outside of the true believers of the counter-jihad, and people's first reactioto the concept of Eurabia is "that's a conspiracy theory".  Anyone who is prepared to dismiss things as "conspiracy theory" should just accept that the media only ever tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth.  Any issues the media don't discuss are just things they  haven't got round to discussing.  They have no hidden agenda, they just have a limited number of pages, and what doesn't get published is just arbitrary.

Thinking one can somehow target a group who are above and beyond democraticcontrol is also child-like.  I hear that every time Tony Blair makes a public appearnace he is surrounded by 8 or more bodyguards.  All to stop people making a citizen's arrest of our dear ex-leader.  
If people can't get to him to try and force the matter of him being prosecuted for war crimes, how are you going "to get" a group who are more elusive, more powerful and less identifiable?  What would you do with any of them when you did get them?

The reason why I was the only person objecting at that meeting 2 years ago, where EDL was going to be forming a political party, was because I think that party politics (most especially in the UK and US) is a trap.  To the extent that EDL has been effective it is because it was not engaging in that.  

But by causing disruption and being an unpredictable force, the power elite have had to pay attention to EDL.  No party has ever acknowledged they are addressing EDL's concerns, but those things EDL has campaigned most loudly against have seen results (hate-conferences have gone undergroundbanning of MAC, stopping abuse of troops, prosecution of child-raping gangs).  EDL's failure has been largely their naivety in not recognising (and removing) the police/government agents employed to cause internal strife, and their belief that all they have to do is point out these things to the government (educate the ultimate source of power) and the direction society takes will change.  (The direction society is taking might change, but that will come from a diffuse but massive change amongst almost the entire population).

I've never advocated "discussing" who might be in the power elite (even Mills doesn't do that).  That's the kind of thing train-spotters might do.  I've advocated never losing sight of the fact that party politics (esp. in UK/US) is a piece of theatre to pretend we live in a democracy.  The theatre extends into agenda-setting with the media: the whole gay-marriage "debate" is part of the current agenda-setting.  There's no groundswell of interest amongst gay people in having gay marriage (if asked, 9/10 will say we should have it, but if asked where it sits in terms of national priorities, it would come midway or low down any list).  Yet across the western world it is suddenly (in the last year alone)the topic of debate (UK, France, US, Canada, Chile, Australia, etc.)   When stories related to gay marriage pop up week after week, I've been just about the only person I can find who is saying: this is being stoked to keep other important issues out of the news.

How do you think "gay politics" works in Britain?  30 years ago, it used to work by gaypeople having demonstrations and marches.  Meetings would be open. There would be minutes.  There would be voting.  People would at least have to work their way up to a position of authority/respect by continuted political activity.

But then Stonewall was created.  It's hard to know who is Stonewall. After 30 yearsbeing involved in gay politics, I recognise two names on this list:http://www.stonewall.org.uk/about_us/3635.asp  And those are the people who are the figureheads of this organisation (there are probably wealthy backers who do not want their names associated with it, but who privately influence things).

Stonewall have secret, back-room meetings - with MPs, government agencies, police forces, etc.  We never hear about 99% of those meetings.  We never see minutes from them or learn who was present.  We never hear what the quid pro quo was.  Why is it that the gay media and groups like Stonewall have been utterly silent on the de-gaying of Tower Hamlets over the last 20 years?  Yet lots of laws have been passed concerning equal rights for gay people in the workplace, in service provision, civil partnerships, adoption, etc.  Stonewall is a part of the power elite (certainly not working at the highestlevels).  They are unaccountable, they are unknown, they exercise political power, but if necessary they will sell parts of "their community" down the river in the horse-trading.  

One of my friends is an expert in Elaw and he points out that almost all of the legislation passed in Britain is delegated from the EU.  They tell the British parliament what laws to pass.  We are living in a country where no matter who we elect, an even less democratic institution is telling our law-makers what laws to make.  And yet still, we all fall for the theatrics of Tories versus Labour.  Public spending under Tory government "austerity" is higher than under the "spendthrift" Labour government.  The parties can even play their part (Tories cut public services), and the groundlings can boo and hiss, meanwhile reality continues with no change.

And to instantly associate what Mills is saying, or what I am saying with Alex Jones is to dismiss it without any real consideration.

Comment from Peter

Churchill: Britain is now at war....

General public: Who with?
Churchill: It doesn't matter.
Again I will ask, who is this 'they' of which you speak Joe? If 'they' are not identifiable, does that not make them fall into the shape-shifting/Alien category. UnFO's perhaps? (unidentifiable non flying objects) :)
Sorry to appear flippant but I would argue that it certainly does matter. Not many people are going to waste their time fighting an enemy which to all intents an purposes does not exist.
Anyway from what you have just written it certainly appears to me that 'they'are "a private club" working in unified concert to wreak havoc. 'They' not only seem to have a common shared aim to destroy our societies with destructive and suicidal policies 'they' are also seem very well organised and have been for some time by the look of things. So why is it therefore 'child-like' to imagine the mysterious 'them' as a type, but not as a mysterious and unidentifiable 'them' who operate the levers of power in the shadows for no apparent identifiable reason presumably except for a hidden agenda that we will never know? 
 
You wrote: "But by causing disruption and being an unpredictable force, the power elite have had to pay attention to EDL." 
 
This is an unsubstantiated claim. Where is your evidence that it was the 'power elite' who had to pay attention and not just the Govn't and/or media?
 
"I've never advocated "discussing" who might be in the power elite (even Mills doesn't do that). "
 
... nor people like Alex Jones who would be happy seeing us all running around chasing shadows and spectres while our societies and civilisations crumble. Yes, in this respect I do not see any difference there at all.
 
"When stories related to gay marriage pop up week after week, I've been just about the only person I can find who is saying: this is being stoked to keep other important issues out of the news."
 
It could also be argued that it is being stoked as part of an ongoing campaign/plan since the end of WW2 (or there-abouts) to destroy what is left of the values and mores of traditional European family culture.  
 
 
I suppose with CT, it all depends on how a person wants to perceive things really.

Comment from Joe

They are members of overlapping sets.  You want it to be some kind of unitary and simplecategory: jews, freemasons, etc.  Some will be jews, some will be freemasons, others will consider themselves to be socialists, some will be MPs.  It is not that "they" get together for a monthly meeting of the power elite club. Sometimes the same man might be an oil magnate, then later he might end up being Archbishop of Canterbury.  Sometimes he might be at a SWP meeting with Martin Smith, at another time he's having tea with Gadaffi.Some of them might knowingly think of themselves as "movers and shakers", others might be horrified to think that's how they are viewed.  They are not a social class, they arenot a political party.  They are the people in society who have vastly more influence than the average man, and who are closely-connected.  Whilst you and I might be 20 degrees of (meaningful) separation away from the Archbishop of Canterbury and Sarkozy and BillGates, they will be 2 or 3 degrees away.  Some of them may have been barrow boys 30 years ago.

The argument that a power elite cannot exist because we cannot check off who is defintely a member anwho is definitely not a member can apply to huge numbers of social groups.  We might agree on someone being working class or someone being upper class, but there's a huge range in between who are difficult to classify.  Even with "objective" criteria, many working-class people describe themselves as "middle-class" and vice-versa.  Just because there is so much ovelap between the middle class and the others, does that mean there is no middle-class? 

You are viewing the shaping of events in a conspiratorial and intentional fashion. Many times events will be shaped by a (possibly varying) group of people meeting over many dinners, some wedding, some company meeting, some political gathering.  A new view might emerge as dominant within that group over a period of months or years, and maybenone of them would have predicted that's what their group would be thinking some years ago.  When they started Faith Matters, they never have envisaged they'd be able to tap Nick Clegg for £214k per year to run a hotline for muslims to make up islamophobic incidents.

I don't think that the views of the power elite are the same now as they were in 1956 when Mills wrote about them.  I don't think Mills analysis of who makes up the power elite is even broad enough.  But he made a start in identifying a phenomenon.


And what goes along with your idea that they must be identifiable as a single group (jews or freemasons, etc.) is your idea that they can be fought.  I don't think I can fight them.  The most I think I can do is agitate, and hope that the agitation stirs something up of which they have to take notice.  The people who have some realisation that the democratic process is mostly sham theatrics and who think they can personally do something aboutit are those who then go around (like members of the BNP and the SWP) tilting at windmills: blaming zionists, capitalists, etc.  They focus on some aspect of the power elite, and think that is all that it is.

"It could also be argued that it is being stoked as part of an ongoing campaign/plan since the end of WW2 (or there-abouts) to destroy what is left of the values and mores of traditional European family culture.  "  And who is behind this global campaign to destroy "European family culture"?  That seems to be a far more specific "conspiracy theory" than the idea that there is a power elite who really shape "democratic" society instead of the populous.

The argument that a power elite cannot exist because we cannot check off who is defintely a member anwho is definitely not a member can apply to huge numbers of social groups.  We might agree on someone being working class or someone being upper class, but there's a huge range in between who are difficult to classify.  Even with "objective" criteria, many working-class people describe themselves as "middle-class" and vice-versa.  Just because there is so much ovelap between the middle class and the others, does that mean there is no middle-class?

I think this is a slippery slope argument, and could be used to discredit all categories everywhere.  So I will try pin it down a bit.

If you define Lower Class (LC), Middle Class (MC) and Upper class (UC), then you can partition the population into 3 sets and 2 intersections, where you have also have the overlap group between LC-MC and one between MC-UC.

Focussing just on the sets LC and MC, you can say for sure if someone is in LC only, or in MC only, or in the intersection.  Mr. Smith is definitely in one of those 3 groups.  We succeed in saying something meaningful as long as the intersection LC-MC is not comparatively big. In that case, we can say we've divided the population successfully, with a small amount of ambiguity left over.

In the same way, we can talk about the Power Elite (PE), the Pseudo Government (PG) and the Hoi Polloi (HP).  You can then ask if Richard Branson is in PE or HP or the intersection.  PE would be a good guess.  Then what about Simon Cowell?  He could be in the PE-HP intersection.  Then us guys are in HP.  

What Peter is saying is that if you can't point to any member of PE, then you have a redundant set definition. He is on strong ground.  This is actually the Existential Import of A⊄B in Categorical Logic:

In contrast, if A⊄B, A must have elements, at least one of which is in Bc. For instance, it is not true that some immortal ravens are not pink birds, because that would require there to be some immortal ravens. Hence A⊄B lets us deduce that neither A nor Bc is empty: the relationship has existential import while the relationship does not.

http://statistics.berkeley.edu/~stark/SticiGui/Text/categoricalLogic.htm

But I don't think there's any need to be so coy about this.  We can say who is in, who is out, who was in but is now out, and who we're not sure of.

Blair was in, for a few years after he left office.  I think he's still in, largely due to his money, but not as influential.  Is Kate Moss in?  She could have been, if she'd moved that way 10 years ago but she didn't so she's with us HP on the landscape.  Soros is clearly in the PE, because we can see him intervening, and handing money out to his favourites.  

But what about Bill Gates?  He attends Davos, but we don't get any insight into that.  Its hard to point to things he does, apart from his public charity work. But, SURELY he must be?  In the absence of hard evidence, we just have to put him in the PE-HP intersection.  But he's a good example of how hard it is to pin these people down.  None of their really important interventions will be visible.  And, as Joe puts it:

Many times events will be shaped by a (possibly varying) group of people meeting over many dinners, some wedding, some company meeting, some political gathering.  A new view might emerge as dominant within that group over a period of months or years, and maybenone of them would have predicted that's what their group would be thinking some years ago.

"It could also be argued that it is being stoked as part of an ongoing campaign/plan since the end of WW2 (or there-abouts) to destroy what is left of the values and mores of traditional European family culture.  "  And who is behind this global campaign to destroy "European family culture"?  That seems to be a far more specific "conspiracy theory" than the idea that there is a power elite who really shape "democratic" society instead of the populous.

I don't think it is more specific, I think it is less specific.  It is saying that society is drifting that way, in the same way that society is drifting towards greater use of porn and fast food.  I don't think its being manipulated to do that.  Thus according to Occam's razor, it would be a preferable explanation.  Peter was playing Devils Advocate to make that point; its not necessarily his position on the society-decadence theme.

Comment from Peter

Let me be clear here; I don't want it to be anything, Its all paranoid nonsense as far as i'm concerned. I'm just playing devils advocate here. 

i've heard the exact same argument you have presented concerning the Jewish influence. they are massively over represented in relation to their numbers in banking, and the mass media of news and entertainment industries, and that with this media grip they are able to not only control the outcome of elections, destroy peoples political careers who don't fall into step with the narrative, but also manipulate the ideas and attitudes of the goyim lemmings who are completely and utterly brainwashed and under its TV and Hollywood spell. They push degenerate black gang culture to corrupt the minds of the young through MTV, Universal etc and promote interracial sex/miscegenation to destroy the white race in order to create a coffee coloured future of rootless consumer slaves etc etc.   

Jews are also members of overlapping sets and can be all of the list you cited including Communists, capitalist neo-cons, atheists and im sure barrow boys too. The difference between those that promote this line of CT and that of yours is that they seem to have more meat to the bones of their assertions. Jews have a long history of bad rep in this respect. they also, just like Muslims, have scriptural justification within the Torah & Talmud being the 'chosen ones' sent to 'rule over the cattle goyim'. And above all, jews, just like muslims are much more likely to think tribally as opposed to the mish-mash disparate explanation you proffered. 

To be honest, if i were into CT I would view your assessment as a pretty weak smoke screen designed to deflect from the real threat and probably opt for the latter explanation.

So it comes back to the question:

  • Is the PE concept essential to explain the model?  Can we drop it and still explain what's happening?  Or what if we drop it and use the Jewish Cabal theory instead?

I think we're talking at cross purposes and its time to go back to the article to get what's valuable from it. Here are some of its definite truths that I've gleaned after reading upto the summary of Chapter 12:

  • American democracy is now only a formality; State and Corporate entities became hardly distinguishable; democracy is being dominated by the corporate chiefs.
    1. They may be honorable people. However, honor is not universal. The question is not whether they are honorable or not. The key question is what their honor codes are. And of course, their honor codes will be those that support their own interests.
    2. They do not, and cannot adapt to the necessities of their jobs as they rise in stature. They (i.e. no one) do not have such flexibility. They have certain personal and business interests and "to ask a man suddenly to divest himself of these interests and sensibilities is almost like asking a man to become a woman."[3]
    3. Like codes of honor, patriotism and its principles vary greatly. These too are rooted in one's personal history.
  • The inner core of the power elite consists of those who interchange commanding roles in various dominant hierarchies (the "big three") and the corporate lawyer and the financial banker, who play the role of the unifier between the big three.
  • Even though the power elite itself as a ruling force is constant, the individuals who constitute it and occupy positions in the dominant hierarchies of the state, the economy, and the military is not. Even though these individuals know each other, there is no unified policy / ideology that ties them together or in one position.

So that last comment clearly states this is not a Conspiracy Theory.  It is more of an
"Analysis of the organisation and operation of national power structures" theory.

A related article by Mark Steyn:
http://www.steynonline.com/5376/who-are-we

Archons and Acolytes: The New Power Elite

 By Clarence Cyril Walton

When Derrida was alive, he would have been considered a member of the power elite. (see p.18)

------------------------------

So would Edward Said.  So would Karen Armstrong (hagiographer of Mohammed).

------------------------------

There are clearly sociologists/political scientists who are still making use/extending Mills analysis, i.e. looking at how the power elite now includes blacks, women, asians, gays. 

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Diversity-Power-Elite-Happened-Matters/dp/0...

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Most Western societies are based on Secular Democracy, which itself is based on the concept that the open marketplace of ideas leads to the optimum government. Whilst that model has been very successful, it has defects. The 4 Freedoms address 4 of the principal vulnerabilities, and gives corrections to them. 

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These 4 freedoms are designed to close 4 vulnerabilities in Secular Democracy, by making them SP or Self-Protecting (see Hobbes's first law of nature). But Democracy also requires - in addition to the standard divisions of Executive, Legislature & Judiciary - a fourth body, Protector of the Open Society (POS), to monitor all its vulnerabilities (see also Popper). 
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An additional Freedom from Religion is deducible if the law is applied equally to everyone:

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