Friday, October 10, 2014

Mann's Social Power Meets Novak's Three Sectors

I was over to Half Price Books yesterday and stumbled across a two volume set by Michael Mann on Social Power.

No, not that Michael Mann. This is a sociology prof. at UCLA. And his magnum opus is The Sources of Social Power, Vol 1, Vol. 2, Vol. 3, Vol. 4.

The big idea is to analyze human history through the lens of four competing power factors: ideology, economic, military, political. As in IEMP.

This, of course, is almost exactly the analytical framework of Michael Novak in The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism. Novak divides the social world into three sectors: political, economic, and moral/cultural. The difference between the two is that Mann wants to divide the political sector into two, because he sees that the military can be, and often is, a separate power sector from the political.

Also, Mann clearly operates from a lefty perspective, and Michael Novak is a former lefty. Mann's books start from the "beginning" and analyze the interplay of the four power factors throughout history. Novak's book is an apology for a greater separation of powers between the various power sectors.

So what does it all add up to? Well, I don't know yet, because I haven't read Mann. But here's a gloss by an adept of Mann, G. William Domhoff, a UC Santa Cruz prof. who runs a website called "Who Rules America?" about how "the wealthy few... defeating all of their rivals (e.g., organized labor, liberals, environmentalists) over the course of the past 35 years."

I know. If only. Because if you are like me you think that organized labor, liberals, environmentalists, and social justice warriors have eaten the corporate rich for lunch. The only way to escape the humiliation visited on the Koch Brothers is to kiss the liberal ring like Warren Buffett and Tom Steyer and contribute to Democratic coffers. Then you too can become a successful crony capitalist.

Here's an example of Domhoff's approach in "The Four Networks Theory of Power: A Theoretical Home for Power Structure Research".
As for the many wars in which the United States has been involved since 1949, they were decided upon by elected officials and by corporate leaders appointed to important positions in the state and defense departments, not by military leaders itching for a fight. The 2003 invasion of Iraq is a perfect example. It was the product of assertive nationalists like Vice President Richard Cheney and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, both former corporate CEOs, and the neoconservative ideologues they brought with them to government from right-wing think tanks.
The only problem with this is that Dick Cheney and Don Rumsfeld were and are politicians. Their sojourns as corporate CEOs were merely pauses in their political careers to make a little money. Their value to the corporations they headed was their political clout -- for corporations that needed clout. Cheney served Halliburton, a global oil-services company, and Rumsfeld served G.D. Searle, a drug company.

It was possible to think of corporations as a new and frightening phenomenon in the mid 1900s. But by 1910 they had been definitely tamed. No corporate bigwig could survive and prosper without kissing the ring of the political sector.

The history of the last 100 years makes that clear. The political sector keeps putting on demonstrations of power, just to be on the safe side: first the Standard Oil breakup, then the humbling of auto and steel with collective bargaining laws, then the IBM anti-trust suit, then the Microsoft anti-trust suit.

Today's headline corporations like Google and Apple know exactly what side their bread is buttered, and they keep themselves properly aligned with today's political and ideological ruling class, the educated ruling class of well-born liberals.

Still, it's going to be interesting delving into Michael Mann's books. His work will provide a different perspective from the excellent Michael Novak.

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