History- American Federal Government most of this history will be from this book. this can be like 3 sentences each paragraph does not have to be long.
Name two rights at risk of government intrusion. Write an opening paragraph, one paragraph for each right and a closing argument. Tell what is at risk, why it’s at risk and if you agree. Explain both sides.
History- American Federal Government most of this history will be from this book. this can be like 3 sentences each paragraph does not have to be long. Name two rights at risk of government intrusion.
First published in 1956, The Power Elite stands as a contemporary classic of social science and social criticism. C. Wright Mills captivated reader s with his penetrating analysis and fiery cri- tique of the organization of power in the United St ates, calling attention to three firmly interlocked prongs of power: the military, corporate, and political elite. But while The Power Elite can be read as an accurate account of what wa s taking place in America at the time it was written, its underlying question of whether America is as democratic in practice as it is in theory is every bit as significant to the culture of today. What The Power Elite informed readers of in 1956 wa s how much the power structure in America had changed during their lifetimes, and Alan Wolfe’s astute afterword to this new edition brings us up to date, illustrating how much more has changed since then. Wolfe offers profound insight into what is still valid in Mills’s book and also explores those predictions that have not come to bear, discussing the radical changes in American capitalism, from intense global competition and the collapse of comm unism to rapid technological transfor- mations and ever-changing consumer tastes. A penetrating work that remains of great rele- vance, The Power Elite stimulates us to think about the kind of society we have and the kind of society we might want. The late C. Wright Mills, Professor of Sociology at Columbia University, was a leading critic of modern American civilization. Alan Wolfe is the Director of the Center for Religion and American Public Life at Boston College. He is the author or editor of more than ten books, including Marginalized in the Middle and One Nation, After All. 1 The Higher Circles 3 2 Local Society 30 3 Metropolitan 400 47 4 The Celebrities 71 5 The Very Rich 94 6 The Chief Executives 118 7 The Corporate Rich 147 8 The Warlords 171 9 The Military Ascendancy 198 10 The Political Directorate 225 11 The Theory of Balance 242 12 The Power Elite 269 13 The Mass Society 298 14 The Conservative Mood 325 15 The Higher Immorality 343 Afterword 363 Acknowledgments 382 Notes 384 Index 432 Contents 1 The Higher Circles THE powers of ordinary men are circumscribed by the eve ryday worlds in which they live, yet even in these rounds of job, family, and neighborhood they often seem driven by forces t hey can nei- ther understand nor govern. ‘Great changes’ are beyond their con- trol, but affect their conduct and outlook none the less. The very framework of modern society confines them to projec ts not their own, but from every side, such changes now press up on the men and women of the mass society, who accordingly feel that they are without purpose in an epoch in which they are without power. But not all men are in this sense ordinary. As the means of in- formation and of power are centralized, some men co me to oc- cupy positions in American society from which they can look down upon, so to speak, and by their decisions mightily affect, the everyday worlds of ordinary men and women. They are not made by their jobs; they set up and break down jobs for thousands of others; they are not confined by simple family resp onsibilities; they can escape. They may live in many hotels and h ouses, but they are bound by no one community. They need not merely ‘meet the demands of the day and hour’; in some part, they create these demands, and cause others to meet them. Whether or not they profess their power, their technical and political experience of it far transcends that of the underlying population. W hat Jacob Burckhardt said of ‘great men,’ most Americans might well say of their elite: ‘They are all that we are not.’ 1 The power elite is composed of men whose positions enable them to transcend the ordinary environments of ordinary men 3 4 THE POWER ELITE and women; they are in positions to make decisions having major consequences. Whether they do or do not make such d ecisions is less important than the fact that they do occupy such pivotal positions: their failure to act, their failure to make decisions, is itself an act that is often of greater consequence than the decisions they do make. For they are in command of the major hierarchies and organizations of modern society. They rule the big corpora- tions. They run the machinery of the state and claim its preroga- tives. They direct the military establishment. They occupy the strategic command posts of the social structure, in which are now centered the effective means of the power and the w ealth and the celebrity which they enjoy. The power elite are not solitary rulers. Advisers and consultants, spokesmen and opinion-makers are often the captains of their higher thought and decision. Immediately below the elite are the professional politicians of the middle levels of power, in the Congress and in the pressure groups, as well as amo ng the new and old upper classes of town and city and region. Mingling with them, in curious ways which we shall explore, are t hose profes- sional celebrities who live by being continually displayed but are never, so long as they remain celebrities, displaye d enough. If such celebrities are not at the head of any dominating hierarchy, they do often have the power to distract the attention of the pub- lic or afford sensations to the masses, or, more directly, to gain the ear of those who do occupy positions of direct powe r. More or less unattached, as critics of morality and technicians of power, as spokesmen of God and creators of mass sensibility, such celebri- ties and consultants are part of the immediate scene in which the drama of the elite is enacted. But that drama itself is centered in the command posts of the major institutional hierarchies. 1 The truth about the nature and the power of the eli te is not some secret which men of affairs know but will not tell. Such men hold quite various theories about their own roles in the sequence of event and decision. Often they are uncertain abo ut their roles, and even more often they allow their fears and their hopes to affect their assessment of their own power. No matter how great their actual power, they tend to be less acutely aware of it than of the THE HIGHER CIRCLES 5 resistances of others to its use. Moreover, most Am erican men of affairs have learned well the rhetoric of public relations, in some cases even to the point of using it when they are a lone, and thus coming to believe it. The personal awareness of the actors is only one of the several sources one must examine in orde r to understand the higher circles. Yet many who believe that there is no elite, or at any rate none of any consequence, rest their argume nt upon what men of affairs believe about themselves, or at least assert in public. There is, however, another view: those who feel, ev en if vaguely, that a compact and powerful elite of great importance does now prevail in America often base that feeling upon the his- torical trend of our time. They have felt, for exam ple, the domi- nation of the military event, and from this they infer that generals and admirals, as well as other men of decision influenced by them, must be enormously powerful. They hear that the Con gress has again abdicated to a handful of men decisions clearly related to the issue of war or peace. They know that the bomb was dropped over Japan in the name of the United States of America, although they were at no time consulted about the matter. They feel that they live in a time of big decisions; they know that they are not making any. Accordingly, as they consider the prese nt as history, they infer that at its center, making decisions or failing to make them, there must be an elite of power. On the one hand, those who share this feeling about big histori- cal events assume that there is an elite and that its power is great. On the other hand, those who listen carefully to th e reports of men apparently involved in the great decisions often do not believe that there is an elite whose powers are of decisive consequence. Both views must be taken into account, but neither is adequate. The way to understand the power of the American eli te lies nei- ther solely in recognizing the historic scale of events nor in accept- ing the personal awareness reported by men of appar ent decision. Behind such men and behind the events of history, l inking the two, are the major institutions of modern society. These hierar- chies of state and corporation and army constitute the means of power; as such they are now of a consequence not be fore equaled in human history—and at their summits, there are now those com- mand posts of modern society which offer us the soc iological key to an understanding of the role of the higher circles in America. 6 THE POWER ELITE Within American society, major national power now r esides in the economic, the political, and the military domains. Other insti- tutions seem off to the side of modern history, and , on occasion, duly subordinated to these. No family is as directly powerful in national affairs as any major corporation; no church is as directly powerful in the external biographies of young men i n America to- day as the military establishment; no college is as powerful in the shaping of momentous events as the National Securit y Council. Religious, educational, and family institutions are not autono- mous centers of national power; on the contrary, th ese decentral- ized areas are increasingly shaped by the big three, in which de- velopments of decisive and immediate consequence now occur. Families and churches and schools adapt to modern l ife; governments and armies and corporations shape it; and, as they do so, they turn these lesser institutions into means for their ends. Religious institutions provide chaplains to the arm ed forces where they are used as a means of increasing the effectiveness of its mo- rale to kill. Schools select and train men for their jobs in corpora- tions and their specialized tasks in the armed forc es. The extended family has, of course, long been broken up by the indus- trial revolution, and now the son and the father are removed from the family, by compulsion if need be, whenever the army of the state sends out the call. And the symbols of all these lesser institu- tions are used to legitimate the power and the deci sions of the big three. The life-fate of the modem individual depends not o nly upon the family into which he was born or which he enters by marriage, but increasingly upon the corporation in which he s pends the most alert hours of his best years; not only upon the school where he is educated as a child and adolescent, but also upon the state which touches him throughout his life; not only upo n the church in which on occasion he hears the word of God, but also upon the army in which he is disciplined. If the centralized state could not rely upon the inculcation of na- tionalist loyalties in public and private schools, its leaders would promptly seek to modify the decentralized education al system. If the bankruptcy rate among the top five hundred corp orations were as high as the general divorce rate among the thirty-seven million married couples, there would be economic catastrophe on an inter- THE HIGHER CIRCLES 7 national scale. If members of armies gave to them n o more of their lives than do believers to the churches to which they belong, there would be a military crisis. Within each of the big three, the typical instituti onal unit has become enlarged, has become administrative, and, in the power of its decisions, has become centralized. Behind these develop- ments there is a fabulous technology, for as institutions, they have incorporated this technology and guide it, even as it shapes and paces their developments. The economy—once a great scatter of small productiv e units in autonomous balance—has become dominated by two or t hree hundred giant corporations, administratively and politically in- terrelated, which together hold the keys to economic decisions. The political order, once a decentralized set of se veral dozen states with a weak spinal cord, has become a centra lized, execu- tive establishment which has taken up into itself m any powers previously scattered, and now enters into each and every crany of the social structure. The military order, once a slim establishment in a context of dis- trust fed by state militia, has become the largest and most expen- sive feature of government, and, although well vers ed in smiling public relations, now has all the grim and clumsy e fficiency of a sprawling bureaucratic domain. In each of these institutional areas, the means of power at the disposal of decision makers have increased enormous ly; their cen- tral executive powers have been enhanced; within ea ch of them modern administrative routines have been elaborated and tightened up. As each of these domains becomes enlarged and centralized, the consequences of its activities become greater, and its traffic with the others increases. The decisions of a handf ul of corpora- tions bear upon military and political as well as u pon economic developments around the world. The decisions of the military es- tablishment rest upon and grievously affect political life as well as the very level of economic activity. The decisio ns made within the political domain determine economic activities and military programs. There is no longer, on the one hand, an economy, and, on the other hand, a political order containing a military establish- 8 THE POWER ELITE ment unimportant to politics and to money-making. T here is a political economy linked, in a thousand ways, with military insti- tutions and decisions. On each side of the world-sp lit running through central Europe and around the Asiatic rimlands, there is an ever-increasing interlocking of economic, military, and politi- cal structures. 2 If there is government intervention in the corpo- rate economy, so is there corporate intervention in the govern- mental process. In the structural sense, this triangle of power is the source of the interlocking directorate that is most important for the historical structure of the present. The fact of the interlocking is clearly revealed at each of the points of crisis of modern capitalist society—slump , war, and boom. In each, men of decision are led to an awaren ess of the interdependence of the major institutional orders. In the nine- teenth century, when the scale of all institutions was smaller, their liberal integration was achieved in the automatic e conomy, by an autonomous play of market forces, and in the automa tic political domain, by the bargain and the vote. It was then as sumed that out of the imbalance and friction that followed the limited deci- sions then possible a new equilibrium would in due course emerge. That can no longer be assumed, and it is not assumed by the men at the top of each of the three dominant hierarchies. For given the scope of their consequences, decision s—and inde- cisions—in any one of these ramify into the others, and hence top decisions tend either to become co-ordinated or to lead to a com- manding indecision. It has not always been like thi s. When nu- merous small entrepreneurs made up the economy, for example, many of them could fail and the consequences still remain local; political and military authorities did not intervene. But now, given political expectations and military commitmen ts, can they afford to allow key units of the private corporate economy to break down in slump? Increasingly, they do intervene in e conomic af- fairs, and as they do so, the controlling decisions in each order are inspected by agents of the other two, and economic, military, and political structures are interlocked. At the pinnacle of each of the three enlarged and c entralized domains, there have arisen those higher circles which make up the economic, the political, and the military elites. At the top of the THE HIGHER CIRCLES 9 economy, among the corporate rich, there are the ch ief exec- utives; at the top of the political order, the members of the politi- cal directorate; at the top of the military establi shment, the elite of soldier-statesmen clustered in and around the Jo int Chiefs of Staff and the upper echelon. As each of these domai ns has co- incided with the others, as decisions tend to becom e total in their consequence, the leading men in each of the three domains of power—the warlords, the corporation chieftains, the political directorate—tend to come together, to form the powe r elite of America. 2 The higher circles in and around these command posts are often thought of in terms of what their members possess: they have a greater share than other people of the things and experiences that are most highly valued. From this point of view, the elite are simply those who have the most of what there is to have, which is generally held to include money, power, and prestige—as well as all the ways of life to which these lead. 3 But the elite are not simply those who have the most, for they could not ‘have the most’ were it not for their positions in the great institutions. For such institutions are the necessary bases of power, of wealth, and of prestige, and at the same time, the chief means of exercising power, of acquiring and retaining wealth, and of cashing in the higher claims for prestige. By the powerful we mean, of course, those who are able to rea- lize their will, even if others resist it. No one, accordingly, can be truly powerful unless he has access to the command of major in- stitutions, for it is over these institutional means of power that the truly powerful are, in the first instance, powerful . Higher politi- cians and key officials of government command such institutional power; so do admirals and generals, and so do the major owners and executives of the larger corporations. Not all power, it is true, is anchored in and exercised by means of such insti tutions, but only within and through them can power be more or l ess contin- uous and important. Wealth also is acquired and held in and through ins titutions. The pyramid of wealth cannot be understood merely in terms of the very rich; for the great inheriting families, as we shall see, are 10 THE POWER ELITE now supplemented by the corporate institutions of m odern soci- ety: every one of the very rich families has been and is closely connected—always legally and frequently managerially as well— with one of the multi-million dollar corporations. The modern corporation is the prime source of wealt h, but, in latter-day capitalism, the political apparatus also opens and closes many avenues to wealth. The amount as well a s the source of income, the power over consumer’s goods as well as over pro- ductive capital, are determined by position within the political economy. If our interest in the very rich goes beyond their lavish or their miserly consumption, we must examine their relations to modern forms of corporate property as well as to th e state; for such relations now determine the chances of men to secure big property and to receive high income. Great prestige increasingly follows the major institutional units of the social structure. It is obvious that prestige depends, often quite decisively, upon access to the publicity mach ines that are now a central and normal feature of all the big institutions of mod- ern America. Moreover, one feature of these hierarc hies of cor- poration, state, and military establishment is that their top posi- tions are increasingly interchangeable. One result of this is the accumulative nature of prestige. Claims for prestige, for example, may be initially based on military roles, then expr essed in and augmented by an educational institution run by corp orate execu- tives, and cashed in, finally, in the political order, where, for Gen- eral Eisenhower and those he represents, power and prestige fi- nally meet at the very peak. Like wealth and power, prestige tends to be cumulative: the more of it you have, the more you can get. These values also tend to be translatable into one another: the wealthy find it easier than the poor to gain power; those with status find it easier than those without it to control opportunities for wealth. If we took the one hundred most powerful men in Ame rica, the one hundred wealthiest, and the one hundred most ce lebrated away from the institutional positions they now occupy, away from their resources of men and women and money, away fr om the media of mass communication that are now focused upon them— then they would be powerless and poor and uncelebrated. For THE HIGHER CIRCLES 11 power is not of a man. Wealth does not center in th e person of the wealthy. Celebrity is not inherent in any personality. To be cele- brated, to be wealthy, to have power requires acces s to major in- stitutions, for the institutional positions men occ upy determine in large part their chances to have and to hold the se valued ex- periences. 3 The people of the higher circles may also be concei ved as members of a top social stratum, as a set of groups whose mem- bers know one another, see one another socially and at business, and so, in making decisions, take one another into account. The elite, according to this conception, feel themselves to be, and are felt by others to be, the inner circle of ‘the uppe r social classes.’ 4 They form a more or less compact social and psychol ogical entity; they have become self-conscious members of a social class. People are either accepted into this class or they are not, and there is a qualitative split, rather than merely a numerical s cale, separating them from those who are not elite. They are more or less aware of themselves as a social class and they behave toward one another differently from the way they do toward members of other classes. They accept one another, understand one another, ma rry one an- other, tend to work and to think if not together at least alike. Now, we do not want by our definition to prejudge w hether the elite of the command posts are conscious members of such a so- cially recognized class, or whether considerable proportions of the elite derive from such a clear and distinct class. These are matters to be investigated. Yet in order to be able to reco gnize what we intend to investigate, we must note something that all biogra- phies and memoirs of the wealthy and the powerful and the emi- nent make clear: no matter what else they may be, the people of these higher circles are involved in a set of overlapping ‘crowds’ and intricately connected ‘cliques.’ There is a kind of mutual at- traction among those who ‘sit on the same terrace’— although this often becomes clear to them, as well as to others, only at the point at which they feel the need to draw the line; only when, in their common defense, they come to understand what they h ave in common, and so close their ranks against outsiders. The idea of such ruling stratum implies that most of its mem- 12 THE POWER ELITE bers have similar social origins, that throughout t heir lives they maintain a network of informal connections, and tha t to some de- gree there is an interchangeability of position between the various hierarchies of money and power and celebrity. We mu st, of course, note at once that if such an elite stratum does exist, its social visi- bility and its form, for very solid historical reasons, are quite dif- ferent from those of the noble cousinhoods that onc e ruled various European nations. That American society has never passed through a fe udal epoch is of decisive importance to the nature of the American elite, as well as to American society as a historic whole. For it means that no nobility or aristocracy, established before the capitalist era, has stood in tense opposition to the higher bourgeoisie . It means that this bourgeoisie has monopolized not only wealth bu t prestige and power as well. It means that no set of noble families has com- manded the top positions and monopolized the values that are generally held in high esteem; and certainly that no set has done so explicitiy by inherited right. It means that no high church dig- nitaries or court nobilities, no entrenched landlords with honorific accouterments, no monopolists of high army posts ha ve opposed the enriched bourgeoisie and in the name of birth and prerogative successfully resisted its self-making. But this does not mean that there are no upper stra ta in the United States. That they emerged from a ‘middle class’ that had no recognized aristocratic superiors does not mean they remained middle class when enormous increases in wealth made their own superiority possible. Their origins and their newness may have made the upper strata less visible in America than elsewhere. But in America today there are in fact tiers and ranges of wealth and power of which people in the middle and lower ranks know very little and may not even dream. There are families who, in their well-being, are quite insulated from the economic j olts and lurches felt by the merely prosperous and those farther down the scale. There are also men of power who in quite small groups make decisions of enormous consequence for the underlying population. The American elite entered modern history as a virt ually unop- posed bourgeoisie. No national bourgeoisie, before or since, has had such opportunities and advantages. Having no mi litary neighbors, they easily occupied an isolated continent stocked with THE HIGHER CIRCLES 13 natural resources and immensely inviting to a willi ng labor force. A framework of power and an ideology for its justif ication were already at hand. Against mercantilist restriction, they inherited the principle of laissez-faire; against Southern planters, they im- posed the principle of industrialism. The Revolutio nary War put an end to colonial pretensions to nobility, as loyalists fled the coun- try and many estates were broken up. The Jacksonian upheaval with its status revolution put an end to pretensions to monopoly of descent by the old New England families. The Civ il War broke the power, and so in due course the prestige, of the ante-bellum South’s claimants for the higher esteem. The tempo of the whole capitalist development made it impossible for an in herited nobil- ity to develop and endure in America. No fixed ruling class, anchored in agrarian life and coming to flower in military glory, could contain in America the historic thrust of commerce and industry, or subordinate to itself the capi- talist elite—as capitalists were subordinated, for example, in Ger- many and Japan. Nor could such a ruling class anywh ere in the world contain that of the United States when industrialized vio- lence came to decide history. Witness the fate of G ermany and Japan in the two world wars of the twentieth century; and indeed the fate of Britain herself and her model ruling class, as New York became the inevitable economic, and Washington the inevitable political capital of the western capitalist world. 4 The elite who occupy the command posts may be seen as the possessors of power and wealth and celebrity; they may be seen as members of the upper stratum of a capitalistic s ociety. They may also be defined in terms of psychological and m oral criteria, as certain kinds of selected individuals. So defined, the elite, quite simply, are people of superior character and energy. The humanist, for example, may conceive of the ‘eli te’ not as a social level or category, but as a scatter of those individuals who at- tempt to transcend themselves, and accordingly, are more noble, more efficient, made out of better stuff. It does not matter whether they are poor or rich, whether they hold high posit ion or low, whether they are acclaimed or despised; they are el ite because of the kind of individuals they are. The rest of the population is 14 THE POWER ELITE mass, which, according to this conception, sluggish ly relaxes into uncomfortable mediocrity. 5 This is the sort of socially unlocated conception w hich some American writers with conservative yearnings have r ecently sought to develop.* But most moral and psychological concep- tions of the elite are much less sophisticated, concerning them- selves not with individuals but with the stratum as a whole. Such ideas, in fact, always arise in a society in which some people pos- sess more than do others of what there is to posses s. People with advantages are loath to believe that they just happen to be people with advantages. They come readily to define themse lves as in- herently worthy of what they possess; they come to believe them- selves ‘naturally’ elite; and, in fact, to imagine their possessions and their privileges as natural extensions of their own elite selves. In this sense, the idea of the elite as composed of men and women having a finer moral character is an ideology of the elite as a privi- leged ruling stratum, and this is true whether the ideology is elite- made or made up for it by others. In eras of equalitarian rhetoric, the more intelligent or the more articulate among the lower and middle classes, as w ell as guilty members of the upper, may come to entertain ideas o f a counter- elite. In western society, as a matter of fact, there is a long tradi- tion and varied images of the poor, the exploited, and the oppressed as the truly virtuous, the wise, and the blessed. Stem- ming from Christian tradition, this moral idea of a counter-elite, composed of essentially higher types condemned to a lowly sta- tion, may be and has been used by the underlying po pulation to justify harsh criticism of ruling elites and to celebrate Utopian im- ages of a new elite to come. The moral conception of the elite, however, is not always merely an ideology of the overprivileged or a counter-ideology of the underprivileged. It is often a fact: having con trolled expe- riences and select privileges, many individuals of the upper stra- tum do come in due course to approximate the types of char- acter they claim to embody. Even when we give up—as we must— the idea that the elite man or woman is born with an elite charac- ter, we need not dismiss the idea that their experiences and train- ings develop in them characters of a specific type. * See below, FOURTEEN : The Conservative Mood. THE HIGHER CIRCLES 15 Nowadays we must qualify the idea of elite as compo sed of higher types of individuals, for the men who are selected for and shaped by the top positions have many spokesmen and advisers and ghosts and make-up men who modify their self-co nceptions and create their public images, as well as shape many of their de- cisions. There is, of course, considerable variation among the elite in this respect, but as a general rule in America t oday, it would be naive to interpret any major elite group merely in terms of its ostensible personnel. The American elite often seem s less a col- lection of persons than of corporate entities, which are in great part created and spoken for as standard types of ‘p ersonality.’ Even the most apparently free-lance celebrity is usually a sort of synthetic production turned out each week by a disc iplined staff which systematically ponders the effect of the easy ad-libbed gags the celebrity ‘spontaneously’ echoes. Yet, in so far as the elite flourishes as a social class or as a set of men at the command posts, it will select and form c ertain types of personality, and reject others. The kind of moral and psycholog- ical beings men become is in large part determined by the values they experience and the institutional roles they are allowed and expected to play. From the biographer’s point of vi ew, a man of the upper classes is formed by his relations with others like him- self in a series of small intimate groupings throug h which he passes and to which throughout his lifetime he may return. So con- ceived, the elite is a set of higher circles whose members are se- lected, trained and certified and permitted intimat e access to those who command the impersonal institutional hier archies of modern society. If there is any one key to the psychological idea of the elite, it is that they combine in their persons an awareness of impersonal decision-making with intimate sensibi lities shared with one another. To understand the elite as a social class we must examine a whole series of smaller face-to-face mili eux, the most obvious of which, historically, has been the upper- class family, but the most important of which today are the prope r secondary school and the metropolitan club. 6 5 These several notions of the elite, when appropriately under- stood, are intricately bound up with one another, and we shall 16 THE POWER ELITE use them all in this examination of American succes s. We shall study each of several higher circles as offering candidates for the elite, and we shall do so in terms of the major ins titutions making up the total society of America; within and between each of these institutions, we shall trace the interrelations of wealth and power and prestige. But our main concern is with the powe r of those who now occupy the command posts, and with the role whi ch they are enacting in the history of our epoch. Such an elite may be conceived as omnipotent, and i ts powers thought of as a great hidden design. Thus, in vulga r Marxism, events and trends are explained by reference to ‘the will of the bourgeoisie’; in Nazism, by reference to ‘the consp iracy of the Jews’; by the petty right in America today, by refe rence to ‘the hidden force’ of Communist spies. According to such notions of the omnipotent elite as historical cause, the elite is never an en- tirely visible agency. It is, in fact, a secular substitute for the will of God, being realized in a sort of providential de sign, except that usually non-elite men are thought capable of opposi ng it and eventually overcoming it.* The opposite view—of the elite as impotent—is now quite popu- lar among liberal-minded observers. Far from being omnipotent, the elites are thought to be so scattered as to lack any coherence as a historical force. Their invisibility is not the invisibility of se- crecy but the invisibility of the multitude. Those who occupy the formal places of authority are so check-mated—by ot her elites ex- erting pressure, or by the public as an electorate, or by constitu- tional codes—that, although there may be upper clas ses, there is no ruling class; although there may be men of power, there is no power elite; although there may be a system of stratification, it * Those who charge that Communist agents have been or are in the government, as well as those frightened by them, never raise the ques- tion: ‘Well, suppose there are Communists in high p laces, how much power do they have?’ They simply assume that men in high places, or in this case even those in positions from which they might influence such men, do decide important events. Those who thi nk Communist agents lost China to the Soviet bloc, or influenced loyal Americans to lose it, simply assume that there is a set of men who decide such matters, actively or by neglect or by stupidity. Many others , who do not believe that Communist agents were so influential, still assume that loyal Amer- ican decision-makers lost it all by themselves. THE HIGHER CIRCLES 17 has no effective top. In the extreme, this view of the elite, as weak- ened by compromise and disunited to the point of nu llity, is a substitute for impersonal collective fate; for, in this view, the deci- sions of the visible men of the higher circles do n ot count in his- tory.* Internationally, the image of the omnipotent elite tends to prevail. All good events and pleasing happenings are quickly im- puted by the opinion-makers to the leaders of their own nation; all bad events and unpleasant experiences are imput ed to the enemy abroad. In both cases, the omnipotence of evil rulers or of virtuous leaders is assumed. Within the nation, the use of such rhetoric is rather more complicated: when men speak of the power of their own party or circle, they and their leaders are, of course, impotent; only ‘the people’ are omnipotent. But, when they speak of the power of their opponent’s party or cir cle, they impute to them omnipotence; ‘the people’ are now powerlessly taken in. More generally, American men of power tend, by conv ention, to deny that they are powerful. No American runs for office in order to rule or even govern, but only to serve; he does not become a bureaucrat or even an official, but a public serv ant. And nowa- days, as I have already pointed out, such postures have become standard features of the public-relations programs of all men of power. So firm a part of the style of power-wieldin g have they become that conservative writers readily misinterpret them as in- dicating a trend toward an ‘amorphous power situation.’ But the ‘power situation’ of America today is less amorphous than is the perspective of those who see it as a romantic confusion. It is less a flat, momentary ‘situation’ than a graded, durable struc- ture. And if those who occupy its top grades are no t omnipotent, neither are they impotent. It is the form and the height of the * The idea of the impotent elite, as we shall have occasion to see, in E LEVEN : The Theory of Balance, is mightily supported by the notion of an automatic economy in which the problem of pow er is solved for the economic elite by denying its existence. No one has enough power to make a real difference; events are the results of an anonymous bal- ance. For the political elite too, the model of balance solves the problem of power. Parallel to the market-economy, there is the leaderless democ- racy in which no one is responsible for anything and everyone is respon- sible for everything; the will of men acts only thr ough the impersonal workings of the electoral process. 18 THE POWER ELITE gradation of power that we must examine if we would understand the degree of power held and exercised by the elite. If the power to decide such national issues as are decided were shared in an absolutely equal way, there would be n o power elite; in fact, there would be no gradation of power, but only a radical homogeneity. At the opposite extreme as well, if the power to decide issues were absolutely monopolized by one small group, there would be no gradation of power; there would s imply be this small group in command, and below it, the undiffere ntiated, dom- inated masses. American society today represents neither the one nor the other of these extremes, but a conception of them is none the less useful: it makes us realize more clearly the question of the structure of power in the United States and the pos ition of the power elite within it. Within each of the most powerful institutional orders of modern society there is a gradation of power. The owner of a roadside fruit stand does not have as much power in any area of social or economic or political decision as the head of a multi-million-dollar fruit corporation; no lieutenant on the line is as powerful as the Chief of Staff in the Pentagon; no deputy sheriff c arries as much authority as the President of the United States. Ac cordingly, the problem of defining the power elite concerns the le vel at which we wish to draw the line. By lowering the line, we could define the elite out of existence; by raising it, we could make the elite a very small circle indeed. In a preliminary and mi nimum way, we draw the line crudely, in charcoal as it were: By the power elite, we refer to those political, economic, and military circles which as an intricate set of overlapping cliques sh are decisions having at least national consequences. In so far as national events are decided, the power elite are those who decide them. To say that there are obvious gradations of power a nd of oppor- tunities to decide within modern society is not to say that the powerful are united, that they fully know what they do, or that they are consciously joined in conspiracy. Such iss ues are best faced if we concern ourselves, in the first instance, more with the structural position of the high and mighty, and with the con- sequences of their decisions, than with the extent of their aware- THE HIGHER CIRCLES 19 ness or the purity of their motives. To understand the power elite, we must attend to three major keys: I. One, which we shall emphasize throughout our dis cussion of each of the higher circles, is the psychology of the several elites in their respective milieux. In so far as the power el ite is composed of men of similar origin and education, in so far a s their careers and their styles of life are similar, there are psychological and so- cial bases for their unity, resting upon the fact t hat they are of similar social type and leading to the fact of thei r easy intermin- gling. This kind of unity reaches its frothier apex in the sharing of that prestige that is to be had in the world of the celebrity; it achieves a more solid culmination in the fact of th e interchange- ability of positions within and between the three d ominant insti- tutional orders. II. Behind such psychological and social unity as we may find, are the structure and the mechanics of those instit utional hier- archies over which the political directorate, the corporate rich, and the high military now preside. The greater the scale of these bureaucratic domains, the greater the scope of thei r respective elite’s power. How each of the major hierarchies is shaped and and what relations it has with the other hierarchies determine in large part the relations of their rulers. If these hierarchies are scattered and disjointed, then their respective elites tend to be scattered and disjointed; if they have many interco nnections and points of coinciding interest, then their elites tend to form a co- herent kind of grouping. The unity of the elite is not a simple reflection o f the unity of institutions, but men and institutions are always r elated, and our conception of the power elite invites us to determine that relation. Today in America there are several important struct ural coinci- dences of interest between these institutional domains, including the development of a permanent war establishment by a privately incorporated economy inside a political vacuum. III. The unity of the power elite, however, does not rest solely on psychological similarity and social intermingling, nor entirely on the structural coincidences of commanding positi ons and inter- ests. At times it is the unity of a more explicit co-ordination. To say that these three higher circles are increasingly co -ordinated, that this is one basis of their unity, and that at times—as during the 20 THE POWER ELITE wars—such co-ordination is quite decisive, is not t o say that the co-ordination is total or continuous, or even that it is very sure- footed. Much less is it to say that willful co-ordination is the sole or the major basis of their unity, or that the powe r elite has emerged as the realization of a plan. But it is to say that as the institutional mechanics of our time have opened up avenues to men pursuing their several interests, many of them have come to see that these several interests could be realized more easily if they worked together, in informal as well as in more formal ways, and accordingly they have done so. 6 It is not my thesis that for all epochs of human hi story and in all nations, a creative minority, a ruling class, an omnipotent elite, shape all historical events. Such statements, upon careful exami- nation, usually turn out to be mere tautologies, 7 and even when they are not, they are so entirely general as to be useless in the attempt to understand the history of the present. T he minimum definition of the power elite as those who decide w hatever is decided of major consequence, does not imply that the members of this elite are always and necessarily the history-makers; nei- ther does it imply that they never are. We must not confuse the conception of the elite, which we wish to define, with one theory about their role: that they are the history-makers of our time. To define the elite, for example, as ‘those who rule America’ is less to define a conception than to state one hypothesis ab out the role and power of that elite. No matter how we might def ine the elite, the extent of its members’ power is subject to historical variation. If, in a dogmatic way, we try to include that variation in our ge- neric definition, we foolishly limit the use of a needed conception. If we insist that the elite be defined as a strictly coordinated class that continually and absolutely rules, we are closi ng off from our view much to which the term more modestly defined m ight open to our observation. In short, our definition of the power elite can- not properly contain dogma concerning the degree an d kind of power that ruling groups everywhere have. Much less should it permit us to smuggle into our discussion a theory of history. During most of human history, historical change has not been visible to the people who were involved in it, or even to those THE HIGHER CIRCLES 21 enacting it. Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia, for exa mple, en- dured for some four hundred generations with but slight changes in their basic structure. That is six and a half times as long as the entire Christian era, which has only prevailed some sixty genera- tions; it is about eighty times as long as the five generations of the United States’ existence. But now the tempo of chan ge is so rapid, and the means of observation so accessible, that th e interplay of event and decision seems often to be quite historically visible, if we will only look carefully and from an adequate vantage point. When knowledgeable journalists tell us that ‘events , not men, shape the big decisions,’ they are echoing the theory of history as Fortune, Chance, Fate, or the work of The Unseen Ha nd. For ‘events’ is merely a modern word for these older ideas, all of which separate men from history-making, because all of th em lead us to believe that history goes on behind men’s backs. Hi story is drift with no mastery; within it there is action but no deed; history is mere happening and the event intended by no one. 8 The course of events in our time depends more on a series of human decisions than on any inevitable fate. The so ciological meaning of ‘fate’ is simply this: that, when the decisions are innu- merable and each one is of small consequence, all o f them add up in a way no man intended—to history as fate. But no t all epochs are equally fateful. As the circle of those who decide is narrowed, as the means of decision are centralized and the co nsequences of decisions become enormous, then the course of great events often rests upon the decisions of determinable circles. T his does not necessarily mean that the same circle of men follow through from one event to another in such a way that all of hist ory is merely their plot. The power of the elite does not necessarily mean that history is not also shaped by a series of small decisions, none of which are thought out. It does not mean that a hund red small arrangements and compromises and adaptations may not be built into the going policy and the living event. The idea of the power elite implies nothing about the process of decision-making as such: it is an attempt to delimit the social areas within which that proc- ess, whatever its character, goes on. It is a conce ption of who is involved in the process. The degree of foresight and control of those who ar e involved in decisions that count may also vary. The idea of the power elite 22 THE POWER ELITE does not mean that the estimations and calculated r isks upon which decisions are made are not often wrong and that the con- sequences are sometimes, indeed often, not those intended. Often those who make decisions are trapped by their own i nadequacies and blinded by their own errors. Yet in our time the pivotal moment does arise, and at that mo- ment, small circles do decide or fail to decide. In either case, they are an elite of power. The dropping of the A-bombs over Japan was such a moment; the decision on Korea was such a moment; the confusion about Quemoy and Matsu, as well as before Dien- bienphu were such moments; the sequence of maneuver s which involved the United States in World War II was such a ‘moment.’ Is it not true that much of the history of our times is composed of such moments? And is not that what is meant when it is said that we live in a time of big decisions, of decisively centralized power? Most of us do not try to make sense of our age by b elieving in a Greek-like, eternal recurrence, nor by a Christian belief in a sal- vation to come, nor by any steady march of human pr ogress. Even though we do not reflect upon such matters, the chances are we believe with Burckhardt that we live in a mere succ ession of events; that sheer continuity is the only principle of history. His- tory is merely one thing after another; history is meaningless in that it is not the realization of any determinate plot. It is true, of course, that our sense of continuity, our feeling f or the history of our time, is affected by crisis. But we seldom look beyond the im- mediate crisis or the crisis felt to be just ahead. We believe neither in fate nor providence; and we assume, without talk ing about it, that ‘we’—as a nation—can decisively shape the future but that ‘we’ as individuals somehow cannot do so. Any meaning history has, ‘we’ shall have to give to it by our ac- tions. Yet the fact is that although we are all of us within history we do not all possess equal powers to make history. To pretend that we do is sociological nonsense and political irresponsibility. It is nonsense because any group or any individual is limited, first of all, by the technical and institutional means of power at its com- mand; we do not all have equal access to the means of power that now exist, nor equal influence over their use. To pretend that ‘we’ are all history-makers is politically irresponsible because it ob- THE HIGHER CIRCLES 23 fuscates any attempt to locate responsibility for t he consequential decisions of men who do have access to the means of power. From even the most superficial examination of the h istory of the western society we learn that the power of decision-makers is first of all limited by the level of technique, by the means of power and violence and organization that prevail in a given s ociety. In this connection we also learn that there is a fairly straight line running upward through the history of the West; that the me ans of op- pression and exploitation, of violence and destruction, as well as the means of production and reconstruction, have be en progres- sively enlarged and increasingly centralized. As the institutional means of power and the means of communi- cations that tie them together have become steadily more effi- cient, those now in command of them have come into command of instruments of rule quite unsurpassed in the history of mankind. And we are not yet at the climax of their developme nt. We can no longer lean upon or take soft comfort from the hist orical ups and downs of ruling groups of previous epochs. In that sense, Hegel is correct: we learn from history that we cannot learn from it. For every epoch and for every social structure, we must work out an answer to the question of the power of the elite. The ends of men are often merely hopes, but means are facts within some men’s control. That is why all means of power tend to become ends to an elite that is in command of them. And that is why we may define the power elite in terms of the means of power—as those who occupy the command posts. The major quest ions about the American elite today—its composition, its unity, its power- must now be faced with due attention to the awesome means of power available to them. Caesar could do less with Rome than Napoleon with France; Napoleon less with France tha n Lenin with Russia; and Lenin less with Russia than Hitler with Ger- many. But what was Caesar’s power at its peak compared with the power of the changing inner circle of Soviet Russia or of America’s temporary administrations? The men of either circle can cause great cities to be wiped out in a single night, and in a few weeks turn continents into thermonuclear wastelands. That the facilities of power are enormously enlarged and decisively cen tralized means that the decisions of small groups are now more consequen- tial. 24 THE POWER ELITE But to know that the top posts of modern social str uctures now permit more commanding decisions is not to know tha t the elite who occupy these posts are the history-makers. We m ight grant that the enlarged and integrated economic, military, and political structures are shaped to permit command decisions, yet still feel that, as it were, ‘they run themselves,’ that those who are on top, in short, are determined in their decisions by ‘necess ity,’ which pre- sumably means by the instituted roles that they pla y and the sit- uation of these institutions in the total structure of society. Do the elite determine the roles that they enact? O r do the roles that institutions make available to them determine the power of the elite? The general answer—and no general answer is sufficient —is that in different kinds of structures and epochs elites are quite differently related to the roles that they play: no thing in the na- ture of the elite or in the nature of history dictates an answer. It is also true that if most men and women take whatever roles are per- mitted to them and enact them as they are expected to by virtue of their position, this is precisely what the elite need not do, and often do not do. They may call into question the st ructure, their position within it, or the way in which they are to enact that po- sition. Nobody called for or permitted Napoleon to chase Pa rlement home on the 18 Brumaire, and later to transform his consulate into an emperorship. 9 Nobody called for or permitted Adolf Hitler to proclaim himself ‘Leader and Chancellor’ the day Presi- dent Hindenburg died, to abolish and usurp roles by merging the presidency and the chancellorship. Nobody called for or permitted Franklin D. Roosevelt to make the series of decisions that led to the entrance of the United States into World War II . It was no ‘historical necessity,’ but a man named Truman who, with a few other men, decided to drop a bomb on Hiroshima. It was no his- torical necessity, but an argument within a small circle of men that defeated Admiral Radford’s proposal to bomb tr oops before Dienbienphu. Far from being dependent upon the stru cture of institutions, modern elites may smash one structure and set up another in which they then enact quite different ro les. In fact, such destruction and creation of institutional structures, with all their means of power, when events seem to turn out well, is just THE HIGHER CIRCLES 25 what is involved in ‘great leadership,’ or, when th ey seem to turn out badly, great tyranny. Some elite men are, of course, typically role-deter mined, but others are at times role-determining. They determin e not only the role they play but today the roles of millions of other men. The creation of pivotal roles and their pivotal enactme nt occurs most readily when social structures are undergoing epoch al transitions. It is clear that the international development of the United States to one of the two ‘great powers’—along with the new means of an- nihilation and administrative and psychic dominatio n—have made of the United States in the middle years of the twentieth century precisely such an epochal pivot. There is nothing about history that tells us that a power elite cannot make it. To be sure, the will of such men is always limited, but never before have the limits been so broad, for never before have the means of power been so enormous. It is thi s that makes our situation so precarious, and makes even more im portant an understanding of the powers and the limitations of the Ameri- can elite. The problem of the nature and the power of this elite is now the only realistic and serious way to raise again the problem of responsible government. 7 Those who have abandoned criticism for the new Amer ican celebration take readily to the view that the elite is impotent. If they were politically serious, they ought, on the b asis of their view, to say to those presumably in charge of American policy: 10 ‘One day soon, you may believe that you have an opp ortunity to drop a bomb or a chance to exacerbate further your relations with allies or with the Russians who might also drop it. But don’t be so foolish as to believe that you really have a choice. You have neither choice nor chance. The whole Complex Situat ion of which you are merely one balancing part is the result of Economic and Social Forces, and so will be the fateful outcome. So stand by qui- etly, like Tolstoy’s general, and let events proceed. Even if you did act, the consequences would not be what you intende d, even if you had an intention. ‘But—if events come out well, talk as though you had decided. 26 THE POWER ELITE For then men have had moral choices and the power t o make them and are, of course, responsible. ‘If events come out badly, say that you didn’t have the real choice, and are, of course, not accountable: they, the others, had the choice and they are responsible. You can get aw ay with this even though you have at your command half the world ‘s forces and God knows how many bombs and bombers. For you a re, in fact, an impotent item in the historical fate of your times; and moral responsibility is an illusion, although it is of great use if han- dled in a really alert public relations manner.’ The one implication that can be drawn from all such fatalisms is that if fortune or providence rules, then no elite of power can be justly considered a source of historical decisions, and the idea- much less the demand—of responsible leadership is a n idle and an irresponsible notion. For clearly, an impotent elite, the plaything of history, cannot be held accountable. If the elite of our time do not have power, they cannot be held responsible; as men in a dif- ficult position, they should engage our sympathies. The people of the United States are ruled by sovereign fortune; t hey, and with them their elite, are fatally overwhelmed by conseq uences they cannot control. If that is so, we ought all to do what many have in fact already done: withdraw entirely from political reflection and action into a materially comfortable and entirely private life. If, on the other hand, we believe that war and peac e and slump and prosperity are, precisely now, no longer matters of ‘fortune’ or ‘fate,’ but that, precisely now more than ever, they are controllable, then we must ask—controllable by whom? The answer m ust be: By whom else but those who now command the enormous ly en- larged and decisively centralized means of decision and power? We may then ask: Why don’t they, then? And for the answer to that, we must understand the context and the character of the American elite today. There is nothing in the idea of the elite as impotent which should deter us from asking just such questions, which are now the most important questions political men can ask. The American elite is neither omnipotent nor impotent. These are abstract abso- lutes used publicly by spokesmen, as excuses or as boasts, but in terms of which we may seek to clarify the political issues before us, which just now are above all the issues of responsible power. THE HIGHER CIRCLES 27 There is nothing in ‘the nature of history’ in our epoch that rules out the pivotal function of small groups of decisio n-makers. On the contrary, the structure of the present is such as t o make this not only a reasonable, but a rather compelling, view. There is nothing in ‘the psychology of man,’ or in the social man- ner by which men are shaped and selected for and by the com- mand posts of modern society, that makes unreasonable the view that they do confront choices and that the choices they make—or their failure to confront them—are history-making in their conse- quences. Accordingly, political men now have every reason to hold the American power elite accountable for a decisive range of the his- torical events that make up the history of the present. It is as fashionable, just now, to suppose that the re is no power elite, as it was fashionable in the ‘thirties to suppose a set of ruling- class villains to be the source of all social injus tice and public malaise. I should be as far from supposing that som e simple and unilateral ruling class could be firmly located as the prime mover of American society, as I should be from supp osing that all historical change in America today is merely impersonal drift. The view that all is blind drift is largely a fatal ist projection of one’s own feeling of impotence and perhaps, if o ne has ever been active politically in a principled way, a salve of one’s guilt. The view that all of history is due to the conspira cy of an easily located set of villains, or of heroes, is also a hurried projection from the difficult effort to understand how shifts in th e structure of so- ciety open opportunities to various elites and how various elites take advantage or fail to take advantage of them. To accept either view—of all history as conspiracy or of all history as drift—is to re- lax the effort to understand the facts of power and the ways of the powerful. 8 In my attempt to discern the shape of the power eli te of our time, and thus to give a responsible meaning to the anonymous ‘They,’ which the underlying population opposes to the anonymous ‘We,’ I shall begin by briefly examining the higher elements which most people know best: the new and the old upper cl asses of local society and the metropolitan 400. I shall then outline the world of 28 THE POWER ELITE the celebrity, attempting to show that the prestige system of American society has now for the first time become truly national in scope; and that the more trivial and glamorous aspects of this national system of status tend at once to distract attention from its more authoritarian features and to justify the powe r that it often conceals. In examining the very rich and the chief executives , I shall in- dicate how neither ‘America’s Sixty Families’ nor ‘The Managerial Revolution’ provides an adequate idea of the transformation of the upper classes as they are organized today in the pr ivileged stra- tum of the corporate rich. After describing the American statesman as a histor ical type, I shall attempt to show that what observers in the Progressive Era called ‘the invisible government’ has now becom e quite visible; and that what is usually taken to be the central content of politics, the pressures and the campaigns and the c ongressional maneuvering, has, in considerable part, now been relegated to the middle levels of power. In discussing the military ascendancy, I shall try to make clear how it has come about that admirals and generals ha ve assumed positions of decisive political and economic relevance, and how, in doing so, they have found many points of coincid ing interests with the corporate rich and the political directorate of the visible government. After these and other trends are made as plain as I can make them, I shall return to the master problems of the power elite, as well as take up the complementary notion of the mass society. What I am asserting is that in this particular epoc h a conjunction of historical circumstances has led to the rise of an elite of power; that the men of the circles composing this elite, s everally and collectively, now make such key decisions as are made; and that, given the enlargement and the centralization of the means of power now available, the decisions that they make a nd fail to make carry more consequences for more people than h as ever been the case in the world history of mankind. I am also asserting that there has developed on the middle levels of power, a semi-organized stalemate, and that on t he bottom level there has come into being a mass-like society which has little re- semblence to the image of a society in which voluntary associa- THE HIGHER CIRCLES 29 tions and classic publics hold the keys to power. T he top of the American system of power is much more unified and m uch more powerful, the bottom is much more fragmented, and in truth, im- potent, than is generally supposed by those who are distracted by the middling units of power which neither express s uch will as exists at the bottom nor determine the decisions at the top. 2 Local Society IN every town and small city of America an upper set o f families stands above the middle classes and towers over the underlying population of clerks and wage workers. The members of this set possess more than do others of whatever there is locally to possess; they hold the keys to local decision; their names a nd faces are often printed in the local paper; in fact, they own the newspaper as well as the radio station; they also own the three important lo- cal plants and most of the commercial properties al ong the main street; they direct the banks. Mingling closely with one another, they are quite conscious of the fact that they belong to the lead- ing class of the leading families. All their sons and daughters go to college, often a fter private schools; then they marry one another, or other boys and girls from similar families in similar towns. After they are well married, they come to possess, to occupy, to decide. The son of o ne of these old families, to his father’s chagrin and his grandfather’s fury, is now an executive in the local branch of a national corp oration. The leading family doctor has two sons, one of whom now takes up the practice; the other—who is soon to marry the daughter of the sec- ond largest factory—will probably be the next district attorney. So it has traditionally been, and so it is today in the small towns of America. Class consciousness is not equally characteristic o f all levels of American society: it is most apparent in the upper class. Among the underlying population everywhere in America the re is much confusion and blurring of the lines of demarcation, of the status 30 LOCAL SOCIETY 31 value of clothing and houses, of the ways of money- making and of money-spending. The people of the lower and midd le classes are of course differentiated by the values, things, and experiences to which differing amounts of income lead, but ofte n they are aware neither of these values nor of their class bases. Those of the upper strata, on the other hand, if on ly because they are fewer in number, are able with much more e ase to know more about one another, to maintain among themselve s a com- mon tradition, and thus to be conscious of their own land. They have the money and the time required to uphold thei r common standards. A propertied class, they are also a more or less distinct set of people who, mingling with one another, form compact cir- cles with common claims to recognition as the leading families of their cities. 1 Examining the small city, both the novelist and the sociologist have felt most clearly the drama of the old and the new upper classes. The struggle for status which they have observed going on in these towns may be seen on a historic scale in the modern course of the whole of Western Society; for centuries the parvenues and snobs of new upper classes have stood in tension wi th the ‘old guard.’ There are, of course, regional variations but across the country the small-town rich are surprisingly standa rdized. In these cities today, two types of upper classes prevail, one com- posed of rentier and socially older families, the other of newer families which, economically and socially, are of a more entrepre- neurial type. Members of these two top classes unde rstand the several distinctions between them, although each has its own par- ticular view of them. 1 It should not be supposed that the old upper class is necessar- ily “higher’ than the new, or that the new is simpl y a nouveau riche, struggling to drape new-won wealth in the pr estige gar- ments worn so easily by the old. The new upper class has a style of life of its own, and although its members—especiall y the women —borrow considerably from the old upper-class style, they also— especially the men—debunk that style in the name of their own values and aspirations. In many ways, these two upper sets com- 32 THE POWER ELITE pete for prestige and their competition involves so me mutual de- flation of claims for merit. The old upper-class person feels that his prestige originates in time itself. ‘Somewhere in the past,’ he seems to say, ‘my Original Ancestor rose up to become the Founder Of This Loca l Family Line and now His Blood flows in my veins. I am what My Family has been, and My Family has always been among the v ery best people.’ In New England and in the South, more families than in other regions are acutely conscious of family lines and old resi- dence, and more resistant to the social ascendancy of the newly rich and the newly arrived. There is perhaps a stronger and more embracing sense of family, which, especially in the South, comes to include long faithful servants as well as grandc hildren. The sense of kinship may be extended even to those who, although not related by marriage or blood, are considered as ‘cousins’ or ‘aunts’ because they ‘grew up with mother.’ Old upper-class fami- lies thus tend to form an endogenous cousinhood, wh ose clan pi- ety and sense of kinship lead to a reverence for the past and often to a cultivated interest in the history of the region in which the clan has for so long played such an honorable role. To speak of ‘old families’ is of course to speak of ‘wealthy old families,’ but in the status world of the old upper class, ready money and property are simply assumed—and then play ed down: ‘Of course, you have to have enough of this world’s goods to stand the cost of keeping up, of entertaining and for church donations … but social standing is more than money.’ The men an d women of the old upper class generally consider money in a negative way— as something in which the new upper-class people ar e too closely interested. ‘I’m sorry to say that our larger industrialists are in- creasingly money-conscious,’ they say, and in saying it, they have in mind the older generation of industrialists who are now retired, generally on real-estate holdings; these rich men and their women folk, the old upper class believes, were and are mo re interested in ‘community and social’ qualifications than in mere money. One major theme in old upper-class discussions of s maller busi- ness people is that they made a great deal of money during the late war, but that socially they aren’t to be allowed to count. An- other theme concerns the less respectable ways in which the LOCAL SOCIETY 33 money of the newly moneyed people has been earned. They men- tion pin-ball concessionaires, tavern keepers, and people in the trucking lines. And, having patronized them, they are quite aware of the wartime black markets. The continuance of the old-family line as the basis of prestige is challenged by the ripsnorting style as well as the money of the new upper classes, which World War II expanded and enriched, and made socially bold. Their style, the old upper classes feel, is replacing the older, quieter one. Underlying this s tatus tension, there is often a tendency of decline in the economic basis of many old upper-class families, which, in many towns, is mainly real es- tate. Yet the old upper class still generally has its firm hold on lo- cal financial institutions: in the market centers o f Georgia and Nebraska, the trading and manufacturing towns of Ve rmont and California—the old upper-class banker is usually the lord of his community’s domain, lending prestige to the busines smen with whom he associates, naming The Church by merely bel onging to it. Thus embodying salvation, social standing and financial sound- ness, he is accepted by others at his own shrewd and able valuation. In the South the tension between old and new upper classes is often more dramatic than in other regions, for here old families have been based on land ownership and the agricultu ral econ- omy. The synthesis of new wealth with older status, which of course has been under way since the Civil War, has been acceler- ated since the slump and World War II. The old sout hern aristoc- racy, in fictional image and in researched fact, is indeed often in a sorry state of decline. If it does not join the rising class based on industry and trade, it will surely die out, for whe n given sufficient time if status does not remain wealthy it crumbles into ignored eccentricity. Without sufficient money, quiet dignity and self-sat- isfied withdrawal comes to seem mere decay and even decadence. The emphasis upon family descent, coupled with with drawal, tends to enhance the status of older people, especially of those older women who become dowager judges of the conduc t of the young. Such a situation is not conducive to the marriage of old upper-class daughters to sons of a new but up-and-c oming class of wealth. Yet the industrialization of the smaller cities steadily breaks up old status formations and leads to new ones: the rise of 34 THE POWER ELITE the enriched industrialist and tradesman inevitably leads to the decline of the land-owning aristocracy. In the Sout h, as well as elsewhere, the larger requirements of capital for a gricultural en- deavor on sufficient scale, as well as favorable taxation and sub- sidy for ‘farmers,’ lead to new upper-class formations on the land as in the city. The new and the old upper classes thus stand in the smaller cities eyeing one another with considerable tension, with some disdain, and with begrudging admiration. The upper- class man sees the old as having a prestige which he would like to have, but also as an old fogy blocking important business and political traffic and as a provincial, bound to the local set-up, wit hout the vision to get up and go. The old upper-class man, in turn, eyes the new and thinks of him as too money-conscious, as having made money and as grabbing for more, but as not having acquire d the social background or the style of cultured life befitting his financial rank, and as not really being interested in the civic life of the city, ex- cept in so far as he might use it for personal and alien ends. When they come up against the prestige of the old u pper class on business and on civic and political issues, the new upper-class men often translate that prestige into ‘old age,’ which is associated in their minds with the quiet, ‘old-fashioned’ mann er, the slower civic tempo, and the dragging political views of th e old upper class. They feel that the old upper-class people do not use their prestige to make money in the manner of the new upp er class. They do not understand old prestige as something to be enjoyed; they see it in its political and economic relevance: when they do not have it, it is something standing in their way.* * The woman of the new upper class has a somewhat d ifferent image: she often sees the prestige of the old upper class as something ‘cultural’ to appreciate. She often attempts to give to the ol d status an ‘educa- tional’ meaning: this is especially true among those younger women of the station-wagon set whose husbands are profession al men and who are themselves from a ‘good college.’ Having education themselves, and the time and money with which to organize cultural community affairs, the new upper-class women have more respect for the ‘cultural’ com- ponent of the old upper-class style than do their men. In thus acknowl- edging the social superiority of the older class, new upper-class women stress those of its themes which are available to t hem also. But such women form today the most reliable cash-in area for the status claims of LOCAL SOCIETY 35 2 That the social and economic split of the upper cla sses is also a political split is not yet fully apparent in all localities, but it is a fact that has tended to become national since World War II. Local upper classes—new and old, seen and unseen, a ctive and passive—make up the social backbone of the Republic an party. Members of the old upper class, however, do not seem as strident or as active politically in the postwar scene as do many of the new. Perhaps it is because they do not feel able, as All ison Davis and others have suggested of the old southern upper cla sses, ‘to lessen the social distance between themselves and the vote rs.’ Of course, everywhere their social position ‘is clearly recognized by the offi- cials. They are free from many of the minor legal r estrictions, are almost never arrested for drunkenness or for minor traffic viola- tions, are seldom called for jury duty, and usually receive any favors they request.’ 2 They are, it is true, very much concerned with tax rates and property assessments, but these concerns, being fully shared by the new upper classes, are well served without the personal intervention of the old. The new upper class often practices those noisy pol itical emo- tions and status frustrations which, on a national scale and in extreme form, have been so readily observable in Th e Investiga- tors. The key to these political emotions, in the Congress as in the local society, lies in the status psychology of the nouveau riche.* Such newly enriched classes—ranging from Texas mult i-million- aires to petty Illinois war profiteers who have since consolidated their holdings—feel that they are somehow held down by the sta- tus pretensions of older wealth and older families. The suddenly $30,000-a-year insurance salesmen who drive the 260 hp cars and guiltily buy vulgar diamond rings for their wives; the suddenly $60,000-a-year businessmen who put in 50-foot swimm ing pools and do not know how to act toward their new servants—they feel the old upper classes in the small towns. Toward th e middle classes, in general, such women snobbishly assert: They might b e interested in cultural things but they would not have the opportunities or back- ground or education. They could take advantage of the lecture series, but they don’t have the background for heading it.’ * See below, FOURTEEN : The Conservative Mood. 36 THE POWER ELITE that they have achieved something and yet are not t hought to be good enough to possess it fully. There are men in T exas today whose names are strictly local, but who have more m oney than many nationally prominent families of the East. But they are not often nationally prominent, and even when they are, it is not in just the same way. Such feelings exist, on a smaller scale, in virtually every smaller city and town. They are not always articulated, and certainly they have not become the bases of any real political mov ement. But they lie back of the wide and deep gratification at beholding men of established prestige ‘told off,’ observing the g eneral repri- manded by the upstart, hearing the parvenu familiar ly, even insultingly, call the old wealthy by their first names in public controversy. The political aim of the petty right formed among t he new up- per classes of the small cities is the destruction of the legislative achievements of the New and Fair Deals. Moreover, t he rise of labor unions in many of these cities during the war, with more labor leaders clamoring to be on local civic boards; the increased security of the wage workers who during the war cas hed larger weekly checks in stores and banks and crowded the sidewalks on Saturday; the big new automobiles of the small people—all these class changes of the last two decades psychologically threaten the new upper cass by reducing their own feelings of si gnificance, their own sense of a fit order of prestige. The old upper classes are also made less socially secure by such goings on in the street, in the stores, and in the bank; but after all, they reason: ‘These people do not really touch us. All they have is money.’ The newly rich, however, being less socially firm than the old, do feel themselves to be of lesser worth as they see others also rise in the economic worlds of the small cities. Local society is a structure of power as well as a hierarchy of status; at its top there is a set of cliques or ‘crowds’ whose members judge and decide the important community issues, as well as many larger issues of state and nation in which ‘the community’ is involved. 3 Usually, although by no means always, these clique s are composed of old upper-class people; they include the larger businessmen and those who control the banks who usually also LOCAL SOCIETY 37 have connections with the major real-estate holders . Informally organized, these cliques are often each centered in the several economic functions: there is an industrial, a retailing, a banking clique. The cliques overlap, and there are usually some men who, moving from one to another, co-ordinate viewpoints and deci- sions. There are also the lawyers and administrators of the solid rentier families, who, by the power of proxy and by the many con- tacts between old and new wealth they embody, tie t ogether and focus in decision the power of money, of credit, of organization. Immediately below such cliques are the hustlers, la rgely of new upper-class status, who carry out the decisions and programs of the top—sometimes anticipating them and always tryi ng to do so. Here are the ‘operations’ men—the vice-presidents o f the banks, successful small businessmen, the ranking public officials, contrac- tors, and executives of local industries. This numb er two level shades off into the third string men—the heads of c ivic agencies, organization officials, the pettier civic leaders, newspaper men, and, finally, into the fourth order of the power hi erarchy—the rank and file of the professional and business strata, the ministers, the leading teachers, social workers, personnel directors. On almost any given topic of interest or decision, some top clique, or even some one key man, becomes strategic to the de- cision at hand and to the informal co-ordination of its support among the important cliques. Now it is the man who is the clique’s liaison with the state governor; now it is the bankers’ clique; now it is the man who is well liked by the rank and file of both Rotary Club and Chamber of Commerce, both Community Chest and Bar Association. Power does not reside in these middle-level organizations; key decisions are not made by their membership. Top men belong to them, but are only infrequently active in them. As associations, they help put into effect the policy-line worked out by the higher circles of power; they are training grounds in whic h younger hus- tlers of the top prove themselves; and sometimes, especially in the smaller cities, they are recruiting grounds for new members of the top. ‘We would not go to the “associations,” as you call them—that is, not right away,’ one powerful man of a sizable city in the mid- South told Professor Floyd Hunter. ‘A lot of those associations, if 38 THE POWER ELITE you mean by associations the Chamber of Commerce or the Com- munity Council, sit around and discuss “goals” and “ideals.” I don’t know what a lot of those things mean. I’ll be frank with you, I do not get onto a lot of those committees. A lot of the others in town do, but I don’t… Charles Homer is the biggest man in our crowd … When he gets an idea, others will get the idea… recently he got the idea that Regional City should be the national headquarters for an International Trade Council. He called in some of us [the inner crowd], and he talked briefly about his idea. He did not talk much. We do not engage in loose talk about the “ide als” of the sit- uation and all that other stuff. We get right down to the problem, that is, how to get this Council. We all think it is a good idea right around the circle. There are six of us in the meeting … All of us are assigned tasks to carry out. Moster is to draw up t he papers of in- corporation. He is the lawyer. I have a group of friends that I will carry along. Everyone else has a group of friends h e will do the same with. These fellows are what you might call followers. ‘We decide we need to raise $65,000 to put this thi ng over. We could raise that amount within our own crowd, but e ventually this thing is going to be a community proposition, so we decide to bring the other crowds in on the deal. We decide to have a meet- ing at the Grandview Club with select members of ot her crowds . . . When we meet at the Club at dinner with the other crowds, Mr. Homer makes a brief talk; again, he does not need to talk long. He ends his talk by saying he believes in his propo sition enough that he is willing to put $10,000 of his own money into it for the first year. He sits down. You can see some of the other crowds get- ting their heads together, and the Growers Bank cro wd, not to be outdone, offers a like amount plus a guarantee that they will go along with the project for three years. Others throw in $5,000 to $10,000 until—I’d say within thirty or forty minute s—we have pledges of the money we need. In three hours the wh ole thing is settled, including the time for eating! There is one detail I left out, and it is an important one. We went into that meeting with a board of directors picked. The con- stitution was all written, and the man who was to h ead the council as executive was named … a third-string man, a fe llow who will take advice .. . The public doesn’t know anything a bout the proj- ect until it reaches the stage I’ve been talking about. After the LOCAL SOCIETY 39 matter is financially sound, then we go to the news papers and say there is a proposal for consideration. Of course, it is not news to a lot of people by then, but the Chamber committees a nd other civic organizations are brought in on the idea. They all think it’s a good idea. They help to get the Council located and esta blished. That’s about all there is to it.’ 4 3 The status drama of the old and the new upper class ; the class structure that underpins that drama; the power syst em of the higher cliques—these now form the rather standard, if somewhat intricate, pattern of the upper levels of local society. But we could not understand that pattern or what is happening to it, were we to forget that all these cities are very much part of a national system of status and power and wealth. Despite the loyal r hetoric prac- ticed by many Congressional spokesmen, no local soc iety is in truth a sovereign locality. During the past century, local society has become part of a national economy; its status a nd power hier- archies have come to be subordinate parts of the la rger hierar- chies of the nation. Even as early as the decades after the Civil War, persons of local eminence were becoming—merely local. 5 Men whose sphere of active decision and public acclaim was re- gional and national in scope were rising into view. Today, to re- main merely local is to fail; it is to be overshado wed by the wealth, the power, and the status of nationally important men. To succeed is to leave local society behind—although c ertification by it may be needed in order to be selected for national cliques. All truly old ways in America are, of course, rural . Yet the value of rural origin and of rural residences is sometime s ambiguous. On the one hand, there is the tradition of the town against the hay- seed, of the big city against the small-town hick, and in many smaller cities, some prestige is achieved by those who, unlike the lower, working classes, have been in the city for all of one genera- tion. On the other hand, men who have achieved emin ence often boast of the solidity of their rural origin; which may be due to the Jeffersonian ethos which holds rural virtues to be higher than the ways of the city, or to the desire to show how very far one has come. 40 THE POWER ELITE If, in public life, the farm is often a good place to have come from, in social life, it is always a good place to own and to visit. Both small-city and big-city upper classes now quit e typically own and visit their ‘places in the country.’ In part, all this, which even in the Middle West began as far back as the ei ghteen-nine- ties, is a way by which the merely rich attempt to anchor them- selves in what is old and esteemed, of proving with cash and lov- ing care and sometimes with inconvenience, their re verence for the past. So in the South there is the exactly restored Old Planta- tion Mansion, in Texas and California the huge catt le spread or the manicured fruit ranch, in Iowa the model farm w ith its pure- bred stock and magnificent barns. There is also the motive of buy- ing the farm as an investment and as a tax evasion, as well as, of course,, the pleasure of such a seasonable residence and hobby. For the small town and the surrounding countryside, these facts mean that local status arrangements can no longer be strictly local. Small town and countryside are already pretty well consolidated, for wealthy farmers, especially upon retiring, often move into the small city, and wealthy urban families have bought much country land. In one middle-western community, Mr. Hollings head has reported, some twenty-five families of pioneer ancestry have accumulated more than sixty per cent of the surrounding one hun- dred sixty square miles of rich agricultural land. 6 Such concen- tration has been strengthened by marriages between rural and urban upper-class families. Locally, any ‘rural aristocracy’ that may prevail is already centered in at least the small city; rural up- per classes and the local society of smaller cities are in close con- tact, often in fact, belonging to the same higher cousinhood. In addition to the farms owned by city families and the town- centered activities and residences of rural families, there is the in- creased seasonal change of residence among both rur al and small-town upper classes. The women and children of the rural upper classes go to ‘the lake’ for the summer period, and the men for long week ends, even as New York families do th e same in the winters in Florida. The democratization of the seas onable vaca- tion to coast, mountain, or island now extends to l ocal upper classes of small cities and rural district, where thirty years ago it was more confined to metropolitan upper classes. The connections of small town with countryside, and the cen- LOCAL SOCIETY 41 tering of the status worlds of both upon the larger city, are most dramatically revealed when into the country surroun ding a small town there moves a set of gentlemen farmers. These seasonal residents are involved in the conduct and values of the larger cities in which they live; they know nothing and often car e less for local claims to eminence. With their country estates, they come to oc- cupy the top rung of what used to be called the far m ladder, although they know little or nothing of the lower rungs of that ladder. In one middle-western township studied by E von Vogt, such urban groups own half the land. 7 They do not seek connec- tions with local society and often do not even welcome its ad- vances, but they are passing on these country estates to their chil- dren and now even to their grandchildren. The members of local society, rural and urban, can attempt to follow one of two courses: they can withdraw and try to debunk the immoral ways of the newcomers, or they can atte mpt to join them, in which case they too will come to focus their social ways of life upon the metropolitan area. But whichever c ourse they elect, they soon come to know, often with bitterness, that the new upper class as well as the local upper-middle classes, among whom they once cashed in their claims for status, are wa tching them with close attention and sometimes with amusement. What was once a little principality, a seemingly self-sufficient world of sta- tus, is becoming an occasionally used satellite of the big-city upper class. What has been happening in and to local society is its consoli- dation with the surrounding rural area, and its gradual incorpora- tion in a national system of power and status. Munc ie, Indiana, is now much closer to Indianapolis and Chicago than it was fifty years ago; and the upper classes of Muncie travel f arther and travel more frequently than do the local middle and lower classes. There are few small towns today whose upper classes , both new and old, are not likely to visit a near-by large city at least every month or so. Such travel is now a standard operatio n of the busi- ness, educational, and social fife of the small-city rich. They have more friends at a distance and more frequent relati ons with them. The world of the local upper-class person is simply larger than it 42 THE POWER ELITE was in 1900 and larger than the worlds of the middl e and lower classes today. It is to the metropolitan upper classes that the local society of the smaller cities looks; its newer members with op en admiration, its older, with less open admiration. What good is it to show a horse or a dog in a small city of 100,000 population, even if you could, when you know that The Show will be in N ew York next fall? More seriously, what prestige is there in a $50,000 local deal, however financially convenient, when you know that in Chi- cago, only 175 miles away, men are turning over $50 0,000? The very broadening of their status area makes the small-town woman and man unsatisfied to make big splashes in such li ttle ponds, makes them yearn for the lakes of big city prestige, if not for truly national repute. Accordingly, to the extent that local society main- tains its position, even locally, it comes to mingle with and to iden- tify itself with a more metropolitan crowd and to t alk more easily of eastern schools and New York night clubs. There is one point of difference between the old an d the new upper classes in the smaller cities that is of great concern to the old, for it causes the new to be a less ready and less reliable cash-in area for the status claims of the old. The old uppe r class, after all, is old only in relation to the new and hence needs the new in order to feel that all is right in its little world of status. But the new, as well as many of the old, know well that this local society is now only local. The men and women of the old upper class understand their station to be well within their own city. They may go to Florida or California in the winter, but they go always as visitors, not as explorers of new ways or as makers of new business contacts. They feel their place to be in their own city and they tend to think of this city as containing all the principles necessary for ranking all people everywhere. The new upper class, on the othe r hand, tends to esteem local people in terms of the number and t ypes of con- tacts they have with places and people outside the city—which the true old upper-class person often excludes as ‘outs iders.’ More- over, many articulate members of the middle and lower classes look up to the new upper class because of such ‘outside’ contacts which, in a decisive way, are the very opposite of ‘old family resi- dence.’ Old family residence is a criterion that is community-cen- LOCAL SOCIETY 43 tered; outside contacts center in the big city or e ven in the national scene.* 4 Today ‘outside contacts’ often center in one very s pecific and galling reminder of national status and power which exists right in the local city: During the last thirty years, and especially with the business expansions of World War II, the nation al corporation has come into many of these smaller cities. Its arrival has upset the old economic status balances within the local u pper classes; for, with its local branch, there have come the exe cutives from the big city, who tend to dwarf and to ignore local society. 8 Prestige is, of course, achieved by ‘getting in wit h’ and imitating those who possess power as well as prestige. Nowada ys such social standing as the local upper classes, in particular the new upper * More aggressive than the old, the new upper-class criterion for the really top people is not only that they are rich but that they are ‘going places’ and have connections with others who are ‘g oing places’ in an even bigger way than they. In one typical small city, the heroes of the new upper class were described to me as ‘Boys with a lot of dynamite … They’re in there together going places and doing ev erything that’s good for [the city]. They operate nationally, see, and that’s very important in their outlook. They’re not very active in strictly local affairs, but they are active men. They have active investments all ov er, not money just lying around doing nothing.’ Stories of old families that have fallen and of active new families that have risen illustrate to the new upper class the ‘workings of democracy’ and the possibility of ‘anybody with the energy and brains’ getting ahead. Such stories serve to justify their own position and style, and enable them to draw upon th e national flow of official myths concerning the inevitable success of those who know how to work smartly. The old upper classes do not tell such stories, at least not to strangers, for among them prestige is a posi tive thing in itself, somehow inherent in their way of life, and indeed, their very being. But to the new upper-class man, prestige seems something that he him- self does not truly possess, but could very well use in his business and social advancement; he tends to see the social posi tion of the old upper class as an instrument for the ‘selling’ of a project or the making of more money. ‘You can’t get anything done in this town wi thout them [the old upper class]. The handles on those names are very i mportant . . . Look, if you and I go out on a project in this town, or any other town we’ve got to have names with handles. Investors, proprietors, and so on, they just hold back until we do that. Otherwise if we had the finest project in the world, it would be born dead.’ 44 THE POWER ELITE classes, may secure, is increasingly obtained throu gh association with the leading officials of the great absentee-ow ned corpora- tions, through following their style of living, through moving to their suburbs outside the city’s limits, attending their social functions. Since the status world of the corporation group does not characteristically center in the local city, local society tends to drift away from civic prestige, looking upon it as ‘local stuff.’ In the eyes of the new upper class, the old social leaders of the city come gradually to be displaced by the corporat ion group. The local upper classes struggle to be invited to the affairs of the new leaders, and even to marry their children into thei r circles. One of the most obvious symptoms of the drift is the defin ite movement of the local upper-class families into the exclusive suburbs built largely by the corporation managers. The new upper class tends to imitate and to mingle with the corporation group; the ‘bright young men’ of all educated classes tend to leave the small city and to make their careers within the corporate world. T he local world of the old upper class is simply by-passed. Such developments are often more important to women than to men. Women are frequently more active in social and civic matters—particularly in those relating to education, health, and charities—if for no other reason than that they have more time for them. They center their social life in the local cities because ‘it is the thing to do,’ and it is the thing to do only if those with top pres- tige do it. Local women, however, gain little or no social standing among the corporate elite by participating in local affairs, since the executives’ wives, corporation- and city-centered, do not con- cern themselves with local society, nor even with s uch important local matters as education; for they send their own children to private schools or, on lower executive levels, to their own public schools in their own suburbs, distinct and separate from the city’s. A typical local woman could work herself to the bon e on civic mat- ters and never be noticed or accepted by the execut ives’ wives. But if it became known that by some chance she happ ened to be well acquainted with a metropolitan celebrity, she might well be ‘in.’ Local women often participate in local and civic affairs in order to help their husband’s business, but the terms of the executive’s success lie within his national corporation. The corporate officials LOCAL SOCIETY 45 have very few business dealings with strictly local businessmen. They deal with distant individuals of other corporations who buy the plant’s products or sell it materials and parts. Even when the executive does undertake some deal with a local bus inessman, no social contact is required—unless it is part of the corporation’s ‘good-will’ policy. So it is quite unnecessary for the executive’s wife to participate in local society: the power of the c orporation’s name will readily provide him with all the contacts in t he smaller city that he will ever require. 5 Perhaps there was a time—before the Civil War—when local so- cieties composed the only society there was in America. It is still true, of course, that every small city is a local hierarchy of status and that at the top of each there is still a local elite of power and wealth and esteem. But one cannot now study the upp er groups in even a great number of smaller communities and then—as many American sociologists are prone to do—generalize th e results to the nation, as the American System. 9 Some members of the higher circles of the nation do live in small towns—although that is not usual. Moreover, where they happen to maintain a ho use means little; their area of operation is nation-wide. The upper social classes of all the small towns of America cannot me rely be added up to form a national upper class; their power cliq ues cannot merely be added up to form the national power elite. In each lo- cality there is an upper set of families, and in each, with certain regional variations, they are quite similar. But the national struc- ture of classes is not a mere enumeration of equall y important lo- cal units. The class and status and power systems of local societies are not equally weighted; they are not autonomous. Like the eco- nomic and political systems of the nation, the pres tige and the power systems are no longer made up of decentralize d little hier- archies, each having only thin and distant connections, if any at all, with the others. The kinds of relations that exist between the countryside and the town, the town and the big city , and between the various big cities, form a structure that is no w national in scope. Moreover, certain forces, which by their ver y nature are not rooted in any one town or city, now modify, by direct as well 46 THE POWER ELITE as indirect lines of control, the local hierarchies of status and power and wealth that prevail in each of them. It is to the cities of the Social Register and the celebrity, to the seats of the corporate power, to the national cente rs of political and military decision, that local society now looks —even though some of its older members will not always admit tha t these cities and corporations and powers exist socially. The strivings of the new upper class and the example of the managerial e lite of the national corporation cause local societies everywhere to become satellites of status and class and power systems th at extend be- yond their local horizon. What town in New England is socially comparable with Boston? What local industry is econ omically comparable with General Motors? What local political chief with the political directorate of the nation? 3 Metropolitan 400 THE little cities look to the big cities, but where do the big cities look? America is a nation with no truly national ci ty, no Paris, no Rome, no London, no city which is at once the socia l center, the political capital, and the financial hub. Local societies of small town and large city have had no historic court which, once and for all and officially, could certify the elect. The political capital of the country is not the status capital, nor even in any real sense an im- portant segment of Society; the political career do es not parallel the social climb. New York, not Washington, has bec ome the fi- nancial capital. What a difference it might have made if from the beginning Boston and Washington and New York had be en com- bined into one great social, political, and financial capital of the nation! Then, Mrs. John Jay’s set (‘Dinner and Supp er List for 1787 and 1788’), in which men of high family, great wealth, and decisive power mingled, might, as part of the natio nal census, have been kept intact and up-to-date. 1 And yet despite the lack of official and metropolitan unity, to- day—seventeen decades later—there does flourish in the big cities of America a recognizable upper social class, which seems in many ways to be quite compact. In Boston and in New York , in Philadel- phia and in Baltimore and in San Francisco, there e xists a solid core of older, wealthy families surrounded by loose r circles of newer, wealthy families. This older core, which in New York was once said—by Mrs. Astor’s Ward McAllister—to number Four Hundred, has made several bids to be The Society of America, and perhaps, once upon a time, it almost succeeded. Today, in so 47 48 THE POWER ELITE far as it tries to base itself on pride of family d escent, its chances to be truly national are subject to great risks. There is little doubt, however, that among the metropolitan 400’s, as well as among their small-town counterparts, there is an accumulation of advan- tages in which objective opportunity and psychologi cal readiness interact to create and to maintain for each generation the world of the upper social classes. These classes, in each of the big cities, look first of all to one another. 1 Before the Civil War the big-city upper classes wer e compact and stable. At least social chroniclers, looking back, say that they were. ‘Society,’ Mrs. John King Van Rensselaer wrot e, grew ‘from within rather than from without . . . The foreign e lements ab- sorbed were negligible. The social circle widened, generation by generation, through, the abundant contributions mad e by each family to posterity . . . There was a boundary as s olid and as difficult to ignore as the Chinese Wall’ Family lineage ran back to the formation of the colonies and the only division s among upper- class groups ‘were those of the church; Presbyteria ns, Dutch Re- formed and Episcopalians formed fairly definite sections of a com- pact organization.’ 2 In each locality and region, nineteenth-century wea lth created its own industrial hierarchy of local families. Up the Hudson, there were patroons, proud of their origins, and in Virgi nia, the planters. In every New England town, there were Puritan shipo wners and early industrialists, and in St. Louis, fashionable descendants of French Creoles living off real estate. In Denver, C olorado, there were wealthy gold and silver miners. And in New Yor k City, as Dixon Wecter has put it, there was ‘a class made up of coupon- clippers, sportsmen living off their fathers’ accumulation, and a stratum like the Astors and Vanderbilts trying to r enounce their commercial origins as quickly as possible.’ 3 The richest people could be regarded as a distinct caste, their fortunes as permanent, their families as honorably old. As long as they kept their wealth and no newer and bigger weal th threat- ened it, there was no reason to distinguish status by family lineage and status by wealth. 4 The stability of the older upper classes rested rather securely upon the coincidence of old family and METROPOLITAN 400 49 great wealth. For the push, the wealth, the power o f new upper classes was contained by the old, who, while remain ing distinct and unthreatened, could occasionally admit new members. In the decades following the Civil War, the old upp er classes of the older cities were overwhelmed by the new wea lth. ‘All at once,’ Mrs. Van Rensselaer thought, Society ‘was assailed from every side by persons who sought to climb boldly over the walls of social exclusiveness.’ Moreover, from overseas the immigrants came, like southerners, and later westerners, to ma ke their for- tunes in the city. ‘Others who had made theirs else where, jour- neyed to New York to spend them on pleasure and soc ial recogni- tion.’ 6 From the eighteen-seventies until the nineteen-twenties, the struggle of old family with new money occurred on a grandiose national scale. Those families that were old because they had be- come wealthy prior to the Civil War attempted to cl ose up their ranks against the post-Civil War rich. They failed primarily be- cause the new wealth was so enormous compared with the old that it simply could not be resisted. Moreover, the newly wealthy could not be contained in any locality. Like the br oadening na- tional territory, new wealth and power—in family and now in cor- porate form as well—grew to national size and scope . The city, the county, the state could not contain this socially powerful wealth. Everywhere, its possessors invaded the fine old fam ilies of metro- politan society. All families would seem to be rather ‘old,’ but not all of them have possessed wealth for at least two but preferably th ree or four gen- erations. The formula for ‘old families’ in America is money plus inclination plus time. After all, there have only been some six or seven generations in the whole of United States his tory. For every old family there must have been a time when someone was of that family but it was not ‘old.’ Accordingly, in America, it is al- most as great a thing to be an ancestor as to have an ancestor. It must not be supposed that the pedigreed families do not and have not admitted unregistered families to their social circles, es- pecially after the unregistered have captured their banking firms. It is only that those whose ancestors bought their way into slightly 50 THE POWER ELITE older families only two or three generations ago no w push hard to keep out those who would follow suit. This game of the old rich and the parvenu began with the beginning of the national history, and continues today in the small town as in the metropolitan cen- ter. The one firm rule of the game is that, given persistent inclina- tion, any family can win out on whatever level its money permits. Money—sheer, naked, vulgar money—has with few excep tions won its possessors entrance anywhere and everywhere into Amer- ican society. From the point of view of status, which always tries to base itself on family descent, this means that the walls are al ways crumbling; from the more general standpoint of an upper social class of more than local recognition, it means that top level is always being reno- vated. It also means that, no matter what its prete nsions, the American upper class is merely an enriched bourgeoisie, and that, no matter how powerful its members may be, they can not invent an aristocratic past where one did not exist. One careful genealo- gist has asserted that at the beginning of this century, there were ‘not ten families occupying conspicuous social posi tions’ in either the moneyed set or the old-family set of New York ‘ whose pro- genitors’ names appeared on Mrs. John Jay’s dinner list.’ 6 In America, the prideful attempt to gain status by virtue of fam- ily descent has been an uneasy practice never touch ing more than a very small fraction of the population. With their real and invent- ed ancestors, the ‘well-born’ and the ‘high-born’ h ave attempted to elaborate pedigrees and, on the basis of their consciousness of these pedigrees, to keep their distance from the ‘l ow-born.’ But they have attempted this with an underlying population which, in an utterly vulgar way, seemed to glory in being low -born, and which was too ready with too many jokes about the b reeding of horses to make such pretensions easy or widespread. There has been too much movement—of family residenc e and between occupations, in the lifetime of an individual and be- tween the generations—for feeling of family line to take root. Even when such feeling does strengthen the claims of the upper classes, it is without avail unless it is honored by the und erlying strata. Americans are not very conscious of family lines; t hey are not the sort of underlying population which would readily cash in METROPOLITAN 400 51 claims for prestige on the basis of family descent. It is only when a social structure does not essentially change in the course of gen- erations, only when occupation and wealth and stati on tend to be- come hereditary, that such pride and prejudice, and with them, such servility and sense of inferiority, can become stable bases of a prestige system. The establishment of a pedigreed society, based on the pres- tige of family line, was possible, for a brief period, despite the absence of a feudal past and the presence of mobili ty, because of the immigrant situation. It was precisely during th e decades when the flow of the new immigration into the big c ities was largest that metropolitan Society was at its American peak. In such Yankee ghettoes, claims for status by descent were most suc- cessful, not so much among the population at large as among those who claimed some descent and wanted more. Such clai ms were and are involved in the status hierarchy of nationality groups. But there came a time when the lowly immigrant no l onger served this purpose: the flow of immigration was stopped, and in a little while everyone in North America became—or soon would become—a native-born American of native-born parents. Even while the supply of immigrants was huge and th eir number in the big cities outnumbered those of native parentage, liberal sentiments of nationalism were becoming too strong to be shaped by the barriers of strict descent. ‘The Amer icanization of the Immigrant’—as an organized movement, as an ideo logy, and as a fact—made loyalties to one ideological version of the nation more important than Anglo-Saxon descent. The view o f the nation as a glorious melting pot of races and nations—carried by middle classes and intelligentsia—came to prevail over the Anglo-Saxon views of those concerned with ‘racial’ descent and with the pedi- greed, registered society. Besides, each of these national groups— from the Irish to the Puerto Rican—has slowly won l ocal political power. The attempt to create a pedigreed society has gone on among an upper class whose component localities competed: the eastern seaboard was settled first; so those who remained there have been local families longer than the families of more rec ently populated regions. Yet there are locally eminent families who have been lo- cally eminent in many small New England towns for as long as 52 THE POWER ELITE any Boston family; there are small-town southern fa milies whose claims for continuity of cousinhood could not be outdone by the most fanatic Boston Brahmin; and there are early Ca lifornia fam- ilies who, within their own strongly felt framework of time, feel older and better established than any New York fami ly might be. The localities competed economically as well. The m ining fam- ilies and the railroad families and the real-estate families—in each industry, in each locality and region, as we have s aid, big wealth created its own hierarchy of local families. The pedigree is a firm and stable basis of prestige when the class structure is firm and stable. Only then can all sorts of conven- tions and patterns of etiquette take root and flowe r in firm eco- nomic ground. When economic change is swift and mob ility deci- sive, then the moneyed class as such will surely assert itself; status pretensions will collapse and time-honored prejudic es will be swept away. From the standpoint of class, a dollar is a dollar, but from the standpoint of a pedigreed society, two ide ntical sums of money—the one received from four generations of inh erited trusts, the other from a real kill on the market last week—are very different sums. And yet, what is one to do when the new money becomes simply enormous? What is Mrs. Astor (the pe digreed lady of Knickerbocker origin married to old, real-estate wealth) going to do about Mrs. Vanderbilt (of the vulgar railroad money and the more vulgar grandfather-in-law) in 1870? Mr s. Astor is going to lose: in 1883 she leaves her calling card at Mrs. Vander- bilt’s door, and accepts an invitation to Mrs. Vand erbilt’s fancy- dress ball. 7 With that sort of thing happening, you cannot run a real pedigreed status show. Always in America, as perhaps else- where, society based on descent has been either by- passed or bought-out by the new and vulgar rich.* * But not only the fast-moving mechanics of class upset the show. Al- most anything fast moving does. For the conventions of a style of life are important to the prestige of local society, and only where class and status relations are stable can conventions be stab ilized. If conventions are truly rigid, then dress becomes ‘costume,’ and conventions become ‘traditions.’ High prestige of ancestors, of old age, of old wealth, of an- tiques, of ‘seniority’ of residence, and membership and of old ways of doing anything and everything—they go together and together make up the status conventions of a fixed circle in a stable society. When social change is swift, prestige tends to go t o the young and the beautiful, even if they are the damned; to the merely different and METROPOLITAN 400 53 Here, in the social context of the self-made man, t he parvenu claimed status. He claimed it as a self-made man rather than de- spite it. In each generation some family-made men a nd women have looked down upon him as an intruder, a nouveau riche, as an outsider in every way. But in each following generation—or the one following that—he has been admitted to the uppe r social classes of the duly pedigreed families. 2 The status struggle in America is not something that occurred at a given time and was then done with. The attempt of the old rich to remain exclusively prominent by virtue of family pedigree has been a continual attempt, which always fails and always suc- ceeds. It fails because in each generation new additions are made; it succeeds because at all times an upper social class is making the fight. A stable upper class with a really fixed mem bership does not exist; but an upper social class does exist. Change in the member- ship of a class, no matter how rapid, does not destroy the class. Not the identical individual or families, but the same type prevails within it. There have been numerous attempts to fix this type by drawing the line in a more or less formal way. Even before the Civil War, when new wealth was not as pushing as it later beca me, some so- cial arbiter seemed to be needed by worried hostess es confronted with social decisions. For two generations before 1850, New York Society depended upon the services of one Isaac Bro wn, sexton of Grace Church, who, we are told by Dixon Wecter, had a ‘fault- less memory for names, pedigrees, and gossip.’ He was quite ready to tell hostesses about to issue invitations who was in mourning, to the ‘novel,’ even if they are the vulgar. Costum es then become ‘old- fashioned,’ and what matters, above all, is to be ‘ fashionable.’ The ap- pearance value of one’s house, and even of one’s ma nners and one’s self, become subject to fashion. There is, in short, an appreciation of the new for its own sake: that which is new is prestigeful. In such a situation, money more easily decides who can keep up with such a dynamic and steeply graded pattern of consumption differences in dresses, cars, houses, sports, hobbies, clubs. It is, of course, to such a situation as this, and not to a stabilized leisure class, that Veblen directed his phrases: ‘ostentatious consumption’ and ‘conspicuous waste.’ For America, and for the second generation of the period of which he wrote, he was gen- erally correct. 54 THE POWER ELITE who had gone bankrupt, who had friends visiting the m, who were the new arrivals in town and in Society.’ He would preside at the doorstep at parties, and some observers claimed that he ‘possessed a list of “dancing young men” for the benefit of ne wly arrived party-givers.’ 8 The extravagant wealth of the post-Civil War period called for a more articulate means of determining the elect, and Ward Mc- Allister, for a time, established himself as selector. In order that ‘society might be given that solidity needed to res ist invasion of the flashiest profiteers,’ McAllister wished to und ertake the needed mixture of old families with position but without fashion, and the ‘ “swells” who had to entertain and be smart in order to win their way.’ He is said to have taken his task v ery seriously, giving over ‘his days and nights to study of heraldry, books of court etiquette, genealogy, and cookery . . .’ In the win ter of 1872-3, he organized the Patriarchs, ‘a committee of twenty-fi ve men “who had the right to create and lead Society” by inviting to each ball four ladies and five gentlemen on their individual responsibility, which McAllister stressed as a sacred trust.’ The original patri- archs were old-family New Yorkers of at least four generations, which, in McAllister’s American generosity, he thought ‘make as good and true a gentleman as forty.’ 9 During the ‘eighties, McAllister had been dropping comments to newspaper men that there were really ‘only about 400 people in fashionable New York Society. If you go outside that number you strike people who are either not at ease in a ballroom or else make other people not at ease.’ 10 In 1892, when both the exclu- siveness of the Patriarchs and the popularity of Wa rd McAllister were beginning seriously to decline, he published his list of ‘400,’ which in fact contained about 300 names. It was sim ply the roll- call of the Patriarch Balls, the inner circle of pre-Civil War New York families, embellished by unattached daughters and sons who liked to dance, and a select few of the new rich wh om McAllister deemed fit for admittance. Only nine out of a list of the ninety richest men of the day 11 appear on his list. The attention given McAllister’s list of the ‘400,’ and his subse- quent retirement from high society, reflect the pre carious situa- tion of the old upper classes he tried to consolidate. Not only in New York, but in other cities as well, all sorts of attempts have METROPOLITAN 400 55 been made to preserve the ‘old-guard’ from the soci al entree of new wealth. McAllister’s demise symbolizes the failure of all these attempts. The only sensible thing that could be don e was to admit the new wealth, or at least selected members of it. This, the most successful attempt, The Social Register, has done. In the gilded age of the 1880’s, a New York bachelo r who had inherited ‘a small life-income and a sound though i nconspicuous social standing,’ decided to publish ‘a list of the Best People from which advertising was wisely excluded but which mer chants might buy.’ 12 The Social Register presented a judicious combina- tion of the old with the new, and, with the hearty support of friends among such New York clubs as Calumet and Un ion, be- came an immediate success. The first Social Register of New York contained some 881 families; in due course, lists w ere published for other cities, and the business of compiling and publishing such lists became incorporated as The Social Register As sociation. Dur- ing the ‘twenties, social registers were being issued for twenty- one cities, but nine of these were later dropped ‘for lack of inter- est.’ By 1928, twelve volumes were being printed in the autumn of each year, and ever since then there have been Soci al Registers for New York and Boston (since 1890), Philadelphia (1890), Baltimore (1892), Chicago (1893), Washington (1900), St. Louis (1903), Buffalo (1903), Pittsburgh (1904), San Francisco (1906), Cleveland (1910), and Cincinnati (1910). 13 The Registers list the ‘socially elect’ together with addresses, children, schools, telephone numbers, and clubs. Su pplements appear in December and January, and a summer edition is pub- lished each June. The Association advises the reader to purchase an index containing all the names in all the Registers, this being useful in so far as there are many intermarriages a mong families from the various cities and changes of address from one city to another. The Social Register describes the people eligible for its list- ing as ‘those families who by descent or by social standing or from other qualifications are naturally included in the best society of any particular city or cities.’ The exact criteria for admission, how- ever, are hard to discern perhaps because, as Wecte r has asserted, ‘an efficient impersonality, detachment, and air of secret inquisi- tion surround The Social Register. A certain anonymity is essen- 56 THE POWER ELITE tial to its continued success and prestige.’ 14 Today, the Social Reg- ister Association, with headquarters in New York, s eems to be run by a Miss Bertha Eastmond, secretary of the Associa tion’s founder from the early days. She judges all the names, some to be added, some to be rejected as unworthy, some to be conside red in the future. In this work, she may call upon the counsel of certain so- cial advisers, and each city for which there is a R egister has a personal representative who keeps track of current names, ad- dresses, and telephone numbers. Who are included in the some 38,000 conjugal family units now listed, 15 and why are they included? Anyone residing in any of the twelve chosen cities may apply for inclusion, although the recom- mendations of several listed families must be obtained as well as a list of club memberships. But money alone, or fam ily alone, or even both together do not seem to guarantee immedia te admit- tance or final retention. In a rather arbitrary manner, people of old-family are sometimes dropped; second generation s of new wealth which try to get in are often not successful. To say, how- ever, that birth and wealth are not sufficient is not to say that they, along with proper conduct, are not necessary. Moderately successful corporation executives, once they set their minds to it, have been known to get into the Register, but the point should not be overstressed. In particular, it ought to be made historically specific: the thirty-year span 18 90-1920 was the major period for entrance into the registered circle. Since the first decade of the twentieth century, in fact, the rate of admis- sion of new families into the Social Register—at least in one major city, Philadelphia—has steadily declined: during th e first decade of this century, there was a 68 per cent increase, by the decade of the ‘thirties, the rate of increase was down to 6 per cent. 16 Those who are dropped from The Social Register are often so well known that much is made of their being dropped; the ‘arbi- trary’ character of the Register is then used to ridicule its social meaning. Actually, Dixon Wecter has concluded, ‘unf avorable publicity seems as near as one can come to the reason for banish- ment, but this again is applied with more intuition than logic . . . It is safe to say that anyone who keeps out of [the newspaper’s] columns—whatever his private life may be, or clande stine rumors may report—will not fall foul of The Social Register.’ 17 METROPOLITAN 400 57 With all the seemingly arbitrary selection and reje ction, and with all the snobbery and anguish that surrounds and even char- acterizes it, The Social Register is a serious listing that does mean something. It is an attempt, under quite trying cir cumstances, to close out of the truly proper circles the merely nouveau riche and those with mere notoriety, to certify and consolida te these proper circles of wealth, and to keep the chosen circles p roper and thus presumably worthy of being chosen. After all, it is the only list of registered families that Americans have, and it is the nearest thing to an official status center that this country, with no aristocratic past, no court society, no truly capital city, possesses. In any indi- vidual case, admission may be unpredictable or even arbitrary, but as a group, the people in The Social Register have been chosen for their money, their family, and their style of l ife. Accordingly, the names contained in these twelve magic volumes d o stand for a certain type of person. 3 In each of the chosen metropolitan areas of the nat ion, there is an upper social class whose members were born in to families which have been registered since the Social Register began. This registered social class, as well as newly registered and unregis- tered classes in other big cities, is composed of groups of ancient families who for two or three or four generations h ave been promi- nent and wealthy. They are set apart from the rest of the commu- nity by their manner of origin, appearance, and conduct. They live in one or more exclusive and expensive re sidential areas in fine old houses in which many of them were born, or in elaborately simple modern ones which they have cons tructed. In these houses, old or new, there are the correct furnishings and the cherished equipage. Their clothing, even when i t is appar- ently casual and undoubtedly old, is somehow differ ent in cut and hang from the clothes of other men and women. T he things they buy are quietly expensive and they use them in an incon- spicuous way. They belong to clubs and organizations to which only others like themselves are admitted, and they take quite seri- ously their appearances in these associations. They have relatives and friends in common, but more than that, they have in common experiences of a carefully selected and fam- 58 THE POWER ELITE ily-controlled sort. They have attended the same or similar private and exclusive schools, preferably one of the Episco pal boarding schools of New England. Their men have been to Harv ard, Yale, Princeton, or if local pride could not be overcome, to a locally es- teemed college to which their families have contrib uted. And now they frequent the clubs of these schools, as well as leading clubs in their own city, and as often as not, also a club or two in other metropolitan centers. Their names are not in the chattering, gossiping co lumns or even the society columns of their local newspapers; many of them, proper Bostonians and proper San Franciscans that t hey are, would be genuinely embarrassed among their own land were their names so taken in vain—cheap publicity and cafe-society scandal are for newer families of more strident and gaudy style, not for the old social classes. For those established at the top are ‘proud’; those not yet established are merely conce ited. The proud really do not care what others below them think of them; the con- ceited depend on flattery and are easily cheated by it, for they are not aware of the dependence of their ideas of self upon others.* * A word about Thorstein Veblen’s The Theory of the Leisure Class (1899) which—fortunately—is still read, not because his criticism of the American upper class is still adequate, but because his style makes it plausible, even when the criticism is not taken seriously. What he wrote remains strong with the truth, even though his fact s do not cover the scenes and the characters that have emerged in our own time. It remains strong because we could not see the newer features of our own time had he not written what and as he did. Which is one mea ning of the fact that his biases are the most fruitful that have appeared in the literature of American social protest. But all critics are mortal; and Veblen’s theory is in general no longer an adequate account of the American system of prestige. The Theory of the Leisure Class, is not the theory of the leisure class. It is a theory of a particular element of the upper classes in one period of the history of one nation. It is an account of t he status struggle be- tween new and old wealth and, in particular, it is an examination of the nouveau riche, so much in evidence in Veblen’s form ative time, the America of the latter half of the nineteenth century, of the Vanderbilts, Goulds, and Harrimans, of Saratoga Springs and Newp ort, of the glitter and the gold. It is an analysis of an upper class which is climbing socially by trans- lating its money into symbols of status, but doing so in a status situation in which the symbols are ambiguous. Moreover, the a udience for the Veblenian drama is not traditional, nor the actors firmly set in an in- METROPOLITAN 400 59 Within and between the various cliques which they f orm, mem- bers of these proud families form close friendships and strong loy- herited social structure, as in feudalism. Accordin gly, consumption pat- terns are the only means of competing for status ho nor. Veblen does not analyze societies with an old nobility or a court society where the cour- tier was a successful style of life. In depicting the higher style of American life, Veb len—like the actors of whom he writes—seems to confuse aristocratic and bourgeois traits. At one or two points, he does so explicitly: ‘The aristocratic and the bourgeois virtues—that is to say the destructive and pecuniary traits- should be found chiefly among the upper classes . . .’ 18 One has only to examine the taste of the small businessmen to know that this is cer- tainly not true. ‘Conspicuous consumption,’ as Veblen knew, is not c onfined to the upper classes. But today I should say that it prevails especially among one element of the new upper classes—the nouveau ri che of the new corporate privileges—the men on expense accounts, and those enjoying other corporate prerogatives—and with even more gri evous effects on the standard and style of life of the professional celebrities of stage and screen, radio and TV. And, of course, among recent crops of more old- fashioned nouveau riche dramatized by the ‘Texas millionaires.’ In the middle of the twentieth century, as at the e nd of the nineteenth which Veblen observed, there are fantastic goings-o n: ‘Tenor Mario Lanza now owns an outsize, custom-built white Cadillac with a gold- plated dashboard . . . Restaurateur Mike Romanoff s hips his silk and pongee shirts air express to Sulka’s in Manhattan for proper laun- dering . . . Construction Tycoon Hal Hayes . . . ha s a built-in bar in his Cadillac plus faucets for Scotch, bourbon, champagne and beer in his home. . . .’ 19 But in established local society, the men and wome n of the fourth and fifth generation are quietly expensive and expensively quiet; they are, in fact, often deliberately inconspicuous in their con- sumption: with unpretentious farm houses and summer retreats, they often live quite simply, and certainly without any ostentatious display of vulgar opulence. The terms of Veblen’s theory are not adequate to de scribe the estab- lished upper classes of today. Moreover—as we shall see in FOUR , Veblen’s work, as a theory of the American status system, does not take into adequate account the rise of the instituted elite or of the world of the celebrity. He could not, of course, have been e xpected in the eighteen-nineties to see the meaning for a truly national status system of ‘the professional celebrities,’ who have arisen as part of the national media of mass communication and entertainment, or a nticipate the de- velopment of national glamour, whereby the debutante is replaced by the movie star, and the local society lady by the military and political and economic managers—’the power elite’—whom many n ow celebrate as their proper chieftains. 60 THE POWER ELITE alties. They are served at one another’s dinners an d attend one another’s balls. They take the quietly elegant weddings, the som- ber funerals, the gay coming-out parties with seriousness and re- straint. The social appearances they seem to like b est are often informal, although among them codes of dress and ma nner, the sensibility of what is correct and what is not done, govern the in- formal and the natural as well as the formal. Their sense of civic service does not seem to take direct political form, but causes them gladly to lead the charitable , educational, and cultural institutions of their city. Their wealth is such—prob- ably several millions on the average—that they do n ot usually have to use the principal; if they do not wish to work, they probably do not have to. Yet their men—especially the more subs tantial older men—generally do work and sometimes quite diligentl y. They make up the business aristocracy of their city, especially the finan- cial and legal aristocracy. The true gentleman—in t he eastern cit- ies, and increasingly across the nation—is usually a banker or a lawyer, which is convenient, for those who possess a fortune are in need of trusted, wise, and sober men to preserve its integrity. They are the directors and the presidents of the major banks, and they are the senior partners and investment counselors of the lead- ing law firms of their cities. Almost everywhere in America, the metropolitan uppe r classes have in common, more or less, race, religion, and nativity. Even if they are not of long family descent, they are unifo rmly of longer American origin than the underlying population. The re are, of course, exceptions, some of them important exceptions. In vari- ous cities, Italian and Jewish and Irish Catholic families—having become wealthy and powerful—have risen high in stat us. But however important, these are still exceptions: the model of the upper social classes is still ‘pure’ by race, by ethnic group, by na- tional extraction. In each city, they tend to be Pr otestant; more- over Protestants of class-church denominations, Epi scopalian mainly, or Unitarian, or Presbyterian. In many cities—New York for example—there are several rather than one metropolitan 400. This fact, however, does not mean that the big-city upper classes do not exist, but rather that in such cities the status stucture is more elaborate than in those with more uni- fied societies. That there are social feuds between competing sta- tus centers does not destroy the status hierarchy. METROPOLITAN 400 61 The family of higher status may belong to an exclus ive country club where sporting activities and social events occur, but this pat- tern is not of decisive importance to the upper lev els, for ‘country clubs’ have spread downward into the middle and eve n into the lower-middle classes. In smaller cities, membership in the best country club is often the significant organizational mark of the up- per groups; but this is not so in the metropolitan status market. It is the gentleman’s club, an exclusive male organiza tion, that is socially most important. Gentlemen belong to the metropolitan man’s club, and the men of the upper-class stature usually belong to such clubs in more than one city; clubs for both sexes, such as country clubs, are usu- ally local. Among the out-of-town clubs to which th e old upper- class man belongs are those of Harvard and Princeto n and Yale, but the world of the urban clubs extends well beyon d those an- chored in the better schools. It is not unusual for gentlemen to be- long to three or four or even more. These clubs of the various cities are truly exclusive in the sense that they are not widely known to the middle and lower classes in general. They are a bove those better-known arenas where upper-class status is more widely rec- ognized. They are of and by and for the upper circl es, and no other. But they are known and visited by the upper circles of more than one city.* To the outsider, the club to which the upper class man or wom- an belongs is a badge of certification of his status; to the insider, the club provides a more intimate or clan-like set of exclusive groupings which places and characterizes a man. The ir core of membership is usually families which successfully claim status by descent. From intimate association with such men, n ewer members borrow status, and in turn, the accomplishments of the newer en- trants help shore up the status of the club as a going concern. Membership in the right clubs assumes great social importance when the merely rich push and shove at the boundaries of society, for then the line tends to become vague, and club m embership clearly defines exclusiveness. And yet the metropolitan clubs are important rungs in the social ladder for would-be m embers of the top status levels: they are status elevators for the new into the old upper classes; for men, and their sons, can be gradually advanced * Even in 1933, some fifty New Yorkers maintained t heir full-rate dues in Boston’s Somerset Club. 20 62 THE POWER ELITE from one club to the next, and so, if successful, i nto the inner cita- del of the most exclusive. They are also important in the business life within and between the metropolitan circles: to many men of these circles, it seems convenient and somehow fitt ing to come to important decisions within the exclusive club. ‘The private club,’ one national magazine for executives recently put i t, is becom- ing ‘the businessman’s castle.’ 21 The metropolitan upper classes, as wealthy classes having con- trol of each locality’s key financial and legal institutions, thereby have business and legal relations with one another. For the econ- omy of the city, especially of a metropolitan area, is not confined to the city. To the extent that the economy is nati onal and big- city centered, and to the extent that the upper classes control its key places of big-city decision—the upper classes of each city are related to those of other cities. In the rich if gloomy quiet of a Bos- ton club and also in the rich and brisk chrome of a Houston club- to belong is to be accepted. It is also to be in easy, informal touch with those who are socially acceptable, and so to b e in a better position to make a deal over a luncheon table. The gentlemen’s club is at once an important center of the financial and business network of decision and an essential center for certifying the so- cially fit. In it all the traits that make up the old upper classes seem to coincide: the old family and the proper marriage and the cor- rect residence and the right church and the right schools—and the power of the key decision. The ‘leading men’ in eac h city belong to such clubs, and when the leading men of other cities visit them, they are very likely to be seen at lunch in Boston’ s Somerset or Union, Philadelphia’s Racquet or Philadelphia Club, San Francis- co’s Pacific Union, or New York’s Knickerbocker, Li nks, Brook, or Racquet and Tennis. 22 4 The upper-class style of life is pretty much the same—although there are regional variations—in each of the big cities of the na- tion. The houses and clothing, the types of social occasions the metropolitan 400 care about, tend to be homogeneous. The Brooks Brothers suit-and-shirt is not extensively advertised nationally and the store has only four branches outside New York City, but it is well-known in every major city of the nation, and in no key city METROPOLITAN 400 63 do the ‘representatives’ of Brooks Brothers feel th emselves to be strangers. 23 There are other such externals that are specific a nd common to the proper upper-class style, yet, after all, anyone with the money and the inclination can learn to be uncomfortable in anything but a Brooks Brothers suit. The style of life of the old upper social classes across the nation goes deeper than such things. The one deep experience that distinguishes the soci al rich from the merely rich and those below is their schooling, and with it, all the associations, the sense and sensibility, to whi ch this educa- tional routine leads throughout their lives. The daughter of an old upper-class New York family, for exam- ple, is usually under the care of nurse and mother until she is four years of age, after which she is under the daily care of a governess who often speaks French as well as English. When sh e is six or seven, she goes to a private day school, perhaps Miss Chapin’s or Brearley. She is often driven to and from school by the family chauffeur and in the afternoons, after school, she is in the general care of the governess, who now spends most of her t ime with the younger children. When she is about fourteen she go es to board- ing school, perhaps to St. Timothy’s in Maryland or Miss Porter’s or Westover in Connecticut. Then she may attend Fin ch Junior College of New York City and thus be ‘finished,’ or if she is to at- tend college proper, she will be enrolled, along wi th many plain middle-class girls, in Bryn Mawr or Vassar or Welle sley or Smith or Bennington. She will marry soon after finishing school or col- lege, and presumably begin to guide her own childre n through the same educational sequence.* The boy of this family, while under seven years of age, will follow a similar pattern. Then he too will go to day school, and, at a rather earlier age than the girls, to boarding school, although for boys it will be called prep school: St. Mark’s or St. Paul’s, Choate or * ‘The daughter of the industrial leader, of the gr eat professional man must thrive in a complex civilization which places little premium upon its women’s homelier virtues: meekness and modesty, earnestness and Godliness. Yet such a man must, according to the mores of his kind, send his daughter to pne of a handful of institutions whose codes rest upon these foundations… Of the 1,200-odd private schoo ls for girls in this country, curiously enough only a score or more real ly matter … so ephemeral are the things which make one school and mar another that intangible indeed are the distinctions.’ 24 64 THE POWER ELITE Groton, Andover or Lawrenceville, Phillips Exeter o r Hotchkiss. 25 Then he will go to Princeton or Harvard, Yale or Da rtmouth. As likely as not, he will finish with a law school attached to one of these colleges. Each stage of this education is important to the formation of the upper-class man or woman; it is an educational sequ ence that is common to the upper classes in all the leading cities of the nation. There is, in fact, a strong tendency for children from all these cit- ies to attend one of the more fashionable boarding or prep schools in New England, in which students from two dozen or so states, as well as from foreign countries, may be readily found. As claims for status based on family descent become increasingly difficult to re- alize, the proper school transcends the family pedi gree in social importance. Accordingly, if one had to choose one clue to the na- tional unity of the upper social classes in America today, it would best be the really exclusive boarding school for gi rls and prep school for boys. Many educators of the private school world feel tha t economic shifts bring to the top people whose children have had no proper family background and tone, and that the private school is a prime institution in preparing them to live at the top of the nation in a manner befitting upper-class men and women. And whe ther the headmasters know it or not, it seems to be a fact that like the hier- archy of clubs for the fathers—but in more importan t and deeper ways—the private schools do perform the task of sel ecting and training newer members of a national upper stratum, as well as upholding the higher standards among the children o f families who have long been at the top. It is in ‘the next generation,’ in the private school, that the tensions between new and o ld upper classes are relaxed and even resolved. And it is by means of these schools more than by any other single agency that t he older and the newer families—when their time is due—become me mbers of a self-conscious upper class. As a selection and training place of the upper classes, both old and new, the private school is a unifying influence, a force for the nationalization of the upper classes. The less impo rtant the pedi- greed family becomes in the careful transmission of moral and cultural traits, the more important the private school. The school- rather than the upper-class family—is the most important agency METROPOLITAN 400 65 for transmitting the traditions of the upper social classes, and regu- lating the admission of new wealth and talent. It i s the charac- terizing point in the upper-class experience. In the top fifteen or twenty such schools, if anywhere, one finds a prime organizing center of the national upper social classes. For in these private schools for adolescents, the religious and family a nd educational tasks of the upper social classes are fused, and in them the major tasks of upholding such standards as prevail in the se classes are centered.* These schools are self-supporting and autonomous in policy, and the most proper of them are non-profit institutions. They are not ‘church schools’ in that they are not governed by religious bod- ies, but they do require students to attend religio us services, and although not sectarian, they are permeated by relig iously inspired principles. The statement of the founders of Groton, still used to- day, includes this fundamental aim: ‘Every endeavor will be made to cultivate manly, Christian character, having regard to moral and physical as well as intellectual developm ent. The Headmaster of the School will be a clergyman of the Protestant Episcopal Church.’ 27 ‘The vitals of a prep-school are not located in the curriculum. They are located in a dozen other places, some of t hem queer places indeed: in the relations between boys and faculty; in who the boys are and where they come from; in a Gothic chapel or a shiny new gymnasium; in the type of building the boys live in and the sort of thing they do after supper; and, above all in the head- master.’ 28 There is a kind of implicit ideal for the school to be an or- ganized extension of the family, but a large family in which the proper children from Boston and Philadelphia and New York to- * ‘These schools for boys,’ the editors of Fortune have written, ‘are conspicuous far out of proportion to the numbers enrolled in them. More than seven million boys and girls in the U.S. now ( 1944) receive sec- ondary education, 460,000 of whom are in private sc hools. Of this number more than 360,000 were in Catholic schools (1941 figures, lat- est available) and more than 10,000 in military schools, whose special purposes are obvious. Of the remainder, girls’ schools, whose job is also relatively well defined, accounted for almost 30,00 0 more. Forty thou- sand odd were in co-educational schools, largely day schools. Some 20,- 000 were in the schools for boys, the group that particularly desires self- justification.’ 26 66 THE POWER ELITE gether learn the proper style of conduct. This fami ly ideal is strengthened by the common religious practices of t he school, which tend to be Episcopalian; by the tendency for given upper- class families to send all their sons to the same schools that the father, or even grandfather, attended; and by the donations as well as the social and sentimental activities of the alu mni associations. The underlying purpose of the Choate School, for ex ample, is to prove that family and school may be effectively combined, so that a boy while gaining the benefits that school provides—in particular ‘spiritual leadership’ and ‘association with boys of purpose’—will retain the intimate influences that ought to charac terize a proper home. Daily life in the exclusive schools is usually quite simple, even Spartan; within its atmosphere of snobbish simplici ty, there is a democracy of status. Everyone follows more or less the same rou- tine, and there are no opportunities for officially approved incli- nations for ostentatious display or snobbery. 29 These schools are not usually oriented to any obvio us practical end. It is true that the boys’ schools are invariably preparatory for college; while those for girls offer one curriculum for college prep- aration, and one terminal course for girls contempl ating earlier marriage. But the middle-class ethos of competitiveness is gener- ally lacking. One should, the school seems to say, compare one’s work and activity not with the boy or girl next to you, but with what you and your teacher believe is your own best. Besides, if you are too interested, you become conspicuous. Certainly competition for status among students is held to a minimum: where allowances are permitted, they are u sually fixed at modest levels, and the tendency is for boys to have no spending money at all; the wearing of school blazers by boys, or a uniform jumper or blouse, skirt and sweater by girls, is not, as it is usually interpreted by outsiders, so much upper- class swash as it is an attempt to defeat displays of haberdashery within the ex- clusive group. And girls, however rich, are not usu ally allowed to own their own horses. The elders of the school community are those older children in the higher Forms, and they become the models aspired to by the younger children. For young boys, up to eight and n ine, there are carefully chosen Housemothers; between twelve and thir- METROPOLITAN 400 67 teen, they are weaned from women and have exclusive ly male teachers, although the wives of instructors often live with their husbands in apartments within the boys’ dormitories and con- tinue a virtual kinship role with them. Care is taken that the self- image of the child not be slapped down, as it might by an insecure parent, and that manners at table as elsewhere be i mbibed from the general atmosphere rather than from authoritarian and for- bidding figures. Then one will always know what to do, even if one i s some- times puzzled. One will react appropriately upon meeting the man who is too carefully groomed and above all, the man who tries too hard to please, for one knows that that is not necessary if one is ‘the right sort of person.’ There will be the manner of simplicity and the easy dignity that can arise only out of an inner certainty that one’s being is a definitely established fact of one’s world, from which one cannot be excluded, ignored, snubbed, or paid off. And, in due course, as a young broker, banker, executive, one will feel smooth and handsome, with the easy bonhomie, the lo ok of supe- rior amusement, and all the useful friendships; one will have just the proper touch of deference toward the older men, even if they are members of your own club, and just the right degree of intelli- gence and enthusiasms—but not too much of either, f or one’s style is, after all, a realization of the motto of one’s schooling: nothing in excess. 30 Harvard or Yale or Princeton is not enough. It is t he really ex- clusive prep school that counts, for that determines which of the ‘two Harvards’ one attends. The clubs and cliques o f college are usually composed of carry-overs of association and name made in the lower levels at the proper schools; one’s frien ds at Harvard are friends made at prep school. That is why in the upper social classes, it does not by itself mean much merely to have a degree from an Ivy League college. That is assumed: the point is not Har- vard, but which Harvard? By Harvard, one means Porc ellian, Fly, or A.D.: by Yale, one means Zeta Psi or Fence or Delta Kap- pa Epsilon; by Princeton, Cottage, Tiger, Cap and Gown, or Ivy. 31 It is the prestige of a properly certified secondary education fol- lowed by a proper club in a proper Ivy League colle ge that is the standard admission ticket to the world of urban clubs and parties in any major city of the nation. To the prestige of the voice and 68 THE POWER ELITE manner, constructed in such schools, local loyaltie s bow, for that experience is a major clue to the nation-wide upper class that is homogeneous and self-conscious. Among those who are being educated in similar ways, the school naturally leads to marriage. The prep schools for boys are usually within a convenient range of boarding schoo ls for girls of similar age, and several times a year the students from each are thrown together for chaperoned occasions. There are , in addition, the sisters of the other boys and the brothers of the other girls. And for those attending the more exclusive boys’ and girls’ colleges, there are formally arranged visits and parties—in s hort, dating patterns—established between them. On the college level, the ex- clusive schools become components of a broadened ma rriage market, which brings into dating relation the children of the up- per social classes of the nation. 5 The rich who became rich before the Civil War also became the founders of most old American families, and those who have become rich since then have joined them. The metrop olitan upper class which they have formed has not been and is not now a pedi- greed society with a fixed membership, but for all of that, it has become a nationally recognized upper social class w ith many ho- mogeneous features and a strong sense of unity. If new families are added to it, they are always wealthy families, and new or old, their sons and daughters attend the same types of e xclusive schools and tend to marry one another. They belong to the same associations at the same set of Ivy League colleges, and they re- main in social and business touch by means of the b ig-city network of metropolitan clubs. In each of the nation’s leading cities, they recognize one another, if not strictly as peers, as people with much in common. In one another’s biographies they recogn ize the ex- periences they have had in common; in their financial positions of brokerage firm, bank, and corporation, they recogni ze the inter- ests they would all serve. To the extent that busin ess becomes truly national, the economic roles of the upper classes become similar and even interchangeable; to the extent that politics be- comes truly national, the political opinion and activity of the up- per classes become consolidated. All those forces that transform a METROPOLITAN 400 69 confederation of localities and a scatter of compan ies into a cor- porate nation, also make for the coinciding interes ts and func- tions and unity of the metropolitan 400. The upper social classes have come to include a variety of mem- bers concerned with power in its several contexts, and these con- cerns are shared among the members of the clubs, th e cousin- hoods, the firms, the law offices. They are topics of conversation around the dinner table, where family members and c lub associ- ates experience the range of great issues in a quite informal con- text. Having grown up together, trusting one anothe r implicitly, their personal intimacy comes to include a respect for the spe- cialized concerns of each member as a top man, a po licy-maker in his own particular area of power and decision. They spread into various commanding circles of the institutions of power. One promising son enters upon a high gove rnmental career—perhaps the State Department; his first cousin is in due course elevated to a high executive place in the he adquarters of a corporation; his uncle has already ascended to naval command; and a brother of the first cousin is about to become the president of a leading college. And, of course, there is the family law firm, whose partners keep in close touch with outlying me mbers and with the problems they face. Accordingly, in the inner circles of the upper classes, the most impersonal problems of the largest and most importa nt institu- tions are fused with the sentiments and worries of small, closed, intimate groups. This is one very important meaning of the upper- class family and of the upper-class school: ‘background’ is one way in which, on the basis of intimate association, the activities of an upper class may be tacitly co-ordinated. It is also important be- cause in such circles, adolescent boys and girls are exposed to the table conversations of decision-makers, and thus ha ve bred into them the informal skills and pretensions of decisio n-makers; in short, they imbibe what is called ‘judgment.’ Witho ut conscious effort, they absorb the aspiration to be—if not the conviction that they are—The Ones Who Decide. Within and between the upper-class families as well as their firms and offices, there are the schoolboy friendships and the prep schools and the college clubs, and later the key so cial and political clubs. And, in all these houses and organizations, there are the 70 THE POWER ELITE men who will later—or at the time of meeting—operat e in the di- verse higher circles of modern society. The exclusive schools and clubs and resorts of the upper social classes are not exclusive merely because their members are snobs. Such locales and associations have a real part in b uilding the upper-class character, and more than that, the conn ections to which they naturally lead help to link one higher circle with an- other. So the distinguished law student, after prep school and Har- vard, is ‘clerk’ to a Supreme Court judge, then a corporation law- yer, then in the diplomatic service, then in the law firm again. In each of these spheres, he meets and knows men of hi s own kind, and, as a kind of continuum, there are the old family friends and the schoolboy chums, the dinners at the club, and each year of his life the summer resorts. In each of these circles in which he moves, he acquires and exercises a confidence in his own a bility to judge, to decide, and in this confidence he is supported by his ready ac- cess to the experience and sensibility of those who are his social peers and who act with decision in each of the impo rtant institu- tions and areas of public life. One does not turn one’s back on a man whose presence is accepted in such circles, eve n under most trying circumstances. All over the top of the nation, he is ‘in,’ his appearance, a certificate of social position; his voice and manner, a badge of proper training; his associates, proof a t once of their acceptance and of his stereotyped discernment. 4 The Celebrities ALL those who succeed in America—no matter what their c ircle of origin or their sphere of action—are likely to become involved in the world of the celebrity. This world, which is now the Ameri- can forum of public honor, has not been built from below, as a slow and steady linking of local societies and metropolitan 400’s. It has been created from above. Based upon nation-w ide hierar- chies of power and wealth, it is expressed by nation-wide means of mass communication. As these hierarchies and the se media have come to overlay American society, new types of prestigeful men and women have come to compete with, to supplem ent, and even to displace the society lady and the man of pe digreed wealth. With the incorporation of the economy, the ascendancy of the military establishment, and the centralization of t he enlarged state, there have arisen the national elite, who, in occupying the command posts of the big hierarchies, have taken th e spotlight of publicity and become subjects of the intensive buil d-up. At the same time, with the elaboration of the national mea ns of mass communication, the professional celebrities of the entertainment world have come fully and continuously into the nat ional view. As personalities of national glamour, they are at the focal point of all the means of entertainment and publicity. Both the metropoli- tan 400 and the institutional elite must now compet e with and borrow prestige from these professionals in the world of the celeb- rity. But what are the celebrities? The celebrities are The Names 71 72 THE POWER ELITE that need no further identification. Those who know them so far exceed those of whom they know as to require no exa ct computa- tion. Wherever the celebrities go, they are recognized, and more- over, recognized with some excitement and awe. What ever they do has publicity value. More or less continuously, over a period of time, they are the material for the media of commun ication and entertainment. And, when that time ends—as it must—and the ce- lebrity still lives—as he may—from time to time it may be asked, ‘Remember him?’ That is what celebrity means. 1 In cafe society, the major inhabitants of the world of the celeb- rity—the institutional elite, the metropolitan soci alite, and the professional entertainer—mingle, publicly cashing i n one anoth- er’s claims for prestige. It is upon cafe society that all the spotlights of publicity often coincide, spreading the glamour found there to wider publics. For in cafe society national glamour has become a hard fact of well-established business routines. Cafe society exists in the restaurants and night cl ubs of New York City—from Fiftieth to Sixtieth streets, betwee n Third Ave- nue and Sixth. Maury Paul (the original ‘Cholly Kni ckerbocker’) seems to have invented the phrase in 1919 to indicate a small group of people who mingled in public but would not be likely to visit in one another’s homes. By 1937, when Fortune magazine printed an incisive report on cafe society, 1 the professional celeb- rities of erotic beauty and transient talent were w ell-planted at the key tables, along with such charter members of the old upper classes as John Hay (‘Jock’) Whitney. Cafe society is above all founded upon publicity. I ts members often seem to live for the exhibitionist mention of their doings and relations by social chroniclers and gossip columnis ts. Beginning as professional party-givers or as journalists, these chroniclers, along with headwaiters, have come to be professional cele brators and have shaped the world of celebrity as others know it. Maury Paul in 1937 was still commenting upon the accredited me tropolitan 400, although he covered their livelier aspects. His successor, to- day’s ‘Cholly Knickerbocker,’ one Igor Cassini, is not so limited. The world he writes about is more glossy than accre dited and cer- tainly is not bound by The Social Register. Around such names as THE CELEBRITIES 73 Stork Club, columnists of tabloid and television ha ve co-operated to fashion an aura of glamour seldom equaled in vol ume by the majesty of other courts. 2 Perhaps it began in the ‘twenties when socialites became really bored with Newport, and began to look to Broadway, then to Hol- lywood, for livelier playmates and wittier companions. Then, the speakeasy became a crossroads of Society and Broadw ay and Hollywood. ‘Its Ward McAllister was the bootlegger; its visiting list was Dun & Bradstreet’s; its Mrs. Astor could come from across the railroad tracks if only she came via Hollywood . . .’ ‘Prohibi- tion,’ write the editors of Fortune, ‘helped pull it out of private houses and respectable hotels into speakeasies in s earch first of a drink and then of adventure; the automobile and rad io industries gave it some new millionaires; rising real estate values drove Soci- ety out of its old brownstone houses into apartment s and recon- ciled it to standardized mass entertainment paralle l with new standardized mass housing; and if short skirts at first raised its eye- brows, Greenwich Village lowered its sex standard.’ 3 Five decades before, John L. Sullivan could not be recognized by Mrs. Astor’s Ward McAllister; but Gene Tunney wa s wel- comed by cafe society. And in 1924, what was the 400 to do, when the Prince of Wales seemed to prefer the jazz palace to the quiet homes of the proper families? 4 Cafe society rather than Newport frequently became the social target of new milliona ires. And the new upper classes of the time—much of their wealth derived from the entertainment industries—seemed to press less upon the old upper classes than upon cafe society, in which they found ready entree. Nowadays, cafe society often seems to be the top of such Ameri- can Society as is on national view. For, if its inh abitants do not have dinner rights in a few exclusive homes, they a re instantly recognizable from their photographs. Cafe society’s publicity has replaced the 400’s family-line, printer’s ink has r eplaced blue- blood, and a sort of talent in which the energy of hoped-for suc- cess, rather than the assurance of background or the manners of inherited wealth, is the key to the big entrance. In the world of the celebrity, the hierarchy of publicity has replaced the hierarchy of descent and even of great wealth. Not the gentleman ‘s club, but the night club, not Newport in the afternoon but Manhattan at 74 THE POWER ELITE night; not the old family but the celebrity. By 193 7, according to Fortune’s listings, about one-third of the cafe society ‘social list’ was not in The Social Register; 5 today the proportion is probably less than that. The professional celebrity, male and female, is the crowning result of the star system of a society that makes a fetish of com- petition. In America, this system is carried to the point where a man who can knock a small white ball into a series of holes in the ground with more efficiency and skill than anyone e lse there- by gains social access to the President of the United States. It is carried to the point where a chattering radio and t elevision enter- tainer becomes the hunting chum of leading industri al executives, cabinet members, and the higher military. It does n ot seem to matter what the man is the very best at; so long as he has won out in competition over all others, he is celebrated. T hen, a second feature of the star system begins to work: all the stars of any other sphere of endeavor or position are drawn toward the new star and he toward them. The success, the champion, accordin gly, is one who mingles freely with other champions to populate the world of the celebrity. This world is at once the pinnacle of the prestige system and a big-scale business. As a business, the networks of mass commu- nication, publicity, and entertainment are not only the means whereby celebrities are celebrated; they also select and create celebrities for a profit. One type of celebrity, accordingly, is a pro- fessional at it, earning sizeable income not only f rom working in, but virtually living on, the mass media of communic ation and dis- traction. The movie stars and the Broadway actress, the croon ers and the TV clowns, are celebrities because of what they do on and to these media. They are celebrated because they are d isplayed as celebrities. If they are not thus celebrated, in due time—often very short—they lose their jobs. In them, the panic for status has become a professional craving: their very image of self is depen- dent upon publicity, and they need increasing doses of it. Often they seem to have celebrity and nothing else. Rathe r than being celebrated because they occupy positions of prestige, they occupy positions of prestige because they are celebrated. The basis of the celebration—in a strange and intricate way—is at once personal THE CELEBRITIES 75 and synthetic: it is their Talent—which seems to me an their ap- pearance value and their skill combined into what i s known as A Personality. Their very importance makes them see m charm- ing people, and they are celebrated all the time: they seem to live a sort of gay, high life, and others, by curiously watching them live it, celebrate them as well as their celebrated way of life. The existence and the activities of these professio nal celebrities long ago overshadowed the social antics of the 400, and their competition for national attention has modified the character and the conduct of those who bear great institutional prestige. In part, they have stolen the show, for that is their business; in part, they have been given the show by the upper classes who h ave with- drawn and who have other business to accomplish. The star of the silver screen has displaced the golden debu- tante, to the point where the latter, in New York or Boston or even Baltimore, is happy indeed to mingle in cafe societ y with these truly national queens. There is no doubt that it is enormously more important to one’s prestige to have one’s picture on the cover of a truly big national magazine than in the societ y column of any newspaper in America or even ten of them. And there is no doubt who gets on the cover of such magazines. The top sp ot for young ladies is probably Life: during the decade of the ‘forties, no debu- tante from any city got there as a debutante, but n o less than 178 movie queens, professional models, and the like wer e there dis- played. More serious public figures too, must now compete for attention and acclaim with the professionals of the mass media. On provin- cial levels, politicians play in hillbilly bands; on national levels, they are carefully groomed and coached for the TV c amera, and, like other performers, the more important of them are subject to review by entertainment critics: ‘Last night’s “information talk” by President Eisenhower,’ Jack Gould of The New York Times reported on 6 April 195 4, ‘was much his most successful television appearance . . . The President and his television consultant, Robert Montgomery, a pparently found a “format” that enabled General Eisenhower to achieve re- laxation and immeasurably greater freedom of moveme nt. The result was the attainment of television’s most desired quality- naturalness … As the program began the President was shown 76 THE POWER ELITE sitting on the edge of a desk, his arms folded and a quiet smile on his lips. To his right—and the viewer’s left—was seen the flag. Then casually and conversationally he began speakin g. The same mood and tone were sustained for the next half hour … In past appearances when he used prompters, the President’s eyes never quite hit the camera; he always was looking just a hair to the left or to the right. But last night his eyes were dead on the lens and the viewer had a sense of being spoken to directly … As he neared the end of his talk and wanted to employ added emph asis, the General alternately knotted his hands or tapped the fingers of one on the palm of the other. Because they were intuiti ve his actions had the stamp of reality . .. The contents of General Eisenhower’s informal talk admittedly were not too earthshaking . . .’ 6 It is quite proper that ‘The New 400’ should be lis ted by the gossip columnist who, in the world of the celebrity, has replaced the well-bred man-about-town and the social hostess —the self- conscious social arbiters who once lent stability to the metropoli- tan 400. In charge of the publicity, these new arbi ters are not the obvious satellites of any of those about whom they write and talk. They are quite ready to tell us who belongs to ‘The New 400,’ as well as to identify them with ‘our magnificent a ccomplish- ments as a nation.’ In 1953, Igor Loiewski Cassini—who became ‘Cholly Knickerbocker’ during the nineteen-forties—published a list of 399 names which he believed to represent the ‘aristocracy of achievement in this country.’ 7 These, he holds, are people who are ‘loyal’ Americans, leaders in their field of work, men of ‘excel- lent character,’ men of ‘culture and taste,’ whole men having har- monious qualities as well as humility. Any such lis t, Cassini as- serts, would change from year to year, since it is leadership and humility that get them in and their children won’t make it unless they ‘have also bequeathed all the talents that hav e made them leaders.’ All of which is more or less complicated nonsense. Actually, Cassini’s list is a rather arbitrary selection from among the three types of people continuously, or on occasion, caugh t up in the world of celebrity: I. There are the professional celebrities—making up some 30 per cent of the list—names of the entertainment ind ustries, champions of sport, art, journalism, and commentating. The larg- THE CELEBRITIES 77 est sub-group among these are straight entertainers , although a handful of them could as well be considered ‘busine ssmen’ of the entertaining world. II. There are the metropolitan 400—but only some 12 per cent of them—people of family lineage and property. Some of these seem merely to have been born into such families, but the major- ity combine old families with active business positions. III. Well over half of ‘The New 400’—58 per cent—ar e simply people who occupy key positions in the major institutional hier- archies: most of these are government and business officials, al- though many are involved in both domains. There is also a small scattering (7% of the whole) of scientists, medical men, educators, religionists, and labor leaders. 8 2 As a social grouping, the metropolitan 400 has been supple- mented and displaced, but as individuals and as cli ques, they have become part of the national system of prestige. That system does not now center in the several metropolitan 400’s. For if, as we have said, the 400’s of various cities can find no one city to which to look, in all cities, large and small, they can all look to the nation- ally celebrated, and those among them with the incl ination and the money can join the world of the celebrity. What many local observers assume to be the decline of the big- city upper classes is, in fact, the decline of the metropolitan 400 as the most emphatic public bearer of prestige. 9 If members of the 400 do not become part of this national system, the y must with- draw into quiet local islands, living in another dimension than that of industrial and political power. Those who would now claim prestige in America must join the world of the celebrity or fade from the national scene. The metropolitan 400 reached its peak of publicized prestige as the top of the national system of prestige about the turn of the century. In the ‘eighties and ‘nineties, the older families had con- tended with newer families of wealth, but by World War I these newer families had gotten in. Today, the new wealth y of the post-Civil War period are among the established upper classes of various big cities all over the country. But, during the ‘twenties and ‘thirties, as we have seen, the new and more glamorous con- 78 THE POWER ELITE tenders for prestige came to overshadow the metropo litan 400’s, which thus had to contend not only with new upper c lasses, but the celebrities of the entertainment world as well. Even before the ‘twenties, complaints and reminiscences by memb ers of the 400 began frequently to be heard. 10 But all this is by no means to say that there is no longer a metropolitan 400. In fact, one feature of cafe society has remained ‘the celebrated socialites’ as well as ‘the society-minded celebrities’ who inhabit it. The prestige of the metropolitan 400 within cafe society is revealed by the fact that many people of older society and wealth could gain entree but do not care to do so. 11 But it is also true that the old certainty of posi- tion is no longer so firm among those who ‘do not c are’ to enter the ranks of the new celebrated. The metropolitan 400 has not declined at the same rate in all the major cities. The center of its decline, and its replacement in public view by cafe society, has been New York City, and g enerally in the Middle West, which apes the East. In Philadelphia a nd in the South, its decline has proceeded more slowly. ‘Society’ is quite di- verse: ‘In Atlanta, “the club you belong to counts” ; in Washington “anyone ‘official’ is society”; in Detroit it is “who you are in the auto industry”; in Miami “it’s simply your Dun & Bradstr eet rating.” In Los Angeles the new society is intertwined with the movie colony. “One thing that’s forced us to change,” explains th e Los Angeles Examiners Society Editor Lynn Spencer, “is that now when East- ern socialites come West, they’re more interested in seeing our movie stars than in meeting our own Western Society.” ‘ 12 In New York, the old Knickerbocker Society has virt ually with- drawn from the ostensible social scene; but, in Chicago it was still possible in 1954 for some two hundred pedigreed soc ialites, all supposedly with firm dinner rights, to know that Mrs. Chauncey McCormick—who serves impeccable dinners on gold pla te and Lowestoft china—was Queen of the Society which they formed. 13 The main drift in status, however, is clearly revea led by the parade of women who have been given American acclaim: 14 I. The type of woman known as The Salon Lady—who pa sses before us in the pages of Proust—has never been known in Amer- ica. The salon lady was the status representative of the household she commanded; as hostess, she judged who was and w ho was not to be admitted socially to it. If she gave birth to children, private THE CELEBRITIES 79 tutors, not she, educated them. And in her salon, w here courtiers jousted with one another intellectually for her attention, the value and the fact of monogamous virtue frequently broke down. Eroti- cism became a sort of competitive sport in which women and men conquered one another in ways that were intriguing and exciting. Apart from stray figures like Mabel Dodge of lower Fifth Ave- nue and Taos, New Mexico, there have not been women who ran genuine salons in the sense that salons were run as artistic and intellectual centers in Europe. The drawing rooms o f the most famous American society ladies have been more often peopled by bores than by dilettantish intellectuals. They have, of course, con- tained a ‘few dandies in the sense known to Savile Row and the boulevards of Paris,’ but their forte, as Dixon Wecter put it, has most usually been the mimicry of personalities and their ‘fame in repartee’ has often rested ‘upon the affinity between stammering and drollery.’ 15 The dominant type of ‘Society’ man in America be- tween the Civil War and World War I was rather the dancing man —the cotillion leader; and accordingly, discussion, let alone the type heard in the salon, has not played a noticeable part in the life of the American society lady. The society lady, who held the balls and arranged t he advan- tageous marriage for her daughter, was queen for only a relatively short period and only among a rather small public. The fashion- able lady may have longed for publicity, but as a fashionable lady she did not have much of a chance to get it. By the ‘twenties, when the mass media began their work with serious conseq uences, the society lady knew that her brief national time was over. II. The leading figure of metropolitan 400 during the ‘ twenties and ‘thirties was the debutante. Traditionally, the debut was for the purpose of introducing a young girl of high fam ily to an ex- clusive marriage market, and hence perpetuating the set of upper families as an exclusive circle. In 1938, about 1,000 debuts were made, at an average cost of $8,000 each; but they c ould not really compete as spectacles with Hollywood. As a status m odel the deb- utante declined, not only because of the competition of the more entertaining glamour girls of the fashion industry and cafe society but because by the middle ‘thirties the metropolitan 400, as based on family lineage, had so diminished in social excl usiveness that the debutante had no Society into which to make her debut. Or, 80 THE POWER ELITE at least, it did not seem a well-enough defined Soc iety. By 1938, the editors of Fortune were noting that the vanishing of polite so- ciety left ‘the debutante all dressed up with no place to go.’ 16 Some debutantes of the ‘thirties tried to compete w ith Holly- wood. They hired press agents who saw to it that th eir pictures were in the newspapers and articles about them were printed in the national magazines. The ‘trick,’ Elsa Maxwell has said, was ‘to look so bizarre and so extreme that the truck drive rs gasp but the ever-present cameraman will be bound to flash a bul b.’ 17 As ‘glam- orous members of the younger set,’ interested in ch arities and horse-racing, their faces—with complexions ‘as translucent as ala- baster’—appeared, endorsing soap in the women’s mag azines. 18 Grade-A debutantes not only frequented midtown East Side bars, but also worked as mannequins and even as salesgirls in exclusive shops. But their very use by advertising media and fashion indus- try revealed the ambiguity of their ‘social distinction.’ Perhaps the extravagant private ball and the public ity that at- tended the debut of Brenda Frazier signified both t he height of the debutante as a publicized American woman and th e demise of the debutante’s monopoly on glamour. Today the d ebutante is frequently not ‘introduced to society’ at private parties at her parent’s sumptuous home; she comes out along with n inety-nine other girls at a large subscription dance in a hotel. 19 The assembly line of interlocking subscription dances is not so automatic ‘that it will produce a debutante no matter who is put into it . . . There are ten committees guarding the approaches to the d ebut in New York, though a girl need not pass muster with more than five . . .’ 20 To these subscription dances are attached most of t he social sec- retaries, who keep lists of sub-debs and debutantes and eligible boys and arrange coming-out parties. Business magaz ines advise executives as to when and how to arrange for their daughter’s debut, even if they are not listed in The Social Register. If the executive goes about it right, he is assured, his daughter ‘can be considered as successfully launched socially as if she were a blue- blood.’ 21 There are still private debuts, but the mass debuts now pre- dominate, and probably will so long as ‘society as a well-organ- ized, clearly defined group’ does not exist after t he debutante year. Yet the year of the debut is still of social importance, no mat- THE CELEBRITIES 81 ter how standardized, since ‘everything’s got to be crammed into that short period because after that it disintegrates.’ 22 In so far as the more socially prominent modem debu tante makes her debut into anything that will give her celebrity she makes it into cafe society. And, in so far as she is celebrated wide- ly, she must compete with the other glamorous occup ants of cafe society. The professional institutions of Conover a nd Powers, Mona Gardner reported in 1946, ‘have raised modeling to such a glamour pinnacle that eligible men would far rather have a Powers or Conover girl on the arm, or in the home, than on e of the blue- bloods.’ 23 m. In cafe society today there are still the crew-cut young men from Yale and the debutante, but now there are also the heavy expense-account executives and The All-American Girl. 24 In any New York night club on a big night at the time of the two-o’clock show her current model can be found: with the doll face and the swank body starved down for the camera, a rather th in, ganted girl with the wan smile, the bored gaze, and often the slightly opened mouth, over which the tongue occasionally slides to insure the highlights. She seems, in fact, always to be practicing for those high, nervous moments when the lens is actually the re. The terms of her competition are quite clear: her professional stance is the stance of the woman for whom a haughty kind of unco nquerable eroticism has become a way of life. It is the expensive look of an expensive woman who feels herself to be expensive. She has the look of a girl who knows her fate rests quite fully—even exclu- sively—upon the effect of her look upon a certain type of man. This is the queen—the all-American girl—who, whethe r she be debutante or fashion model or professional entertainer, sets the images of appearance and conduct which are imitated down the national hierarchy of glamour, to the girls carefully trained and selected for the commercial display of erotic promise, as well as to the young housewife in the kitchen. While the pu blic, by its imitation, openly supports her image as a piece of very fancy sex, it is duly shocked when disclosures are occasionally made reveal- ing the commercial fulfillment of this promise. But how could it be otherwise? The model’s money does not add up to muc h. But the men she meets have money, and her tastes quickly become expen- sive. The men she meets control careers, and she wants a career. 82 THE POWER ELITE She is of, but not solidly in, the world of breakfa sts at noon and the long lunch. The all-American girl sits at the top of cafe soci- ety, and cafe society, we must remember, is a profitable set of busi- nesses, supported by executives on expense accounts . And so the imitators of the queen sometimes become expense-acc ount girls. 25 No ‘New American Woman’ of Theodore Dreiser’s era k new as well as the all-American girl knows that ‘the wages of sin might easily be success.’ The public is quite used to the idea of vice, but it likes to think it involves only idle rich boys and poor country gi rls. The men in- volved in the vice of cafe society, however, are by no means boys; they are not idle; they need not personally be rich ; and they are not interested in poor or innocent or country girls. The women in- volved are not exactly girls; they may have come fr om smaller cities, but they are now very much big city; they are not innocent, and they are not exactly poor. One easily forgets t hat the under- side of the glamour of cafe society is simply a service trade in vice. Those engaged in it—the procurers, the prostitutes, the custom- ers, who buy and sell assorted varieties of erotica l service—are often known to their associates as quite respectable. And the all- American girl, as a photographed image and as a per son, is often a valued and indispensable helpmate to the great Am erican sales- man. Among those whom Americans honor none is so ubiquit ous as the young girl. It is as if Americans had undertaken to paint a continuing national portrait of the girl as Queen. Everywhere one looks there is this glossy little animal, sometimes quite young and sometimes a little older, but always imagined, alwa ys pictured, as The Girl. She sells beer and she sells books, cigarettes, and clothes; every night she is on the TV screen, and every week on every other page of the magazines, and at the movie s too, there she is. 3 We have noted that since Mrs. John Jay’s eighteenth -century dinner list, the political, military, and economic elite have not neatly coincided with those of superior social status. This is clearly reflected in the Society of Washington, D.C., today . In so far as there is a metropolitan 400 in Washington, it is merely one ele- THE CELEBRITIES 83 ment in the social life of the Capitol, and is, in fact, overshadowed and out-ranked by official Society, especially by t he Embassy Row along Massachusetts Avenue. Yet not all officials t ake Society seri- ously, and some avoid it altogether; moreover, key officials, re- gardless of social qualifications, must be invited, and, given the facts of politics, the turnover rate is high. 26 If cafe society and all that it represents has inva ded and dis- tracted New York Society, the ascendancy of politic s and the fact of political turnover have made Society difficult t o maintain in Washington. There is nothing that could be called c afe society in Washington; the key affairs are in private houses or in official resi- dences, and most elaborately in the embassies with their titled attaches. In fact, there is no really firm line-up of Society in Wash- ington, composed as it is of public officials and p oliticians, of fam- ilied hostesses and wealthy climbers, of widows wit h know-how and ambassadors with unofficial messages to impart. Yet prestige is the shadow of money and power. Wher e these are, there it is. Like the national market for soap or automobiles and the enlarged arena of federal power, the nation al cash-in area for prestige has grown, slowly being consolidated into a truly na- tional system. Since the men of the higher politica l, economic, and military circles are an elite of money and power, they accumu- late a prestige that is considerably above the ordinary; all of them have publicity value and some of them are downright eminent; in- creasingly, by virtue of their position and by means of conscious public relations, they strive to make their names n otable, their actions acceptable, their policies popular. And in all this, they tend to become national celebrities. Members of the power elite are celebrated because o f the po- sitions they occupy and the decisions they command. They are celebrities because they have prestige, and they ha ve prestige because they are thought to have power or wealth. It is true that they, too, must enter the world of publicity, become material for the mass media, but they are sought as material alm ost irrespec- tive of what they do on and to these media. The prestige of the Congressmen, John Galbraith has re- marked, 27 is graded by the number of votes he controls and by the committees he is on. The official’s importance is set by the number of people working under him. The prestige of the businessman is 84 THE POWER ELITE measured less by his wealth or his income—although, of course, these are important—than by the size of his business. He borrows his prestige from the power of his company as measured by its size, and from his own position in its hierarchy. A small businessman making a million a year is not so important and does not have the national prestige enjoyed by the head of a major co rporation who is making only two hundred thousand. In the militar y ranks, of course, all this is made formal and rigid. At the turn of the century, the nationalization of status meant that there were rising elite groups with which local upper classes in every town and city of the nation had to compare themselves, and that when they did so, they came to realize that only locally were they at the top. Now, fifty years later, it me ans that, and much more. For what separates that age from ours is the rise of mass communication, the prime means of acclaim and even a cre- ator of those acclaimed. From the coincidence of the mass media and the big organization there has emerged the pres tige of the national elite. These national means of mass communication have been the channels through which those at the top could reach the underlying population. Heavy publicity, the techniq ue of the build-up, and the avaricious demand of the media fo r continuous copy have placed a spotlight upon these people such as no higher circles of any nation in world history have ever had upon them. The big institutions are in themselves graded world s of pres- tige. They are stratified by level of office, with each level carrying its appropriate prestige. They constitute a hierarc hy of people who by training and position defer to those above them, and come in time to respect their commanders who have such e normous power over them. No one can have such an organized deference group below him, and possess such powers of command as it pro- vides, without also acquiring prestige among those who are di- rectly of the big institution itself. Instead of servants, there is the row of private se cretaries; instead of the fine old house, the paneled office; instead of the private car, the company’s limousine, the agency’s chauffeur, the Air Force’s motor pool. Frequently, of course, there are both the fine old house and the paneled office. Yet the prestige of the elite is, in the first instance, a prestige of the office they command rather than of the families to which they belong. THE CELEBRITIES 85 The position held in the national corporation has b ecome a ma- jor basis for status claims. The corporation is now the organized power center of the propertied classes; the owning and manage- rial elites of the big-city upper class, as well as the members of local society, now tend to look to the corporation in claiming and in assigning prestige to one another, and from it they derive many of the status privileges they enjoy.* Inside the co rporation and outside it among other corporate worlds as well as in the country at large, they gain the prestige of their positions. As the national state becomes enlarged, the men who occupy the command posts within it are transformed from ‘merely dirty politicians’ into statesmen and administrators of note. Of course, it is true that the status pretenses of politicians have to be held carefully in curb: high political figures, even whe n it goes against their status grain, have had to learn to be folksy, and, from the standpoint of more ceremonial codes, vulgar in thei r tone of speech and style of life. Yet as the power of political institutions becomes greater, the men at the top become celebrit ies in a na- tional system of prestige that cannot very well be resisted. As military men have become more powerful during th e wars and during the war-like interludes between, they too have joined the new national prestige scheme. They, as well as policemen, derive such importance as they have from the simple fact that violence is the final support of power and the final resort of those who would contest it. Only when revolution or crime threaten to disturb domestic order does the police captain, and only when diplomacy and war threaten international order, do the gener- als and admirals, come to be recognized for what at all times they are: indispensable elements of the order of power t hat prevails within and between the national states of the world. A nation becomes a great power only on one conditio n: that its military establishment and resources are such that it could really threaten decisive warfare. In the rank order of states a na- tion must fight a great war successfully in order t o be truly great. The effective force of what an ambassador says is a rather direct reflection of how mighty the general, how large and effective the fighting force standing back of him, is supposed to be. Military power determines the political standing of nations, and to the ex- * See SEVEN : The Corporate Rich. 86 THE POWER ELITE tent that nationalism is honored, to that extent ge nerals and ad- mirals share decisively in the system of national honor. The public prestige of these various institutions v aries, and ac- cordingly the prestige of their elites. The prestige of public office and military position, for example, is higher in ti mes of war, when business executives become dollar-a-year men and ra ilroad colo- nels, and all groups rally behind the militant state at war. But when business-as-usual prevails, when businessmen l eave gov- ernment to others, public office and military status have often been vilified, as the prestige of public employment is deflated in favor of big business. During the ‘twenties the president of General Elect ric appar- ently was considered too valuable a man to be presi dent of the United States;* and, even during the ‘thirties, members of the mere cabinet of the United States were not always t o be placed on an equal footing with members of very rich families.** Yet this * ‘. . . In his inside circle of business and legal associates,’ Ida Tar- bell has noted of Owen D. Young, ‘while everyone ag rees that he would make a “great president,” there is a feeling that he is too valuable a pub- lic servant where he is, to be, as one man put it t o me, “spoiled by the presidency” … He has other admirers that intimate as much: Will Rogers who wants to keep him “to point to with prid e”; Dr. Nicholas Murray Butler, who in introducing him in the fall of 1930 at a compli- mentary dinner said: “Our guest of honor is a publi c servant, although he holds no office. Whether the public servant receives office or not is accidental, and if this public servant by accident does assume office, as likely as not it is apt to reduce a great deal of the public servant’s public service.” ‘ 28 Mr. Young stated in his own economic metaphysics in 1931: ‘A cer- tain amount of horseplay seems to be required as stage effect for the functioning of democratic government. The world has learned that it can afford a certain amount of horseplay in politics. It is awakening to the realization that it cannot have horseplay in economics . . . Charm- ing as politics may be at times on the stage, she i s often petulant and petty in the dressing rooms . . . Nothing is cleare r, from the experi- ences of the last ten years, than the necessity of keeping our economic machinery and especially our finance free from the domination and control of politics.’ 29 ** Thus Harold Ickes writes concerning a ‘state visit from the heads of one political entity to those of another political entity’: ‘Only a few chosen souls were asked to sit on the porch where t he King and Queen spent most of their time, and apparently Jim Farley was the only mem- THE CELEBRITIES 87 lack of esteem for political office when compared w ith high cor- porate position has been changing and will change m ore—as the several elites come closer together within the state, and all of them learn better how to avail themselves of the me ans of public- ity well within their powers to buy, command, or ot herwise use. Those whose power or wealth exceeds their reputation will all the more readily become engaged in the means of publici ty. More and more they play to the microphone and the lens as well as the news conference. 31 4 Those who are familiar with the humanities, we should recall, often shy at the word ‘prestige’; they know that in its origins it means dazzling the eye with conjuring tricks. Prestige, it is often held, is a mysterious force. ‘Whatever has been a r uling power in the world,’ Gustave Le Bon once remarked, ‘whether it be ideas or men, has in the main enforced its authority by m eans of that irresistible force expressed by the word “prestige” . . . Prestige in reality is a sort of domination exercised on our mind by an in- dividual, a work, or an idea . . .’ This domination ‘paralyzes our critical faculty’ and fills us with ‘astonishment and respect. . .’ 32 Mr. Gladstone much preferred ‘honor’ to ‘prestige.’ But, of course, as Harold Nicolson has noted, 33 the meaning of prestige varies in the several countries of the western world.* Moreover, men of power do not want to believe that prestige is merely some- ber of the Cabinet, aside from the Hulls, who was c onsidered worthy of inclusion among the elect. But J. P. Morgan was the re and John D. Rockefeller, Jr., and Mrs. Cornelius Vanderbilt, etc. The rest of the members of the Cabinet milled about with the common herd down on the lawn, some fifteen hundred of them, and at not too frequent inter- vals the King and Queen would graciously go down am ong the herd bowing here and there and being introduced to some of the more se- lect.’ 30 * In France ‘prestige’ carries an emotional association of fraudulence, of the art of illusion, or at least of something adventitious. In Italy, too, the word is often used to mean something ‘dazzling, deceptive or leg- endary.’ And in Germany, where it is a definitely foreign word, it cor- responds to the German Anshen or ‘esteem’; or to de r Nimbus, which is close to our ‘glamour’; or it is a variant of ‘national honor,’ with the hys- terical obstinacy everywhere associated with such p hrases. 88 THE POWER ELITE thing nice that is given to the powerful. They want their prestige to imply that other people are prepared to believe in their power ‘without that power having either to be demonstrate d or exer- cised.’ But still this conception is neither complete nor satisfac- tory. In fact, it is a conception of prestige very convenient for the already powerful—for those who would maintain it ch eaply, with- out having to use power. And, of course, it is convenient for such people to believe that their repute is based on ami able virtues rather than past power. Yet it is true that the power of guns or of money i s not all there is to prestige. Some reputation must be mixed with power in order to create prestige. An elite cannot acquir e prestige without power; it cannot retain prestige without reputation. Its past power and success builds a reputation, on which it can coast for a while. But it is no longer possible for the power of an elite based on reputation alone to be maintained against reputation that is based on power. If the prestige of elite circles contains a large element of moral reputation, they can keep it even if they lose cons iderable power; if they have prestige with but little reputation, their prestige can be destroyed by even a temporary and relative decli ne of power. Perhaps that is what has happened to the local societies and met- ropolitan 400’s of the United States. In his theory of American prestige, Thorstein Veble n, being more interested in psychological gratification, tended to overlook the social function of much of what he described. B ut prestige is not merely social nonsense that gratifies the individual ego: it serves, first of all, a unifying function. Many of the social phenom- ena with which Veblen had so much fun—in fact most ‘status behavior’—serve to mediate between the elite of various hierar- chies and regions. The locales of status are the meeting places for various elites of decision, and leisure activities are one way of se- curing co-ordination between various sections and e lements of the upper class. Like high families and exclusive schools, status ac tivities also provide a marriage market, the functions of which go well beyond the gratifications of displayed elegance, of brown orchids and white satin: they serve to keep a propertied class intact and un- THE CELEBRITIES 89 scattered; by monopoly of sons and daughters, ancho ring the class in the legalities of blood lines. ‘Snobbish’ exclusiveness secures privacy to those who can af- ford it. To exclude others enables the high and mighty to set up and to maintain a series of private worlds in which they can and do discuss issues in which they train their young informally for the decision-making temper. In this way they blend impe rsonal de- cision-making with informal sensitivities, and so shape the charac- ter structure of an elite. There is another function—today the most important— of pres- tige and of status conduct. Prestige buttresses power, turning it into authority, and protecting it from social challenge. ‘Prestige lost by want of success,’ Le Bon has remarked, ‘dis appears in a brief space of time. It can also be worn away, but more slowly, by being subjected to discussion . . . From the moment prestige is called in question it ceases to be prestige. The gods and men who have kept their prestige for long have never tolera ted discussion. For the crowd to admire, it must be kept at a distance.’ 34 ‘Power for power’s sake’ is psychologically based o n prestige gratification. But Veblen laughed so hard and so co nsistently at the servants and the dogs and the women and the spo rts of the elite that he failed to see that their military, economic, and politi- cal activity is not at all funny. In short, he did not succeed in re- lating a view of their power over armies and factor ies to what he believed, quite rightly, to be their funny business. He was, in my view, not quite serious enough about status because he did not see its full and intricate importance to power. He saw ‘the kept classes’ and ‘the underlying population,’ but in his time, he could not really understand the prestige of the power elite. 35 The heart of Veblen’s conception of prestige, and e ven some of its terms, were set forth by John Adams in the late eighteenth cen- tury. 36 But to know that John Adams anticipated much of Ve blen’s idea is in no way to deprecate Veblen, for is not his theory essen- tially an extended piece of worldly wisdom, long kn own and per- haps often stated, but stated by Veblen in magnific ent form and at a time when it could take hold of a literate pub lic? Adams, however, went farther than Veblen in at least two r espects: He was shrewder psychologically—and more complicated; among his comments we also come upon certain passages in which he 90 THE POWER ELITE tries to connect status phenomena, conceived as the realities of social and personal life, with the political sphere, conceived, as his generation was wont, as a problem of constituti on building. Adams understands the status system of a nation in a way that Veblen does not, as politically relevant, and in this we had better listen to John Adams: ‘A death bed, it is said, shows the emptiness of ti tles. That may be. But does it not equally show the futility of riches, power, lib- erty, and all earthly things? .. . Shall it be inferred from this, that fame, liberty, property and life, shall be always d espised and neg- lected? Shall laws and government, which regulate s ublunary things be neglected, because they appear baubles at the hour of death? ‘.. . The rewards … in this life, are esteem and admiration of others—the punishments are neglect and contempt—nor may any- one imagine that these are not as real as the others. The desire of the esteem of others is as real a want of nature as hunger—and the neglect and contempt of the world as severe a p ain, as the gout or stone … It is a principal end of government to regulate this passion, which in its turn becomes a principal means of gov- ernment. It is the only adequate instrument of orde r and subordi- nation in society, and alone commands effectual obe dience to laws, since without it neither human reason, nor standing armies, would ever produce that great effect. Every personal quality, and every blessing of fortune, is cherished in proportion to its capacity of gratifying this universal affection for the esteem, the sympathy, admiration and congratulations of the public . . . ‘Opportunity will generally excite ambition to aspi re; and if even an improbable case should happen of an excepti on to this rule, danger will always be suspected and apprehended, in such circumstances, from such causes. We may soon see, that a form of government, in which every passion has an adequate counter- poise, can alone secure the public from the dangers and mischiefs, of such rivalries, jealousies, envies and hatreds.’ Just what does Veblen’s theory of status have to sa y about the operations of the political economy? The metropolitan 400—about which Veblen wrote—did not become the center of a n ational sys- tem of prestige. The professional celebrities of the mass media are THE CELEBRITIES 91 without power of any stable sort and are in fact ep hemeral figures among those we celebrate. Yet there is an elite demand for some sort of organ ization of enduring and stable prestige, which Veblen’s analysis misses. It is a ‘need’ quite consciously and quite deeply felt by the elite of wealth and especially the elite of power in the Uni ted States to- day. During the nineteenth century neither the political nor the mili- tary elite were able to establish themselves firmly at the head or even near the head of a national system of prestige . John Adams’s suggestions, which leaned in that direction, were n ot taken up. 37 Other forces and not any official system of distinction and honor have given such order as it has had to the American polity. The economic elite—for this very reason it is uniquely significant—rose to economic power in such a way as to upset repeate d attempts to found national status on enduring family lines. But in the last thirty years, there have been signs of a status merger among the economic, political, and military elite. As an elite of power, they have begun to seek, as powerful men every- where have always sought, to buttress their power w ith the man- tle of authoritative status. They have begun to con solidate their new status privileges—popularized in terms of the e xpense ac- count but rooted deeply in their corporate way of life. As they come more fully to realize their position in the cultural world of nations, will they be content with the clowns and t he queens—the professional celebrities—as the world representativ es of their American nation? Horatio Alger dies hard, but in due course will not those Ameri- cans who are celebrated come to coincide more clear ly with those who are the most powerful among them? The rituals o f demo- cratic leadership are firmly expected, but in due course will not snobbery become official and the underlying populat ion startled into its appropriate grade and rank? To believe otherwise, it might seem, is to reject all that is relevant in human history. But on the other hand, the liberal rhetoric—as a cloak for act ual power—and the professional celebrity—as a status distraction— do permit the power elite conveniently to keep out of the limelight. It is by no means certain, just at this historical juncture, that they are not quite content to rest uncelebrated. 92 THE POWER ELITE 5 In the meantime, the American celebrities include t he trivial as well as the grim. Behind all The Names are the i mages dis- played in tabloid and on movie screen, over radio and television —and sometimes not displayed but just imagined. For now all of the higher types are seen by those lower down as celebrities. In the world of the celebrities, seen through the magnifying glass of the mass media, men and women now form a kaleido scope of highly distracting images: In downtown New York, on a short street with a graveyard at one end and a river at the other, the rich are getting out of com- pany limousines. On the flattened top of an Arkansa s hill, the grandson of a late mogul is creating a ranch with the enthusiasm of a schoolboy. 38 Behind a mahogany table in the caucus room of the United States Senate, seven senators lean toward the tele- vision lenses. In Texas an oil man, it is said, is taking out two hun- dred thousand dollars a day. 39 Somewhere in Maryland people in red coats are riding to hounds; in a Park Avenue ap artment, a coal miner’s daughter, having lived in the married state for twenty months, has just decided to accept a five-and-one-h alf million dol- lar settlement. 40 At Kelly Field, the General walks carelessly be- tween rows of painfully rigid men; on Fifty-Seventh Street, ex- pensive women inspect the taut manikins. Between La s Vegas and Los Angeles, an American-born Countess is found dead in her railway compartment, lying full-length in a long mink coat alongside a quarter of a million dollars worth of jewelry. 41 Seated in Boston, a board of directors orders three indust rial plants moved, without employees, to Nashville. And in Wash ington, D.C., a sober politician, surrounded by high military aides and scientific advisers, orders a team of American airmen to fly to- ward Hiroshima. In Switzerland are those who never know winter exce pt as the chosen occasion for sport, on southern islands those who never sweat in the sun except at their February leisure. All over the world, like lords of creation, are those who, by travel, command the seasons and, by many houses, the very landscape they will see each morning or afternoon they are awakened. Here is the old whiskey and the new vice; the blonde girl with the moist mouth, THE CELEBRITIES 93 always ready to go around the world; the silver Mer cedes climb- ing the mountain bend, going where it wants to go for so long as it wants to stay. From Washington, D.C., and Dallas, Texas, it is reported that 103 women have each paid $300 for a g old lipstick. On a yacht, with its crew of ten, somewhere off the Keys, a man of distinction lies on his bed and worries about the report from his New York office that the agents of the Bureau of In ternal Revenue are busy again. Here are the officials at the big desks with the four telephones, the ambassadors in the lounge-rooms, talking earnes tly but some- how lightly. Here are the men who motor in from the airport with a secret service man beside the chauffeur, motorcyc led outriders on either flank, and another tailing a block behind. Here are the peo