much power do we have in the world? Those of us with a
million dollars or so, while incalculably more comfortable
and protected than the remaining 97% of the population,
are not part of the "upper class" or "the power elite."*
In fact, like most people, we have little say in far-reaching
corporate and government decisions that affect our lives.
this power elite depends on the
compliance (whether willing, unconscious, or coerced)
of the vast majority. Throughout history, sweeping political
and social changes have occurred because multitudes of
ordinary people organized to influence or overthrow the
wishes of that elite.**
in part to the greater freedom and flexibility wealth
brings to our lives, those of us with wealth have much
to offer this organizing: everything from the ability
to work at lower-paid jobs with high social impact, to
greater confidence working within the existing power structures
(e.g., legal, banking).
many of us are waiting to be galvanized by just the right
world-changing project or movement (which never seems
to come along). Only then (we tell ourselves) will we
risk a truly substantial commitment of money or time.
This attitude creates a self-perpetuating circle: for
lack of human and monetary resources, many potentially
powerful ideas never take off. All big changes start small
and depend on the support of people who have a vision
of what they can become.
history, great gains in human rights and dignity--the
end of slavery, women's right to vote, civil rights, the
40-hour work week--have been won with the support of individual
people with wealth (usually behind the scene) who took
the risk and put their passion and their funds behind
these movements. Together we can release this same power
for positive change into the 21st century.
Domhoff argues that about .5% of the population is "upper
class," but that only the leadership of this upper class
(with the collaboration of less affluent upper-management
executives in business and government) is the "power elite"
or "ruling class."
This view of power is adapted from
Power and Struggle
by Gene Sharp. This is the first of three volumes that
examine how this view of power has played out historically
through 198 forms of nonviolent action.
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