Domhoff%20-Alternative%20Theories%20copy -...

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Contents Pluralism State Autonomy Elite Theory Marxism • A Detailed Critique of Marxism (retrieved January 5, 2009) Alternative Theoretical Views by G. William Domhoff April 2005 There are five rival theories that attempt to explain the power structure in the United States. The class-domination theory developed in my books and discussed on this Web site is most compatible with Four Networks theory of power developed by sociologist Michael Mann. The other four views on power in America are explained and critiqued from the perspective of the Four Networks theory. I will comment on both their general theory of power in Western civilization and their claims about the nature of the power structure in the United States. The first and most prominent of the rival views is called pluralism , which is rooted in the general theory of society developed by classical liberal theorists of the past three centuries; in the case of the United States, the liberalism-based theorists conclude there are multiple centers of power (and thus the term pluralism ). The second alternative is state autonomy theory. It is a general theory of recent Western civilization which stresses that government is always an independent force, thanks in part to its control of the military. It therefore says that the government in the United States is the most important power center. Third, there is a more recent theory, elite theory , which says that the leaders of big organizations inevitably dominate all large-scale societies, including the United States. Finally, there is Marxism , which says that property owners have ruled throughout Western history; proponents of the theory naturally conclude that there is class domination in the United States. Before discussing these theories, with an emphasis on their differences and shortcomings, it should be clearly understood that they do have overlaps on some issues, especially at the more empirical level of analysis. For example, pluralists talk of several "interest groups" that clash over government policies. That seems very different from the Marxist emphasis on the conflict between two rival social classes, the capitalist class and the working class. However, Marxists go on to say that the capitalist class has "fractions" or "segments" that can have disagreements with each other, and they stress that the working class is multi-layered and internally divided politically. In the pluralist view, interest groups form coalitions around various issues. For the Marxists, coalitions are primarily class segments coming together on issues basic to capitalism. Many of them would agree that the capitalist class is rarely united in its political focus, except on very major issues, and that the working class becomes cohesive and opposed to the capitalists even less often. Most of them would agree that sometimes, but not very often, there are alliances between one or another segment of the capitalist class and one or another segment of the working class. Thus, pluralists and Marxists might well agree about who is doing battle with whom on a given issue.
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Domhoff%20-Alternative%20Theories%20copy -...

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