Who Is the State, Ruling Class, and Power Elite?

It seems that most people even on the far left and far right have a limited perception and definition of what concepts like the “state,” “ruling class,” or “power elite” actually mean. It would also seem that we need a much more modernized and expansive definition of these concepts if we are going to be intellectually and strategically prepared to fight our common enemies in the future (assuming that is what we want to do, which many apparently do not).

Libertarians and some conservatives identify “statism” as the enemy but hold to a fairly narrow view of what the “state” actually is. The state is not merely the political institutions, the politicians and elected officials, or the administrative bureaucrats. The state is the full-range of government-created, propped up, favored, or allied institutions and organizations.

The socialists, Marxists, and other leftists criticize the “ruling class” or “capitalism” but with a somewhat narrow definition of these concepts. The ruling class is not merely those who control the “means of production” or “the rich,” but also those who control the political, administrative, cultural, educational, intellectual, professional, technological, and ecological resources of the society on a general level.

Both leftists and rightists will typically oppose only those elements of the “state” or “ruling class” that conflict with their respective tribal affiliations or norms, or which they personally oppose.

For example, how many American rightists actually consider clerical oligarchs (the Hagees, Robertsons, Falwells, Copelands, and Osteens) presiding over their personal fiefdoms, and who are connected to the right-wing of the plutocracy, military-industrial complex, and Israel Lobby to be part of the “ruling class” or “big government”? How many rightists consider the NRA with its ties to firearms manufacturers and the Republican Party to be part of the ruling class? Or right-wing think tanks such as the Heritage Foundation, Cato Institute, American Enterprise Institute, or Manhattan Institute? Or business and real estate organizations that dominate local governments in the manner of feudal lords during the medieval period? Or anti-immigration groups seeking government contracts to build detention centers or expand the police state?

How many American liberals and leftists would consider as part of the “ruling class” such sectors as the medical-industrial complex and Big Science (white coat priesthood), professional associations (the new monopolistic guilds), Big Education and Big Media (new clerisy), business unions/Big Labor (labor aristocracy), social media (Big Tech), environmental lobby and green energy industry (Big Green), the feminist/Women’s March industry (Big Pink), the gay rights industry (Big Lavendar), the civil rights industry (elite and bourgeois sectors among minority communities), the elephant in the room, Planned Parenthood, or United Against Gun Violence? Or pro-immigration groups seek new constituents, clients, and laborers?

Yet, all of these are not only connected to but intricately intertwined with the state and corporations, funded by the state and corporations, and regard the state and corporations as the means of advancing their objectives?

Obviously, we need to update our definitions of terms such as “statism,” the “ruling class” or the “power elite” and in ways that are free of our respective ideological, cultural, or tribal biases.

The Power Elite and the State: How Policy is Made in America ...