Ruling America offers a panoramic history of our country's ruling elites from the time of the American Revolution to the present. At its heart is the greatest of American paradoxes: How have tiny minorities of the rich and privileged consistently exercised so much power in a nation built on the notion of rule by the people?
In a series of thought-provoking essays, leading scholars of American history examine every epoch in which ruling economic elites have shaped our national experience. They explore how elites came into existence, how they established their dominance over public affairs, and how their rule came to an end. The contributors analyze the elite coalition that led the Revolution and then examine the antebellum planters of the South and the merchant patricians of the North. Later chapters vividly portray the Gilded Age "robber barons," the great finance capitalists in the age of J. P. Morgan, and the foreign-policy "Establishment" of the post-World War II years. The book concludes with a dissection of the corporate-led counter-revolution against the New Deal characteristic of the Reagan and Bush era.
Rarely in the last half-century has one book afforded such a comprehensive look at the ways elite wealth and power have influenced the American experiment with democracy. At a time when the distribution of wealth and power has never been more unequal, Ruling America is of urgent contemporary relevance.
Undoubtedly, Ruling America provides valuable insight into historical periods that trace the growing power of an elite ruling class, but perhaps its true value lies in the questions the narrative prompts about the balance of power in the world’s most powerful nation… A pertinent reference for scholars in the fields of business, economic and political history. For business historians in particular, this book provides a solid foundation to explore the machinations of big business and government inside America’s ruling class in the context of a triumphant agenda.
One of the enduring mysteries of American politics, from the days of the Constitutional convention to the Bush administration, has been how, in a democracy, wealthy elites have managed to exert a powerful influence on public life. In this book, some of our finest historians address this question and in so doing offer a host of new insights into our national past and present. Class is the feature of American life that dares not speak its name, but these essays go a long way toward explaining how it operates in American politics.
This is a powerful set of essays on a sorely neglected subject: the history of the American elite in a world it has come to dominate. U.S. society has become less egalitarian in recent years, and Fraser and Gerstle’s polished and provocative anthology helps explain how it got that way.
Ruling America is a splendid collection of superbly written essays that probe the nature and importance of inequality in income and power over a 250-year period of American history. It succeeds in reintroducing concepts like ‘ruling class,’ ‘elite,’ and ‘establishment’ into our political and historical vocabulary. It is an impressive accomplishment.
- 384 pages
- 1-1/16 x 5-1/2 x 8-1/4 inches
- Harvard University Press
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