William Domhoff does not mince words. “Power in America,” he declared, “is all about social class.”
For nearly three hours on a balmy Monday night at Saint Mary's College, Domhoff, a sociologist and author of the bestselling Who Rules America?, sought to prove his statement with a barbed intelligence and a noticeable amount of indignation.
The portrait of American power that Domhoff created in his speech, entitled "Power, Politics and Social Change," was not a bright one. Income inequality and anemic social programs mar the landscape.
“One percent [of the population] has 42 percent of all the non-home wealth in America,” said Domhoff, who was invited to speak at SMC by Sociology Professor Robert Bulman. “...The next 4 percent [of the population] owns 30 percent of the wealth. The top 10 percent of the population owns America.”
He mourned the decimation of welfare, saying, “...It was finished off, and now people are dying. People are selling their food stamps for 50 cents on the dollar just to have enough to eat.”
Throughout the night, Domhoff never attempted to hide his political leanings. He attacked former President George W. Bush for “making FEMA a joke,” thus exacerbating the Hurricane Katrina disaster. On the Iraq war, he noted, “If you stand back and look at how incompetent they were in the execution of that war...it matters who wins elections.”
Whether one agrees with his views or not, his statements did not seem to be made out of malice or a sense of partisan bickering; instead, they were intertwined with his thesis that power in today’s United States is derived from social class.
He contended that Republicans “hate government for a simple reason; it is their only rival for power. They want to run things through voluntary organizations that they control.”
His presentation was not without glimpses of hope, though. He said the past election marked a slight turning point in the political landscape. Republicans “will stop the immigrant bashing. They will stop the gender bashing. They will stop talking about pregnancies and rape,” he predicted.
Finally, he addressed the Saint Mary’s audience directly. “Keep voting,” he said, encouraging them to get involved in the political process. “Make a coalition and get out there.”
By Christian Martinez ’13
Photos by Andrew Nguyen '14