Superclass: The Global Power Elite And The World They Are Making

Superclass: The Global Power Elite And The World They Are Making

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by David Rothkopf

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They number six thousand on a planet of six billion. They run governments, corporations, the media, world religions, and, from the shadows, the world's criminal and terrorist organizations. They are the global superclass, and they are shaping our world. Drawn from exclusive interviews and in-depth reporting, Superclass offers an unprecedented analysis of the


They number six thousand on a planet of six billion. They run governments, corporations, the media, world religions, and, from the shadows, the world's criminal and terrorist organizations. They are the global superclass, and they are shaping our world. Drawn from exclusive interviews and in-depth reporting, Superclass offers an unprecedented analysis of the connections and trends within the global community of leaders, a privileged group likely to alter our world.

Editorial Reviews

There are just over 6,000 people in the superclass. So says the author of this fascinating book, a field guide to the world's most élite citizens. See the rich and powerful in their natural habitats, from Davos and Bilderberg to the Bohemian Grove....
—Andrea Sachs
Kirkus Reviews
Some 6,000 people, about one for every million in the world's population, drive the decisions that directly affect the global economic climate in which our governments, corporations, military leaders, technocrats and workers must strive. In other words, they run our lives. So declares Rothkopf (International Affairs/Columbia Univ.; Running the World: the Inside Story of the National Security Council and the Architects of American Power, 2005, etc.), who dubs this elite the "Superclass." Members may be found in places like Davos, Switzerland, where the World Economic Forum convenes annually, or at gatherings in California's Bohemian Grove, where Republican powerbrokers howl and grunt like Neanderthals. Though international in origin, they share a number of traits: wealth (sometimes mega-wealth), blue-chip educations garnered at world-renowned universities and access to networked ways of getting things done that few of us can even imagine. Key clusters of these individuals comprise the top functionaries of national governments and those who peddle influence among them, the corporate elite, the power media and the military/industrial complex (now far more integrated and tightly knit across national borders). Together they are essentially herding the industrialized nations, including Asian giants China and India, into a corral that the author labels "global governance." His book details the means by which they acquire, negotiate and exercise the clout to do this. "It is hard to ignore the many ways they are the primary beneficiaries of the global order that they shape," opines Rothkopf, partner in an international consulting firm and a Washington insider in the Clinton Administration whoboasts firsthand experience of how power is wielded. An impressively knowledgeable guide to the world's elite and how they have coalesced as a kind of natural order. Agent: Esmond Harmsworth/Zachary Shuster Harmsworth

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The Global Power Elite and the World They Are Making

By Rothkopf, David Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Copyright © 2008
Rothkopf, David
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780374272104

Gentiana is a small restaurant that would scarcely warrant a second glance in any other village in Europe. It is rather traditional, only slightly more charming than the bland shops and modest hotels around it. One nearby storefront offers a remarkable array of Swiss Army knives, another boxes of chocolates, another fur hats and mountain gear. The restaurant has a cozy, neighborhood feel to it. Beside the door there is a blackboard highlighting a few specials, and on the ground floor there may be seating for twenty if they are both thin enough and friendly enough. Upstairs there are a few small rooms for private parties, the biggest of which seats ten people squeezed in on either side of a long narrow table. Most of its character comes from a feel of woody intimacy, the dark wood façade, dark wood floors, dark wood tables. In fact, for all its charm, it is definitely not a place for claustrophobes—or people with an extreme fear of splinters. The reason to go to Gentiana is the fondue, especially the cheese fondue, which is offered in robust portions that recall an era before cardiologists. My wife, Adrean, has a special weakness for fondue, and every year that we have gone to the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos we have gone to Gentiana for her birthday. We make reservations long in advance because during the week of theJanuary meetings, which are attended each year by more than 2,000 business and government leaders from around the world, getting a table at Gentiana is not much easier than getting one at renowned eateries like Aragawa in Tokyo, Gordon Ramsay in London, or Le Bernardin in New York. Perhaps more surprisingly, for that one week the clientele at this humble Swiss bistro looks pretty much the same as what you might find at those world-class restaurants. Of course, even during that week, there are still a few tables at Gentiana occupied by locals. One regular is a particularly garrulous drunk who loves to hobnob with the CEOs, heads of state, and rock stars who are wedged in, elbow to elbow, spinning hunks of bread on long forks in the pots of bubbling Gruyère. The local speaks only Swiss-German to the polyglot crowds around him, and few understand him, although judging by his demeanor the casual observer is not sure whether that has to do with the language he speaks or the local beer that he favors. No matter. He smiles and they smile, and the general effect is cheerful and relaxed. One afternoon during a recent Davos, my wife and I were hurrying along the sidewalk on our way to Gentiana. This can be dangerous, as the locals do not shovel away the snow and ice lurks just about everywhere. In fact, attendees at Davos can see with some regularity central bank governors and senior executives of the IMF and other distinguished middle-aged men and women swaddled in cashmere, calfskin, and politically incorrect pelts of many origins launched skyward, only to land on their broader, softer regions. We walked gingerly, therefore, but with purpose, knowing we were meeting our friends in just a few minutes. The weather was typical. A light snow was falling. It was very cold. But the Alpine air was crisp and dry and invigorating. We chatted about the meetings, who we had seen and who we hoped to run into. As we walked, we reflexively did what most of the visitors to this small mountain town do: We glanced at the people passing us in the street, trying to determine who they were. (Given the nature of Davos, they were likely to have been somebody.) It’s a ritual made easier by the fact that everyone at the meeting has to wear a badge around his or her neck at all times. The badge is used to get through the many security checkpoints—there are at least two Swiss soldiers and policemen in Davos for every delegate who attends the meetings—to register for sessions, and to let everyone know who you are. Your name is on the badge, along with the organization you represent. So too is your picture. People tend to walk with their badges dangling in plain sight so they don’t have to fumble with them getting in and out of buildings or past police. That’s how it was for everyone except for the universally recognizable—people like Bill Clinton, Bill Gates, Tony Blair, Bono, or Angelina Jolie. The badge-scanning move is so ubiquitous you might call it the Davos dip: Bend the knee slightly, cast a subtle glance downward, assess and move on. Leaving the Congress Centre and walking along Davos’s main street, the Promenade, we passed Thierry Desmarest, the CEO of Total; a small cluster of Harvard professors; a senior executive of Saudi Aramco; and a woman pulling her two small children on a sled. (She was local and the sled seemed to hint at the reason they don’t shovel the sidewalks.) We stopped briefly to chat with Tom Donohue, the CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, who happens to be my wife’s boss, then paused a few steps later to chat with an Indian-born U.S. venture capitalist with whom I had some business. It was a typical sample. Five minutes along the Davos Promenade in January offered a cavalcade of freeze-dried economic leaders from three continents. About two blocks from Gentiana, I was grousing about how one of the conversations that I had most wanted to have had resulted in a frustrating series of near misses. The objective was a long-delayed chat with Paulo Coelho, the Brazilian author of The Alchemist. Coelho has sold more than one hundred million copies of his books worldwide and is, after the Harry Potter  author, J. K. Rowling, the second-best-selling author on the planet. He is also one of the few cultural regulars at Davos, one of a handful of people who might offer a different perspective on the Davos zeitgeist. We had intended to meet almost a year earlier but, due to a series of scheduling mishaps, had repeatedly failed to do so. Finally, we aimed for Davos, but I had yet to lay eyes on him. What did I expect from a man who lived on the other side of the world and was constantly in motion—a Brazilian who lived much of the time in Europe and sold many of his books in Russia? There was a little bit of hubris in thinking we might ever be able to end up in the same place at the same time. And then: “Oh, my God,” said a voice I did not recognize, “it’s you.” A smallish man in a fur hat was staring at my name badge. He had a graying goatee, and he greeted me like a long-lost cousin. It was Coelho, appearing almost miraculously out of the Alpine mist as if conjured by our conversation. Passing along the sidewalk from the Congress Centre where we had just heard an address by the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, and comments from the Indian steel magnate Lakshmi Mittal, through the stream of big name boulevardiers, and then walking directly into this icon of the global literary scene—it was made clear again that Davos was truly the incarnation of Marshall McLuhan’s global village. It was like small-town Planet Earth, or the once-a-year Brigadoon of globalization: a community connected to everywhere and, in one way or another, to everyone. Indeed, during the course of this meeting, top trade ministers would caucus to try unsuccessfully to rescue global trade talks, Africa activists would meet with corporate chiefs and political leaders to seek funding for medical aid programs, global warming would “go mainstream” as mostly American skeptics were persuaded by session after session of expert views, and proponents of different solutions for dealing with everything from anxiety about immigrants to anxiety about terrorism would present their views directly to those in a position to implement them. If, as Hillary Clinton has asserted, it takes a village to raise a child, this seemed to be the village it took to run the world. Coelho and I had never met, but thanks to the wonders of the information age we had enough e-mail history that our conversation was familiar and fairly ebullient. He offered to have lunch, but we gestured toward Gentiana, explaining that we had a prior engagement. I eagerly made an appointment to sit down with him later that afternoon at the Kongress Hotel. Over the three and a half decades of its existence, this mountaintop gathering clearly had done more than merely transform Davos from sleepy ski town to cosmopolitan hub. More than a meeting place for international business, government, media, and cultural leaders, it now was a symbol for the knitting together of the world, literally and figuratively a summit of summits. The concept of what the political scientist Samuel Huntington called “Davos man”—the global citizen, the leader for whom borders were increasingly irrelevant—described a new leadership class for our era. When founded in 1971 by Klaus Schwab, the organization that would become known as the World Economic Forum had a narrower mission. It was focused on convening European business leaders for a discussion of that continent’s rather uncertain economic fortunes. To put the moment in context, it is worth recalling that in 1971, Europe was still living in the aftermath of World War II and was on the front line of the cold war, still more the self-anointed seat of civilization than the “modern” Europe of more modest, less imperial, more multilateralist inclinations. In fact, it was not until three years later that the first of Europe’s great colonial powers, Portugal, granted independence to Guinea-Bissau, Angola, and Mozambique. The United Kingdom, Ireland, and Denmark did not join the European Union until 1973. Though the Treaty of Rome had initiated the creation of Europe’s Common Market in 1957, it would be more than two decades before the Maastricht Treaty institutionalized the idea of a true single market among the nations of the continent. Europe was clearly in transition at the moment of the forum’s birth. I was in high school at the time, and in college when the World Economic Forum was really gaining its sea legs in the late 1970s. I’ll admit, international conferences didn’t really capture my imagination when I was a teenager, but my education was absolutely colored with the Western worldview of those times, with classical education built on the presumed superiority of European ideas and the history and cultural contributions of other regions seen as exotic and secondary. At Columbia University, we were required to take the “core curriculum,” which was built around two major courses. One, Humanities, was a survey course of the defining works in literature. The second, Contemporary Civilization, was a survey of the great works in political philosophy and related disciplines, beginning with the Greeks and continuing through the modern era. The two courses, in retrospect, were undoubtedly the highlight of my education and have benefited me probably every day of my life since I took them. (Of course, I did not recognize this at the time.) In Contemporary Civilization, we read—at the pace of one significant, sometimes mind-blowing, occasionally mind-numbing book a week—the writings of everyone (male and white) from Plato to Descartes to Darwin. Somewhere around Max Weber and other analysts and critics of modernity, the curriculum got more varied, with different professors assigning different texts, as it was harder to agree on what qualified as essential reading. One of the more popular assignments at that point in the course was The Power Elite by C. Wright Mills, a 1956 book that explored the national power structure in the United States. Mills, a former Columbia professor of sociology, wrote the book as a study of how America really worked. His central claim was that at the top tier of the business, government, and military communities, there was a remarkably small and overlapping echelon of “deciders.” This national “power elite” wascomposed of men whose positions enable them to transcend the ordinary environments of ordinary men and women; they are in positions to make decisions having major consequences . . . They are in command of the major hierarchies and organizations of modern society. They rule the big corporations. They run the machinery of the state and claim its prerogatives. They direct the military establishment. They occupy the strategic command posts of the social structure, in which are now centered the effective means of the power and the wealth and the celebrity which they enjoy.Mills asserted that these elites took similar paths to positions of privilege, ensuring that many among their homogeneous numbers knew one another. In addition, they often crossed sectors: from top roles in government to top roles in business, from the the White House cabinet to the boardroom, from military commands to politics, from one position of great responsibility to another. Thus, Mills claimed, they created a kind of interlocking directorate for the United States of America. Mills’s book was as much a critique as it was a description of this group and America’s midcentury leadership. It explored, in meticulous detail, the concentration of power among a comparatively few corporations and individuals, and the manifold links of American leaders to key institutions. The book then veered into polemic, lamenting the disproportionate influence of this group. One of the men who no doubt inspired many of Mills’s points, President Eisenhower, also best illustrated them. A former supreme allied commander in Europe as well as a former president of Columbia University, Eisenhower captured much of Mills’s spirit in his farewell address as president in 1961:[The] conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence—economic, political, even spiritual—is felt in every city, every State house, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society. In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. One little-remembered aspect of Eisenhower’s speech is that it contained not one but two central warnings. While the first, concerning the military-industrial complex, is more often cited, he also expressed equivalent concerns about the emergence of what he called the “scientific-technological elite.” His concerns, like Mills’s, reflect the zeitgeist of the 1950s, in which the predominant historical memory was of World War II and the subjugation of all U.S. political, financial, and industrial efforts to the goal of military victory. The predominant fear of the moment was of technology run amok as manifested in the growing threat of global thermonuclear war. Since Eisenhower spoke in 1961, technological innovation has not only fueled America’s unprecedented growth but it has empowered people in new ways; it perhaps even helped to bring down the United States’ cold war adversary, as the rise of the information age made it impossible for a closed society to compete. Yet, despite the resilient strength of America’s military-industrial establishment, defense spending and manpower have receded from their highs during World War II and the cold war years. In his speech, Eisenhower speaks of a 3.5-million-person military; today the U.S. military is only 1.5 million men and women strong (with nearly 1 million more in the reserves). He also notes that at the time of his speech the U.S. military budget exceeded the total net income of all U.S. companies. Today, while the defense budget exceeds $425 billion, the earnings of only the fifty most profitable U.S. companies top that number and, indeed, the combined revenues of just the top two, ExxonMobil and Wal-Mart, dwarf it, beating it by more than 50 percent. Without a doubt, corporate economic clout has grown dramatically. Mills’s book is still read and is now considered a classic critique of America’s power structure, but it is also clear that the world has changed profoundly in the fifty years since its publication.  Excerpted from Superclass by David Rothkopf. Copyright © 2008 by David Rothkopf. Published in March 2008 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, LLC. All rights reserved. 


Excerpted from Superclass by Rothkopf, David Copyright © 2008 by Rothkopf, David. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

What People are saying about this

Clyde Prestowitz
"David Rothkopf has written a super book about the people presently executing an historic shift of world economic and political power and about how they are doing it and why. If you want to know how your choices are being determined and the circumstances of your life conditioned, you must read this book."--(Clyde Prestowitz, President of the Economic Strategy Institute and author of Three Billion New Capitalists)
Ernesto Zedillo
"Thanks to Rothkopf's special blend of analysis, direct interaction with his subjects and vivid writing, this is a must read book for people interested in understanding the genesis of leadership in the new global economy."--(Ernesto Zedillo, Director of the Yale Center for the Study of Globalization and Former President of Mexico)
Richard Holbrooke
"Whether you like it or not, there is no way to deny the enormous, disproportionate, concentration of power and wealth in the hands of a relatively small number of people in the world today. David Rothkopf has described who they are, and how they operate and interact, vividly in his valuable (and often disturbing) new book."--(Richard Holbrooke, Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations)
Alan Blinder
"No, no vast conspiracy runs the world. But, according to Rothkopf's book, a tiny but diverse global elite, a Superclass, comes close. His finely-honed prose takes the reader on a joyous, entertaining, and erudite romp around the globe in search of that class."--(Alan Blinder, Former Vice Chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of the United States)
Lawrence Summers
"The activities of a growing cosmopolitan elite are having profound effects. They can be highly desirable when they promote international cooperation or more problematic when the interests of the elites diverge from those of their citizens. David Rothkopf's Superclass skillfully probes these issues and many more and should be read by all those concerned with the international economy and the evolving global system."--(Lawrence Summers, former U.S. Secretary of the Treasury)

Meet the Author


DAVID ROTHKOPF is the author of Running the World: The Inside Story of the National Security Council and the Architects of American Power . He is the president and chief executive officer of Garten Rothkopf, an international advisory firm. He teaches international affairs at Columbia University.

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Superclass: The Global Power Elite and the World They Are Making 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 8 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
David Rothkopf, an ex-director of Kissinger Associates, has written a revealing book. He notes that a tiny group of about 6,000 people has vastly more power than any other group on the planet, and that the richest 1,000 have more than twice the wealth of the poorest 2.5 billion. This class comprises mostly top businessmen, mainly from the USA and the EU. Concentration of capital leads to fewer and richer CEOs. Giant firms, banks and private equity companies are this class¿s base. It advances its interests through self-regulation, liberalised markets, privatisation, and the free movement of capital, labour and services. Increasingly, private firms now decide what public, elected bodies used to decide. This class pretends to help solve AIDS and Africa¿s poverty by throwing money at the problems ¿ but who does the work of doctoring and nursing, of planting and harvesting? Not Bill Gates or George Soros! What drives this accumulation of wealth at one pole and of poverty at the other? Could there be some connection? Rothkopf never thinks to ask where all this wealth comes from. He notes that some `defend elites for their role in globalization, believing that by globalizing they will ultimately help create a more equitable system¿. But this globalising has created this hugely unjust system. How could it turn into its opposite and create a fairer society? He argues, of course, against national sovereignty, and praises all capital¿s favoured bodies - the EU, the IMF, the World Bank, etc. But far from analysing what is happening and why, Rothkopf tells us little stories about his brief chats with the rich and famous. His favourite meeting is the annual World Economic Forum at Davos, where he can fawn on the godlike figures of Merkel, Sarkozy, Brown and Straw. This is an embarrassing book, like a long Hello! Magazine without the pictures. Preparing it doubtless extended Mr Rothkopf¿s social network, but it reveals little of the class he dotes on, while showing all too clearly that he has the mind and morals of a groupie.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is one of many books that states the globalist agenda for mankind. In no way is this agenda good for the common people of this planet. Eveything that the 'superclass' have done and will do is furthering their agenda of destroying the sovereignty of all counties, and yes that means America too. Destroying America's sovereignty will mean the end of our constitution and our way of life as we know it. If you think this book is out to help you fasion ways to join the elite you're sadly mistaken. Living in a half a million dollar house and driving a Mercedes does not make you apart of the elite. This book is a must read, in my view, because it is a way to learn why these people are your enemy. The first part in beating your enemy is learning about them.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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RolfDobelli More than 1 year ago
Conspiracy theories thrive on mystery, and no group is more mysterious than the planet's richest, most powerful people. Former U.S. Undersecretary of State David Rothkopf attempts to shed light on these shadowy figures using his experience with - and his detailed research into - their feeding habits and environments. Rothkopf deftly intersperses firsthand knowledge with hard data in describing the clout, backgrounds and goals of the people he identifies the "superclass." The result is a thorough examination of the 6,000 members of the global elite, their sources of power and the staggering amounts of money they control. The book comes alive in its behind-the-scenes tales of how these movers and shakers really roll. Rothkopf coyly demurs from listing them, while name-dropping plenty - but he sometimes bogs down in theory and conjecture. getAbstract suggests his who's who of the rich and famous for those seeking a glimpse of how the superclass runs the world.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I bought this book based on the jacket description but I was disappointed. Unlike 'Revolt of the Elites,' cited by the author, this book didn't seem to have much of a central thesis. It was more an amalgamation of information about the world's upperclass and, quite frankly, little that a casual reader of newspapers and magazines wouldn't already know: namely, that being male, scion of a wealthy family, and having the right connections via elite schools and jobs puts one in a position to become a member of the superclass. But the biggest disappointment was the author's failure to actually come up with a list of global elites. Bill Clinton, the Google founders, Bono and, yes, even Shakira apparently make the 'list', but none is provided. Everyone likes lists, whether it's David Letterman's top 10 or the Newsweek 100 best law schools editions. The author argues that there are 6,000 members of the 'superclass' but only touches on a few. I would have liked the author to take a stab at creating a list and given us readers something to discuss and argue about. Shakira?????
Guest More than 1 year ago
If you want to be all you can be, you need to understand what the world looks like through the eyes of those at the top. SuperClass is an excellent book that will help you to know yourself better as you get to know the elites better. Once you better understand the Elites, you can then proceed to reach out to them, because they are in the best position to change the world in directions that perhaps only those NOT at the top can fully appreciate the need for. You must let them know you exist and are important and that with their reach and leverage, while adopting the correct approach, they can change the world in ways few fully appreciate. Specifically you want to understand the coming 'Robotic Wageless Economy', and then reach out to the elites and persuade them to steer the world in the direction where the 'Robotic Wageless Economy' can become a reality in our lifetimes, emancipating humans from the machinery of economy and ushering in an Age of Recreation never before possible, and more likely if the SuperClass realizes its potential to achieve it, so READ the book SuperClass, you will enjoy it, and you will be better positioned to change the world by leveraging the SuperClass yourself !