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Superclass: The Global Power Elite And The Worl...

Superclass: The Global Power Elite and the World They Are Making is a book about global governance by American author David Rothkopf, released in March 2008 by publisher Farrar, Straus and Giroux. The book claims that the world population of 6 billion people is subject to the immense influence of an elite (i.e. The Superclass) of six thousand individuals.

Superclass: The Global Power Elite and the Worl...

Brown is far from the only one who could tell such a tale. "Davos man" is an epithet coined by the conservative scholar Samuel Huntington to describe the very specific type that attends the conference. These are people who, as Huntington wrote, "have little need for national loyalty, view national boundaries as obstacles that thankfully are vanishing, and see national governments as residues from the past whose only useful function is to facilitate the elite's global operations."

Not everyone Rothkopf writes about in "Superclass" is a Davos man, but despite his efforts to remain impartial toward "the global power elite" he describes, you can tell that the elect milieu of the WEF gives him a palpable thrill. The book opens with a scene of the author making his way through the town's frozen streets, recognizing CEOs, oil company executives and Harvard professors on his way to a fondue restaurant. Suddenly, he's greeted effusively by a bestselling inspirational writer with whom he has been trading e-mail: Paulo Coelho, "an icon of the global literary scene"! (The literary scene? I don't think so, though Coelho certainly is a publishing phenomenon.)

Rothkopf's credible, if not especially original argument in "Superclass" is that over the past several decades a "global elite" has emerged whose connections to each other have become more significant than their ties to their home nations and governments. They schmooze regularly at conferences like Davos, go to the same schools, serve together on corporate and nonprofit boards, and above all do business with each other constantly -- to the point that they have become a kind of culture in themselves, a "class without a country," as Rothkopf puts it. Furthermore, these people are "the new leadership class for our era."

A former undersecretary of commerce in the Clinton administration and an officer in an assortment of "advisory" firms (including Kissinger Associates, run by former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, and the consulting company Rothkopf himself founded, Garten Rothkopf), Rothkopf is an insider of sorts, well enough connected to sit in on meetings of power brokers without quite being one himself. He also writes Op-Eds on international affairs for major newspapers and is a visiting scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, positions that require the display of some critical distance. "Superclass" isn't as condemnatory as Naomi Klein's anti-globalization manifesto "No Logo," let alone the conspiracy theorizing of "The Iron Triangle," Dan Briody's exposé of the Carlyle Group, but it doesn't merely fawn over its subjects, either.

"Superclass" makes a case that today's elites are an improvement on those of the past: Instead of inherited aristocracy or sheer military might, power is more likely to go to the smart, ambitious and hardworking. Membership is fluid to an unprecedented extent, with new people muscling their way into the inner circle and slackers dropping out of the bottom all the time. Still, as Rothkopf points out, the ranks of this elite are overwhelmingly older males of European descent who graduated from prestigious Western colleges. Critics have been complaining for years that Davos is too Eurocentric, one reason why the Boao Forum for Asia was started for Eastern financial honchos in 1998.

Above all, like anybody else -- in fact, more than anybody else, given the obsessive, often narcissistic energy required of moguls, politicians and would-be messiahs -- these people are self-interested. However gifted, they should not be allowed to operate in a vacuum. The difficulty is that most of them exercise their power transnationally, while laws and regulations are confined within the borders of nation-states (which Rothkopf, in classic Davos-man style, regards as doomed). "We must resist the temptation to reflexively attack elites," he writes, since human societies need leaders and this is an able bunch, but elites ought to be more accountable to the millions of people whose lives they affect. Otherwise, as history (and the current upsurge in religious extremism) shows, they may provoke a violent and chaotic backlash.

Nevertheless, the likelihood of a world government forming to handle the situation is remote -- not while nation-states have any life left in them to defend their sovereignty. International institutions -- the U.N., especially, but also the IMF and the World Bank -- are weak, or weakening, and are hemorrhaging credibility. The answer, according to Rothkopf, is not global government, but "governance," fewer formal agreements and mechanisms among international entities. The registration and management of Internet domain names (via a collection of organizations) is one example of this sort of governance, orderly and helpful in a way you wouldn't automatically associate with Rothkopf's ominous-sounding definition of the term: "Fulfilling government roles with mechanisms" that "lack the full traditional power, authority or mandates of governments."

Still, Rothkopf insists that elites ought to look out for the disadvantaged. "If the global decisions that take place out there only serve the powerful," he writes, "and many of the people making the decision are not elected or chosen by the people, the average person is going to recognize they have less influence. So it won't just be unfair, it will produce a backlash." One such "backlash" is the administration of Venezuela's Hugo Chavez, a leader characterized by Rothkopf as part of "the global network of antiglobalists." Chavez has made political theater out of taunting and thwarting the global elite. No wonder one of the book's chapter sections is titled "Is a Crisis Inevitable?"

This is a tall order indeed. Of course, the power elite are not entirely indifferent to the world's problems. The Davos conference often spotlights issues like poverty in Africa and global warming, and high-profile charities such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Clinton Global Initiative suggest that at least some of the superclass feel obliged to step in where national governments have failed to do anything substantive. Deciding on how best to gentle the masses, how to settle on standards of global economic conduct and how to enforce those standards won't be easy, though. Fortunately for the superclass and anyone seeking to work with them, there are consulting companies like Garten Rothkopf ("an international advisory firm specializing in emerging markets investing and risk management related services") to turn to!

The other thing that you'll find in "Superclass" is names, lots and lots of names. At times, Rothkopf's breathless citing of notables, accompanied by the banal details of their C.V.s and hobbies, made me waspish enough to mutter an old saying of indeterminate origins: Great minds talk about ideas, average minds talk about things and small minds talk about people. Yet, to be fair, people are among the things that Rothkopf has to offer his clients, specifically his knowledge of and acquaintances among the very superclass he celebrates and scolds. One thing "Superclass" assiduously demonstrates is that whatever the mistakes of the global elite, Rothkopf has been around to witness a few of them firsthand.

The Superclass - politicians, military leaders, finance gurus, energy barons, media moguls and thought leaders - is the small group that currently plays the greatest role in shaping the progress of globalisation and perhaps the group most changed by that phenomenon, so much so that they have more in common with one another than they do with their own countrymen. And because this group frequently operates outside all national and international regulation, they are often in conflict with the elite in their own countries. Rothkopf offers a provocative and trenchant examination of the overlapping international power clusters. He reveals who is a member of this global Superclass and who is likely to be joining it and transforming it in the years ahead. And he will explore how the aggressive pursuit of self-interest by some in this class helped to create a world in which inequity is greater than ever - something that may well threaten international stability in our lifetimes.

Each of them is one in a million. They number six thousand on a planet of six billion. They run our governments, our largest corporations, the powerhouses of international finance, the media, world religions, and, from the shadows, the world's most dangerous criminal and terrorist organizations. They are the global superclass, and they are shaping the history of our time.Today's superclass has achieved unprecedented levels of wealth and power. They have globalized more rapidly than any other group. But do they have more in common with one another than with their own countrymen, as nationalist critics have argued? They control globalization more than anyone else. But has their influence fed the growing economic and social inequity that divides the world? What happens behind closeddoor meetings in Davos or aboard corporate jets at 41,000 feet? Conspiracy or collaboration? Deal-making or idle self-indulgence? What does the rise of Asia and Latin America mean for the conventional wisdom that shapes our destinies? Who sets the rules for a group that operates beyond national laws?Drawn from scores of exclusive interviews and extensive original reporting, Superclass answers all of these questions and more. It draws back the curtain on a privileged society that most of us know little about, even though it profoundly affects our everyday lives. It is the first in-depth examination of the connections between the global communities of leaders who are at the helm of every major enterprise on the planet and control its greatest wealth. And it is an unprecedented examination of the trends within the superclass, which are likely to alter our politics, our institutions, and the shape of the world in which we live. 041b061a72


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