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Bedtime for Democracy: The Power Elite as Sovereign Aristocracy in Neoliberal Amerika
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Leftist political theory in Amerika has struggled to understand the two most important issues facing us today: sovereignty and neoliberalism. In their efforts to understand neoliberalism, most scholars rely on either neo-Marxist or poststructuralist (Foucault) approaches, and in their efforts to understand sovereignty, scholars commonly turn to Carl Schmitt’s legalistic notion of sovereignty. Unfortunately, these approaches cannot produce a sufficiently descriptive account of sovereignty in neoliberal Amerika, which is why I turn to the sociological political theory of C. Wright Mills, articulating a power elite theory of neoliberalism that provides a ground for identifying the aristocratic structure of sovereignty in our historical period. First, I provide an empirically-supported account of the development of the Amerikan power elite from the 1950s to today. Rather than consisting of three directorates as Mills observed in the 1950s – political, economic, and military – the power elite today rules from only two directorates: the Corporate-Juridical Directorate and the Military-Juridical Directorate. Second, I turn to early modern political theory to identify two modes of sovereignty: legislative sovereignty and executive sovereignty, the latter of which consists of two principles, executive enforcement (of law) and executive prerogative. Third, I argue that, in neoliberal Amerika, the Corporate-Juridical Directorate wields legislative sovereignty and the Military-Juridical Directorate wields executive sovereignty. Ultimately, the Left should abandon its reliance on pluralistic and legalistic notions in order to understand the aristocratic sovereignty of the power elite.
SubjectC. Wright Mills
Anderson, Patrick D (2016). Bedtime for Democracy: The Power Elite as Sovereign Aristocracy in Neoliberal Amerika. Master's thesis, Texas A & M University. Available electronically from