Thursday, February 11, 2010

Janine R Wedel: Shadow Elite

Shadow Elite: How the Worlds New Power Brokers Undermine Democracy, Government, and the Free Market
by Janine R Wedel

Publisher Comments:
How the nation is really run, and how decisions are really made, keep changing. Today, with the border between government functions and private consultants and lobbyists more porous and indistinct than ever before, new kinds of cliques and networks are assuming power. This is a transformation that, until now, we have lacked the concepts to understand. In Shadow Elite, anthropologist Janine Wedel charts, for the first time, the new system of power and influence that arose with the twenty-first century. At its apex are players and networks loyal only to their own. They relax government rules of accountability as well as business codes of competition, undermining government, free markets, and democracy itself.

The drive to privatize and deregulate, and the proliferation of complex technologies, have created an environment for players who redefine themselves as state or private, depending on the opportunities. From the manipulators who merged state and private power in the ruins of the Soviet empire to those who pushed us into a misguided war in Iraq, to those now playing at the margins of America's increasingly privatized foreign policy, Shadow Elite explains the spread of a new species in the ecosystem of public policy. Profoundly original, it speaks to theories of democracy, international relations, and the state, and will no doubt spark controversy.

"Using her expertise in Eastern European communist governments, author and public policy professor Wedel (Collision and Collusion) has pulled together a shocking expose of those dismantling U.S. democracy from the inside. Labeling the new breed of U.S. political operators 'flexions,' she finds individual roles as lobbyists, government insiders or elected officials converging into a single network 'snaking through official and private organizations, creating a loop that is closed to democratic processes.' Wedel shows how a core group of flexions (neo-conservative cold-warrior Richard Perle, retired four-star army general Barry R. McCaffrey, Obama financial advisor Larry Summers, etc.) have risen to power on an unprecedented confluence of four transformational 20th and 21st century developments: government outsourcing and deregulation, the end of the Cold War, the growth of information technologies, and 'the embrace of "truthiness."' By wearing several hats simultaneously (think tanker, retired military or government official, corporate representative, 'objective' expert), Wedel shows how a flexion can gain extraordinary insider knowledge and influence in order to custom-tailor a version of the 'truth' benefitting the highest bidder. In this way, they not only 'co-opt public policy agendas' but 'craft policy with their benefactors' purposes in mind.' This fascinating, authoritative wake-up call should satisfy any American who wants a handle on the republic's most successful agents of corruption." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)

Many people today feel that they're swimming in a sea of corruption. Who is really in charge? Why do the same people reappear under various professional identities, pressing a suspect agenda in one influential venue after another? According to award-winning public policy expert Janine Wedel, these are the shadow elite, and they are both powerful and dangerous.

In Shadow Elite, Wedel teaches us to recognize and understand how this new group blurs and erases the boundaries between government, private, and nonprofit organizations--all to their own benefit. The shadow elite ultimately answer only to each other. They can be found lurking behind the scenes of Iran-Contra, Blackwater, and the scandal of Harvard economists in post-Soviet Russia--and they are steadily gaining power. Profoundly original, Shadow Elite gives us the tools that we need to fight this disturbing, destructive, and antidemocratic trend.

Powell's Books review link

Shadow Elite: How the World's New Power Brokers Are Upending Our Democracy
By Janine Wedel, AlterNet
Posted on February 4, 2010, Printed on February 11, 2010

Wedel argues in her new book that a group of corrupted elites are destroying the principles that define modern states, free markets and democracy itself.

AlterNet Book Review article link print
AlterNet home page


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