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THINK-TANK-NETWORKS  July 2011

THINK-TANK-NETWORKS July 2011

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Subject:

Excerpt Domhoff

From:

Dieter Plehwe <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Dieter Plehwe <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Mon, 25 Jul 2011 16:04:39 +0200

Content-Type:

text/plain

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Just an example of what we may want to look for to move towards a 
proposal regarding what here are recognized as heterogeneous "policy 
planning networks" that wield influence through "expertise on social and 
political issues" (problem: Europe way more heterogeneous than U.S.. 
therefore arguably more competing transnational formation processesses 
of policy planning networks...)


from:
Domhoff, 
http://sociology.ucsc.edu/whorulesamerica/power/class_domination.html, 
access July 25, 2011

“It is worthwhile to look a little more closely at the foundations, 
think tanks, and policy-discussion organizations to show how they 
function as a "policy-planning network."

Tax-free foundations receive their money from wealthy families and 
corporations. Their primary purpose is to provide money for education, 
research, and policy discussion. They thus have the power to encourage 
those ideas and researchers they find compatible with their values and 
goals, and to withhold funds from others. Support by major foundations 
often has had a significant impact on the direction of research in 
agriculture, social science, and the health sciences. However, 
foundations also create policy projects on their own. The Ford 
Foundation, for example, helped to create a complex network of advocacy 
groups and funding sources for Community Development Corporations (CDCs) 
that provide housing and social services in the inner city.
The role of the think tanks is to suggest new policies to deal with the 
problems facing the economy and government. Using money from wealthy 
donors, corporations, and foundations, think tanks hire the experts 
produced by the graduate departments of the elite universities. The 
ideas and proposals developed by the experts are disseminated through 
pamphlets, books, articles in major magazines and newspapers, and, most 
importantly, through the participation of the experts themselves in the 
various forums provided by the policy-discussion organizations.
The policy-discussion organizations are the hub of the policy-planning 
network. They bring together wealthy individuals, corporate executives, 
experts, and government officials for lectures, forums, meetings, and 
group discussions of issues that range from the local to the 
international, and from the economic to the political to the cultural. 
New ideas are tried out in weekly or monthly discussion groups, and 
differences of opinion are aired and compromised. These structured 
discussion groups usually begin with a presentation by the invited 
experts, followed by questions and discussion involving all 
participants. Such discussion groups may range in size from ten to 50, 
with the usual group having fifteen to 25 members.
The many discussion groups that take place within the several 
policy-discussion organizations have several functions that do not 
readily meet the eye. They are often overlooked by theorists -- 
pluralists and state-autonomy theorists, primarily -- who do not believe 
that the upper class and corporate community have the ability to develop 
overall policy sophistication and thereby be in a position to influence 
the government. First, these organizations help to familiarize busy 
corporate leaders with policy options outside the purview of their 
day-to-day business concerns. This gives these executives the ability to 
influence public opinion through the mass media and other outlets, to 
argue with and influence experts, and to accept appointments for 
government service. Second, the policy-discussion organizations give 
members of the upper class and corporate community the opportunity to 
see which of their colleagues seem to be the best natural leaders 
through watching them in the give and take of the discussion groups. 
They can see which of their counterparts understand the issues quickly, 
offer their own ideas, facilitate discussions, and relate well to 
experts. The organizations thus serve as sorting and screening 
mechanisms for the emergence of new leadership for the corporate rich in 
general.
Third, these organizations legitimate their participants to the media 
and interested public as knowledgeable leaders who deserve to be tapped 
for public service because they have used their free time to acquaint 
themselves with the issues in nonpartisan forums. The organizations 
thereby help make wealthy individuals and corporate executives into 
"national leaders" and "statesmen." Finally, these organizations provide 
a forum wherein members of the upper class and corporate community can 
come to know policy experts. This gives them a pool of people from which 
they can draw advisors if they are asked to serve in government. It also 
gives them a basis for recommending experts to politicians for 
government service.
The organizations also serve obvious functions for the experts. First, 
presenting their ideas and policies to these organizations gives them an 
opportunity to have influence. Second, it gives them a chance to advance 
their own careers if they can impress the upper-class and corporate 
participants.
The policy-planning network is not totally homogeneous. Reflecting 
differences within the corporate community, there are 
moderate-conservative and ultra-conservative wings within it. Moderate 
conservatives favor foreign aid, low tariffs, and increased economic 
expansion overseas, whereas the ultra-conservatives tend to see foreign 
aid as a giveaway. Moderate conservatives tend to accept the idea that 
governmental taxation and spending policies can be used to stimulate and 
stabilize the economy, but ultra-conservatives insist that taxes should 
be cut to the very minimum and that government spending is the next 
thing to evil. Moderate conservatives accept some welfare-state 
measures, or at least they support such measures in the face of serious 
social disruption. Ultra-conservatives have consistently opposed any 
welfare spending, claiming that it destroys moral fiber and saps 
individual initiative, so they prefer to use arrest and detention when 
faced with social unrest.
The reasons for these differences are not well understood. There is a 
tendency for the moderate-conservative organizations to be directed by 
executives from the very largest and most internationally oriented of 
corporations, but there are numerous exceptions to that generalization. 
Moreover, there are corporations that support policy organizations 
within both camps. However, for all their differences, leaders within 
the two clusters of policy organizations have a tendency to search for 
compromise due to their common membership in the upper-class and 
corporate community. When compromise is not possible, the final 
resolution of policy conflicts often takes place in legislative 
struggles in Congress.
The existence of the policy-planning network provides evidence for 
another form of power possessed by the wealthy few: expertise on social 
and political issues. It is an important complement to the naked 
economic power possessed by the corporations.”









-- 
Dr. phil. Dieter Plehwe
- Internationalisierung und Organisation -
Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin für Sozialforschung gGmbH
Reichpietschufer 50
10785 Berlin
Deutschland

Telefon +49 - 30 - 25491 - 102
Telefax +49 - 30 - 25491 - 118

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