Socialization and the Transfer of Values
elite never disappears because it is self perpetuating. Young
people who are on their rise to the top accept the values of the power
elite, making them their own.
Though the majority of the power elite is made
up of upper class individuals, there is a very small segment
of the elite that is not. These are the people who are still on
their rise to the top, and while on their way up, are socialized into an
upper class belief system. After all, a prerequisite to rising up
the ladder of power seems to be attending one of the nation's
prestigious universities, which Dye defines as Harvard, Yale, Chicago,
Stanford, Columbia, MIT, Cornell, Northwestern, Princeton, Johns
Hopkins, Pennsylvania, and Dartmouth (9). According to Dye's
study, at least 50% of top corporate leaders in the areas of industry,
utilities, insurance, investment, media, law, foundations, education,
and politics have come from one of these schools.
It is at these prestigious universities that
students develop certain class-specific habits. Robert
Gransfield points out that the "habits and tastes developed by these
students direct the vast majority away from lower status
legal positions. In fact, affiliating with the social network at
Harvard demands that students gravitate toward positions in large urban
law firms, in spite of the reservations they may harbor (10)."
Therefore, a student who doesn't originally come from the upper class -
who may have initially intended to change the system after receiving his
degree from a prestigious university - is socialized into being part of
the system, and eventually becomes a member of the power elite.
Additionally, upwardly mobile managers are also socialized into the
upper class. As Domhoff points out, new managers "come to
believe that they have to be part of the 'old-boy network' to succeed in
the company (11)." One of the primary reasons that managers feel
this way is because of the great uncertainty that surrounds the decision
making process at the top of complex organizations, which makes trust
essential (12). What better way for new managers to develop trust
with those around them than to conform to their belief systems and
behaviors. As sociologist Rosabeth Kanter says, "It is the
uncertainty quotient in managerial work, as it has come to be defined in
the large modern corporations, that causes management to become so
socially restricting; to develop tight inner circles excluding social
strangers; to keep control in the hands of socially homogenous peers
||Clarence Thomas is one
individual who encapsulates this process of socialization in which upper
class values are accepted by or conferred upon rising members of
society. Thomas, who grew up in the poor neighborhood of Pin
Point, Georgia, could never have imagined that he would one day become
one of the associate justices of the Supreme Court. Through
|hard work and determination, Thomas was able to
rise to the top. However, on his way up, he adopted the values of
the upper class as his own. During his tenure on the Supreme
Court, Thomas has continuously proven to be one its most conservative
members. He has repeatedly stood against affirmative action.
Even the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People was
unsure about supporting his confirmation to the high court. And
perhaps most significantly, Thurgood Marshall - one of the justices who
was most instrumental in the fight to end segregation, and the justice
who Thomas replaces - was fervently against Thomas' appointment.
Thomas' progression is an excellent example of this process of
socialization. For all intents and purposes, the power elite is
composed of upper class individuals. And if these individuals
cannot yet be considered upper class from a financial standpoint, they
have adopted an upper class belief system, and are well on their way to
economic prominence. Traditionally, top government officials are
chosen from the pool of corporate upper class members and members of the
pseudo upper class. To Domhoff, "most top appointees in both
Republican and Democratic administrations are corporate executives and
corporate lawyers - and hence members of the power elite(14)."
Therefore, it follows that top government officials exceedingly
represent the values of the corporate sector, and hence, the values of
the upper class. This situation directly diminishes the existence
of democracy in America. Power is not vested in the people, but
rather in an extremely small segment of the population. Nearly all
of those individuals who make the decisions that affect the entire
nation come from the same upper class mold. Their decisions reflect this
mold, which conditions them to view the world through a certain biased
filter. How can a tax increase on the upper classes of America
ever occur, if those responsible for making such decisions are
themselves part of the upper class?
(9) Dye, Thomas.
Domhoff, William. 93. Domhoff, William. 93. Domhoff, William.
Domhoff, William 240.
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