James Petras is Binghamton University, New York Professor Emeritus of Sociology whose credentials and achievements are long and impressive. He’s a noted academic figure on the left, a well-respected Latin American expert, and a longtime chronicler of the region’s popular struggles as well as being an advisor to the landless workers (MST) in Brazil and unemployed workers in Argentina. Petras is also a prolific author. He’s written hundreds of articles and 63 books (and counting), published in 29 languages, including his latest one and subject of this review – “Rulers and Ruled in the US Empire.”
The book is information rich on a core issue of our time. It discusses the US empire’s “systemic dimensions,” evolving changes in its ruling class, its corporatist system, myths about its coming collapse, contradictions in the current debate on immigration and market liberalization policies, the use of force and genocidal carnage, corruption as a market penetrating tool, the Israeli Lobby’s power and influence, Latin American relations and events in the region, social and armed resistance, and much more in four power-packed parts under 17 subject chapter headings.
It’s all covered below giving readers a detailed sampling of Petras’ thoroughly documented, powerful and insightful account of his subject – who rules America, who’s ruled, the US imperial role in the world economy and politics, and challenges to it in China, Latin America and the Middle East. This is another must-read book by a distinguished intellect and major figure on the left who writes dozens of them. This is his latest.
Part I: The US Empire As A System
Petras distinguishes between who sets policies and rules America and whose interests are served. He defines the ruling class as “people in key positions in financial, corporate and other business institutions” with rules “established, modified and adjusted” as the composition and “shifts in power” within the ruling class change over time. One example is manufacuring’s decline (from outsourcing to low cost countries) as a “multidimensional financial sector” (finance capital) rose in prominence with Wall Street’s influence especially dominant.
Petras defines “finance capital” to include investment banks, pension funds, hedge funds, saving and loan banks, investment funds and many other “operative managers” of a multi-trillion dollar economy they’ve all benefitted hugely from. They’ve been the driving force powering real estate and financial markets speculation, agribusiness, commodity production and manufacturing. Petras calls “finance capital” the “midwife” of wealth and capital as well as a “direct owner of the means of production and distribution.”