Shadow Elite: How the World's New Power Brokers Undermine Democracy, Government, and the Free Market Hardcover – Nov 24 2009
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"This fascinating, authoritative wake-up call should satisfy any American who wants a handle on the republic’s most successful agents of corruption."
Financial Times, January 3, 2010
"A clarion call against some insidious threats to a healthy democracy."
Arianna Huffington, The Huffington Post, January 6, 2010
"…a gripping, disquieting book that exposes and explains why it's been so hard to bring about any real change in our country. "
BuzzFlash, November 25, 2009
" What makes Wedel's book so valuable is that she doesn't indulge in conspiracy theories that can't be proven; she provides the facts and describes how this informal group of elitists is fluid in moving among the powerful institutions that control public policy, including government."
James K. Galbraith, Author of The Predator State: How Conservatives Abandoned the Free Market and Why Liberals Should Too
"Of huge value. With an eye that sweeps from Poland and Russia to Cambridge and Washington, Janine Wedel has reinvented the study of public administration for an era of blurred roles and secret networks. Shadow Elite is a must-read for all who care about the future of government—even the possibility of decent government—in the age of flexians and truthiness."
Peter Bergen, Author ofHoly War, Inc. and The Osama bin Laden I Know
"Janine Wedel has written a thought-provoking and interesting book that explores the rise of powerful, informal networks that often drive what governments actually do. Her account of the 1990s "reformers" in Russia and their allies in the United States, as well as her analysis of the interlocking relationships and effects on history of the American neoconservatives are especially persuasive.”
Charles Lewis, Bestselling author and founder of the Center for Public Integrity
"Shadow Elite is a powerful, searing work about how, over time, public and private have become blurred—three out of four people doing the work of the federal government today are actually private contractors. Self-dealing and corruption have become endemic, with those wielding political influence and getting rich at our expense becoming less and less accountable. With this book, Janine Wedel has provided a magnificent public service."
Robert Jervis, Adlai E. Stevenson Professor of International Politics, Columbia University
" We think of networks and flexibility as good and desirable, but Wedel shows their dark side. In a study as fascinating as it is disturbing, she delves into political actors and groupings where influence is not linked to accountability. This is a path-breaking exploration of a part of our world that we really need to understand.”
About the Author
<b>Janine R. Wedel</b> is a Professor in the School of Public Policy at George Mason University and a fellow at the New America Foundation. Her previous books include<i>Collision and Collusion</i>. She lives in Washington, DC.<b><BR></b>
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
In this groundbreaking book, Dr. Wedel has identified what she calls "flex networks" of individuals who share a common ideology and, by playing an array of related and interwoven roles, work together to manipulate the policies and actions of governments, corporations, and NGOs. She labels these individuals "flexians" for the way they use multiple simultaneous and sequential roles to pursue the goals of their flex net, often to the detriment of the companies and governments they represent or advise.
Dr. Wedel presents her thesis and then illustrates it using three detailed examples of flex nets, the individuals involved, and the global effects of their actions over time. She stresses that these are not conspiracies and often their actions are legal or at least not provably illegal.
The first example is a flex net operating in Poland and Eastern Europe after the fall of the communists in Poland. Another chapter describes the "Harvard-Chubais" flex net that oversaw and bungled the privatization efforts in Russia in the early 90's. The third flex net she describes is the "Neocon core" consisting of individuals centered around Richard Perle, and how their activities, over a 30 year period, culminated most recently in helping to lead the USA into the Iraq war based on their preemptive war ideology and a campaign of manufactured disinformation.
In all these cases, these flex nets, or "Shadow Elite," significantly determine policy and action at global levels and do so beyond the control, oversight, or even recognition of any national or international authority.
Dr. Wedel does not claim to have answers to all the questions mentioned at the start of this review or even for the cases she presents. In fact, she makes a point of saying that her goal is to simply describe the reality of what is happening. It is up to us to understand this new insight and to determine if the results of this new form of organizing are compatible with the type of government, economy, and culture we want. If not, and that is likely the case, it will take a new type of recognition, oversight, and control to change the situation.
Gary Lyndaker, Gravois Mills, Mo
This is the beauty of words and language, because they define our understanding of our world. Without understanding our surroundings we remain ignorant and our responses to our environment are limited and in many cases such as the Iraq war disastrous.
Janine R. Wedel showed me that my experience with the organizational and enforcement tactics of street gangs in New York City slums was the best business education I could get. She explains how chaotic conditions are the best opportunities a resourceful person can get to break into the elite world controlled by monopolistic streaks in capitalism or the nomenclature/clan controlled world of post-communism. I have seen it, participated in it and benefited from it!
What I didn't realize was that this world I swam in was a recent social and political development. Janine R. Wedel in her masterful "Shadow Elites" has enlightened me to this nefarious world of greed, amorality and in the extreme cases, of traitorous behavior in the "Shadow Elite".
She has done what Adam Smith in his Wealth of Nations did, namely describe to the unsuspecting public the obvious. She has named names and their odious supposedly saintly deeds, their methods and the evolution of today's political and business climate and their symbiosis.
She has given as an example the Trotskyist party in America in the forties and how it morphed into the Neo Cons of today. She describes their gaming of today's government, which led our Nation into a criminal enterprise, namely the second Iraq war.
She also gives as an example the Harvard University-Russian Mafia Nexus in the guise of Larry Summers of Harvard and Anatoly Chubais of Russia. I have seen that work in real life when I did business in 1991-93 in Ukraine, Poland and Russia.
She is the real thing. I can see a trained scholar of public policy and anthropology. Her training and perceptive abilities are on par with Tocqueville.
She has identified why it is that we continue to go through the empty motions of voting, while everything meaningful goes on well above (or is it well below?) our heads; and why we are forced to listen to the same ethnically incestuous family of narrators beaming constantly across the spectrum of our media as if they were operating a neighborhood megaphone with a circular soundtrack to a bad movie. But as we conspiracy-minded thinkers always knew, it is due to an identifiable cabal -- my word, not the author's (who is almost Catholic in the restraint she shows in failing to call a spade-a-spade) of "Shadow Elite," a hydra-headed ethnically identifiable monster with the tentacles and all the aggressiveness of a metastasized malignant cancer.
This systemic parasite invades the body politic by worming its way into the upper echelon of the most intimate parts of our political and economic system, where its members become counselors to the presidents, high level consultants, media moguls, contractors, soldiers of fortunes, spies, Hollywood film producers, newscasters and expert news commentators, members of all the boards of the major corporations, heads of all the major NGOs, tenured university professors, members of all of the most influential political pacs, most of the GS-15s and above, on the top floors of any government office buildings; and most of all, the proverbial "movers and shakers" of the wall street money tree, where together they coalesce to form an incestuous network of interlocking interests, roping in the talented where needed from the major universities, who are completely unaware of the fact that they been recruited into a club of which they are the "outsiders" ("in" but not "of" the internal cliques) and who are mostly impervious to the larger interests they have been enlisted to serve.
Always operating in the gray zone, in the cracks between private and public interests, its ultimate goal is absolute power, apparently for the sake of power alone, to then be used to corrupt the arena in which power gets played out, and to do so, absolutely. Offering very little in the way of public good, and since evil is intrinsic to its very nature and purpose, this malignant organism has already caused, and promises to continue causing, a great deal more systemic harm to our political institutions and to our future than it has already. This creature has been sighted most prominently in an around the Washington D.C. environs, but may be seen hovering around the capitalist toughs of any modest industrialized national capitol. It is a fiendishly clever parasite that sucks the blood of its host countries without their citizens knowing what has happened to them only until it is far too late for them to take any remedial actions.
Its modus operandi is to short-circuit and confuse the control channels of our communication and information systems, and then to use the confusion it has created to collect and accrue a knowledge base that can be used to undermine and then take over the machinery of government, major financial institutions, and major corporations. Once it has evaded the state's increasingly weak immune system's defenses, this trans-national systemic actor goes systematically about the work of invading the vital organs of the state, where it then operates on both sides of the political divide, both above and below the surface; and both from outside of, and also from deep within the walls of its hosts. And although most of the time it appears to be operating out in the open, that image, as the author tells us here, is not to be trusted for it is a carefully stage-managed optical illusion designed mostly to mask and misdirect ones attention from the dirty work that is always going on behind the scenes and in the shadows.
This parasitic monster is deft, subtle of mind and agile on its feet: It is a chameleon like animal that can dance like a butterfly and sting like a bee. It is politically and ideologically promiscuous and will change the color of its jerseys (i.e., its political parties, and tribal identities and affiliations), its rules, its morality, its roles, and even its loyalties at will to suit only its own hidden agendas. It is allowed to continue operating well above (and often well below) the zone of accountability because "we the people" (and our paid-off and morally challenged elected representatives) are often convinced that those who make it up, are the "best and the brightest," the crème de la crème who will save us from ourselves and from the likes of GW Bush, Rush Limbaugh and Sarah Palin.
However, this feign is the organism's favorite strategem. Members of the cabal have discovered that Mao was wrong: it is also "limited attention span," and "mindless amusement," in addition to "religion" that is the "opiate of the masses." The cabal knows all too well that a "new managed and socially adjusted reality" for the masses is only a "sound bite," a "self-esteem building image" an "unnecessary war," the building of a few more jails, or a "Rapture prediction" away from societal contentment.
They know that American politics is about nothing if not about throwing a couple of pieces of raw meat into the political arena and then watching the "red and blue dogs" tear at each other's throats. If that is not enough to get a "Michael Vick" style dog fight started then there are always many other ways to divide and conquer: the endless social grid of binary forms of "foaming at the mouth hatred" on the American social scene is simply endless, mindless, unprecedented for any advanced culture and disgraceful. There are for instance: race, gender, sexuality, religion, abortion, evolution, guns, crime and class to name just the top seven. And for each of them there is a corresponding foaming at the mouth radio or TV talk show host who will use the 24-hour news cycle to cheer them on and inspire them to join the self-destructive national fray.
There are so many ways for the cabal to divide and conquer and amuse themselves with our mindless ignorance, as they quietly back their Mac trucks up to the back door of Fort Knox (as they did most recently in the carefully staged financial melt-down) that one wonders, whether or not their exquisite formula can be improved upon? The only justification for their own existence is that since "we the people" are stupid enough to allow them to get away with it, then they "the chosen" must be ordained and chosen by their own God (or even by ours) to allow it to happen. They follow the Bill Clinton mantra: "They do it because they can (get away with it, that is)"
According to this author, who is almost Catholic in avoiding making value judgments or giving negative characterizations of the machinations of this strange amoral beast, and although I did not find her word coinage clever or creative, and ached for her to put the whole piece into a larger theoretical frame, she still managed to describe the contours of the beast based on the traces that remain in the sand and in the wake of its destructive path, better than anyone else has so far. That along with her very careful research is surely worth five stars.
Read Family of Secrets by Russ Baker instead. Also read JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died and Why It Matters.Family of Secrets: The Bush Dynasty, America's Invisible Government, and the Hidden History of the Last Fifty YearsJFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died and Why It Matters
Wedel also toes THE LINE: she types the plattitude that intelligence agencies are ALWAYS under control of the president. Translation: I am still employable. Readers time is better employed looking at the crucial years between 1950-80, the years in which it became clear that elected officials no longer really mattered. If you make it to page 84 of Baker's book you will understand why Bush's funeral might not be as long as Reagan's on TV. This stuff is truly unbelievable, even for the most well read of organisms. The note from Oswald's #1 Dallas cia handler George DeMorhrenschildt-- written just days months before the latter was suicided so that he could not testify before the House Select Committee on Assassinations-- is the best kept secret in history as of 7am February 4th. But Bakers book does not leave these as isolated conspiratorial bread crumbs. Rather, it puts them in a context of immaculately documented corporate connections involving the elites at key intersections of the US economy. The false dichotomy--policed by such unhumble folk as Chomsky and Cockburn-- between ""Conspiracy Theory"" -- whatever this cowcatcher term means these days??-- and structural analysis is gone forever.
On a more postive note, the specific case histories the author uses are quite interesting with lots of new material. Most of these cases are from the last two decades of world politics and deal with the thickening grey wall between the public and private realms. The section dealing with US Corporate dealings with the newly emerging Republics of Eastern Europe are the best, IMO.
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