It’s no secret that the 1%—the business elite that commands the largest corporations and the connected network of public and private institutions—exercise enormous control over the US government. While this control is usually attributed to campaign donations and lobbying, Levers of Power argues that corporate power derives from control over the economic resources on which daily life depends. Government officials must constantly strive to keep capitalists happy, lest they go on “capital strike”—that is, refuse to invest in particular industries or locations, or move their holdings to other countries—and therefore impose material hardship on specific groups or the economy as a whole. For this reason, even politicians who are not dependent on corporations for their electoral success must fend off the interruption of corporate investment. Levers of Power documents the pervasive power of corporations and other institutions with decision-making control over large pools of capital, particularly the Pentagon. It also shows that the most successful reform movements in recent US history—for workers’ rights, for civil rights, and against imperialist wars—succeeded by directly targeting the corporations and other institutional adversaries that initiated and benefitted from oppressive policies. Though most of today’s social movements focus on elections and politicians, movements of the 99% are most effective when they inflict direct costs on corporations and their allied institutions. This strategy is also more conducive to building a revolutionary mass movement that can replace current institutions with democratic alternatives.
“Young, Banerjee and Schwartz identify the importance of capital strikes in forcing government officials to provide the tax cuts, subsidies and regulatory cutbacks business demands. Focusing on key episodes during the Obama era, Levers of Power explains how capitalists really exert pressure on legislators and regulators and shows why popular forces accomplish more when they pressure capitalists with strikes, boycotts and demonstrations rather than targeting elected officials. This book is essential if we want to understand what tactics will be most effective in building mass power.”
“Levers of Power disrupts American democratic myths. Through rigorous research and penetrating analysis, Levers of Power dissects the power of elections, courts, Congress, politicians, presidents, lobbyists, social movements, and major corporations. It provides jarring and surprising conclusions of who really rules America; changes how we think about American centers of power; and which among them governs our lives. Everyone interested in democracy should read Levers of Power to become enlightened citizens.”
“Levers of Power is a powerful tool for activists and scholars alike, detailing how power remains in the hands of the 1% while also showing how elite institutions and structures can be undermined and even defeated, creating a world of, by, and for the 99%.”
“With principal case studies from the Obama era, Levers of Power illustrates the degree of institutionalized policy capture within Congress, federal agencies, and the White House itself. Even in the throes of an economic emergency, elites maintain several ways to impede reform.”
“Judging by past history, there's little reason to believe that even the most progressive corporations will "do the right thing." But collective action by ordinary people can compel them to. Mass disruption of business by workers, consumers, and renters can shift the costs of the crisis onto business owners. If we force them to bear the costs, they'll demand the needed changes in government policy, using sway that the average person simply lacks.”
“The biggest problem with the We-Must-Persuade-the-Majority argument is that most progressive victories in U.S. history did not enjoy majority support when they were won. In case after case, a radical minority disrupted the functioning of businesses and state institutions, which sought to restore stability by granting concessions and ordering politicians to do the same.”
“During times like this, analysts often look to the urban rebellions of the mid-to-late 1960s for insights about the impacts of “riots” and other unruly protest. Yet the early 1960s also hold vital lessons for today’s movement against police violence. The Southern movement against Jim Crow succeeded not just through moral appeals to whites, but by inflicting massive disruption on the one percent. In so doing, it brought to heel the police and the rest of the white supremacist power structure.”