The American Establishment (Magill's Literary Annual 1981)
The American Establishment is a work by the well-known New York Times business and economics correspondent, Leonard Silk, and his son, Mark Silk, currently a history teaching fellow at Harvard University. This father and son team, springing from establishment institutions, in this book presents an interpretation of American historical development revolving around pivotal persons and institutions. Some people, from David Rockefeller on down, have questioned the past and present existence of an American establishment, but the Silks reach back into Colonial times to examine the roots of a number of currently influential American institutions. They conclude that there has always been and that there is now an American establishment. They argue that there are people and institutions that control the United States of America.
The Silks feel that there always has been an American leadership group and perhaps a “class,” but only after World War II did it crystallize into a structured “establishment.” In 1945, when the United States was thrust into the center of a world power vacuum, American businessmen and politicians found themselves overwhelmed with day-to-day national and international business and hence too busy to do long-range planning. A “third force” thus emerged from the universities, the press, and private foundations to help businessmen and politicians formulate policy options for American society. This third force, with its allies and supporters in traditional business and political circles, constitutes the present American establishment.
The Silks examine such present day institutions as Harvard University, The New York Times, the Ford Foundation, the Brookings Institution, and the Council on Foreign Relations, plus looser conglomerations within the American business and political community, from incipiency. They conclude that at the present time businessmen and politicians depend upon Harvard University professors’ academic expertise. Everybody relies upon The New York Times for day-to-day information. The Ford Foundation employs scores of administrators engaged in do-goodism. The Brookings Institution hires economists to think about the future direction of the American economy, while the Council on Foreign Relations houses political scientists busy tinkering with schemes to keep the world in some sort of order. There are whole pyramids of lesser organizations underneath each of these, feeding up to the top, so eventually “the best minds” direct the country from exalted establishment positions.
To be sure, there are American businessmen, politicians, journalists, academics, and assorted public and private administrators constantly attempting to have things their way; the Silks recite a long list of fights and squabbles among well-known personalities attempting to get...
(The entire section is 1169 words.)
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