Gerard Colby on the one percent
The rise of the top 1% occurred not in some social vacuum, but as a result of their relation with other social classes, particularly working people. The social relations between the 1% and the rest of us seldom get examined in history, political science or sociology classes. This is a subject rarely taught in our schools, and then most often in business classes in evaluating “human resources.” As anthropologist Laura Nader (sister of Ralph Nader) has pointed out, “studying up” – looking at the upper classes, instead of “looking down” at the lower classes -- is rarely if ever part of a university’s curricula. The history of the American economy is portrayed as mostly about businessmen, with working people usually given no more than scant attention, and then as mere appendages to the story of the corporate economy that portrayed the great fortunes of the upper class as incidental and justifiable reward. Corporate excesses are seen not as endemic to the system but unnecessary abuses by 19th century “Robber Baron” monopolists like oil’s Rockefeller, gunpowder’s du Ponts, banking’s J.P. Morgan, railroads’ Harriman, and steel’s Carnegie.
Along with the class biases that are transmitted through corporate foundation-funded universities comes a deep-seated, corporate-favored historical amnesia, amnesia about how the slavery of kidnapped people from Africa built the profits of not only Southern slaveholders but also Northern merchants and early textile and tobacco companies on both sides of the Atlantic; amnesia about how the corporate “Great Barbeque” of the American frontier by cattle, grain and mining companies profited off the genocide of Native Americans; amnesia about how previous wars of conquest were billed repeatedly as “accidents” in building an “accidental empire” abroad for corporate investments; and amnesia about how injustices toward the majority of working people in America has been built into the social structure that predictably builds wealth and power for those in control: the top 1%. With amnesia comes lack of recognition. Maneuvering through corporate shells, foundations, and the executives they hire, the top 1% remain unrecognized, all but invisible except in the society pages of big city newspapers and magazines.