Theme Panel: Oligarchic Tendencies in U.S. Politics

Oligarchic Tendencies in U.S. Politics

For many years, analyses of elections, political representation, and interest groups reported a general pattern of political responsiveness even as instances of political bias were detected. New research on political inequality is documenting, however, a near pervasive pattern of oligarchic tendencies in American politics. In particular, the dominance of the most affluent and finance is emerging in new studies of political representation, the Federal Reserve Bank, and the donor consortiums.

The proposed roundtable brings together three sets of scholars whose new research on quite distinct aspects of American politics point to similar patterns of dominance by economic elites.

Benjamin Page and Martin Gilens find that US government policy has exacerbated inequality, enriching corporations and the wealthy while leaving ordinary citizens to fend for themselves.

Theda Skocpol and Alex Hertel-Fernandez find that consortiums of the super rich led, in particular, by the Koch Brothers are displacing political parties and exerting extraordinary influence on who runs for office, what issues receive sustained government attention, and which policies are adopted.

Lawrence Jacobs and Desmond King find that the Federal Reserve’s dependence on capital markets to generate revenue to meet its budget create structural incentives to distribute selective benefits to finance.


Lawrence R. Jacobs, University of Minnesota, Twin Cities (Presenter)
Theda Skocpol, Harvard University (Presenter)
Benjamin I. Page, Northwestern University (Presenter)
Martin Gilens, Princeton University (Presenter)
Desmond King, University of Oxford (Chair)
Alexander Warren Hertel-Fernandez, Columbia University (Presenter)