Superclass Review

Superclass Review: Author David Rothkopf floats on the periphery of the global elite, and has mixed messages about their motivations and effectiveness. Nevertheless, his book, published in 2008, is a compelling look at how the superclass think, where they meet, and how they rise to power.

I can’t quite figure out whether Rothkopf approves of the Superclass or not. It’s more nuanced than that.


David Rothkopf confirms that there is a Global Elite and they meet to solve problems. And, they often execute outside of the nation-state structure to accomplish their goals. He also tells you who they are, what they’re about, and what it takes to be accepted in the club.

superclass book cover

Unelected Technocracy Is a Good Thing

Rothkopf waves off conspiracy theory as nonsense, making sure to separate his work from those that offer a more critical appraisal of the secret workings of those placed in power in a non-elected global governance structure. 

Skeptics roll their eyes when they hear about secret meetings like Davos, Bilderberg, Trilateral Commission, Bohemian Grove, but Rothkopf admits attendees at these meetings make world-changing policies.

In this new fast-paced globally connected world, you can’t depend on stodgy sovereign governments to respond to the needs of their constituents. So, having a supranational group of power players making massive policy decisions behind closed doors is the only effective means. Yeah, break a few eggs, but the gathering of the technocratic oligarchs from across the globe is necessary.

And, it doesn’t take that many to run huge markets. 

Stephen Schwarzman, former CEO of Blackstone Group: “The world is pretty small … In almost every one of the areas in which I am dealing or in which we at Blackstone are looking at deals, you find it is just twenty, thirty, or fifty people worldwide who ultimately drive the industry or the sector.”


Rothkopf lists the top sources of power:

  • Wealth
  • Position
  • Ability to project violent force
  • Access
  • Ideas

He suggests access is the most valuable as people use their networks to get things done. They connect through secret societies, membership on boards, elite universities, and gatherings like the World Economic Forum in Davos, Council on Foreign Relations, Bilderberg, and the Trilateral Commission.

“A global elite has emerged over the past several decades that has vastly more power than any other group on the planet. Each of the members of this superclass has the ability to regularly influence the lives of millions of people in multiple countries worldwide. Each actively exercises this power, and they often amplify it through the development of relationships with others in this class. The age of inherited lifelong power is largely behind us, and for most members of the group influence is transitory; to truly be a member of this superclass one has to hold on to power for at least long enough to make an impact–to enter or affect the world of other members of this superclass–a period of a couple of years or more.”

And here are the type of people he says belong to these elite groups:

“Heads of state, CEOs of the world’s largest companies, media barons, billionaires who are actively involved in their investments, technology entrepreneurs, oil potentates, hedge fund managers, private equity investors, top military commanders, a select few religious leaders, a handful of renowned writers, scientists, and artists, even terrorist leaders, and master criminals, meet the above criteria for membership.”

Rothkopf quotes C. Wright Mill’s 1956 book, The Power Elite:

“Composed of men whose positions enable them to transcend the ordinary environments of ordinary men and women, they are in positions to make decisions having major consequences … They are in command of the major hierarchies and organizations of modern society. They rule the big corporations. They run the machinery of the state and claim its prerogatives. They direct the military establishment. They occupy the strategic command posts of the social structure, in which are now centered the effective means of the power and the wealth and the celebrity which they enjoy.”

Revolving Door

Once you are in the club you look out for the interests of your elite pals. In turn, this enables you to glide from position to position, and board to board. This includes going from the government position to the private sector. So, you have Goldman Sachs executives taking turns as U.S. Treasury Secretary for example. It’s like the fox guarding the henhouse, but they spin it like this: “you must have the best and brightest from the private sector to get anything meaningful done for the American people.” 

Policy starts to bend toward the will of the corporations. Regulations start to loosen. And bottom lines start to skyrocket. Once their public service is complete, these selfless heroes grab cushy jobs in companies that they helped while in office. But, don’t worry, there’s no conflict of interest and the Superclass is smarter and more effective than you, so it is in your best interest to let the revolving door spin.

Military-Industrial Complex

Rothkopf quotes the famous 1961 speech by President Dwight Eisenhower:

“The conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence–economic, political, even spiritual–is felt in every city, every Statehouse, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources, and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society.

In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.”

Rothkopf adds that Eisenhower also warned of a scientific-technological elite.

Eisenhower was correct on both accounts. Military manpower actually decreased since his speech, but the defense budget increased exponentially.

The defense industry consolidated in the mid-1990s. The top five contractors, Lockheed, Boeing, Northrop, General Dynamics, and Raytheon have increased sales by 10% every year since 2001. The Pentagon’s budget has grown 11% in that same time frame.

A newer phenomenon is the privatized military. 

“As of this writing, there are approximately 170,000 U.S. troops on the ground in Iraq. Less well-known is the fact that there are another 125,000 trained contractors, many armed and playing roles traditionally allocated to the national military. These guns for hire are typically former military personnel, but they have moved over to a rapidly growing industry—one that has taken firms like North Carolina-based Blackwater, for instance, from virtually nothing to a reported $100 million in revenues in just a decade. The firm, run by an ultra-right-wing heir to an auto parts fortune named Erik Prince, has won diplomatic security contracts with the State Department worth, over a multiyear period, three-quarters of a billion dollars in just the past three years.

On the basis of dollars invested alone, more than fifty years of “permanent war” have confirmed America’s status as the world’s one true military superpower. According to the highly respected Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), of the roughly $1.2 trillion in global defense spending by governments in 2006, $529 billion, approximately half, was spent by the United States.”

Major General Smedley D. Butler put a fine point on what the United States’ main mission is:

“I spent thirty-three years and four months in active service in the country’s most agile military force, the Marines. I served in all ranks from second lieutenant to major general. And during that period I spent most of my time being a high-class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street, and the bankers. I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism …

Thus I helped make Mexico, and especially Tampico, safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenue. I helped in the raping of half-a-dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street. The record of racketeering is long. I helped purify Nicaragua for the benefit of the banking house of Brown Brothers and Co. in 1909-1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for the sugar interests in 1916. I helped make Honduras “right” for American fruit companies in 1903. In China, in 1927, I helped see to it that Standard Oil went its way unmolested.”

And to think our Founding Fathers didn’t want the country to have a standing army.

Transnational Corporations

“…one of the most important phenomena of the global era is the rise of corporations to economic and social roles that are sometimes equal to or larger than those of states–and that are often divorced from the interests of the states.”

In 2008 there were 166 entities with sales or GDP over $50 billion. 106 of them were corporations while 60 were states.

Transnational corporations have more power and mobility than ever. If they don’t like how the country of their operations is treating them (taxes, public sentiment, etc.), they move to a more friendly country. 

“In a global economy in which multinational corporations are no longer bound to any single country, they have gained a new kind of power over national governments, which by their nature are confined by borders. Companies have created a new kind of marketplace in which governments compete with one another for investment, essentially undercutting in a fundamental way some of the most familiar, potent, and until recently enduring foundations of sovereignty.”

Wielding Power and Cultivating Access to Those in Power

Rothkopf says Lawrence Summers, former Treasury Secretary, and Harvard President has a theory that income disparity is growing and more wealth is flowing to the top because: 

“The world is actually becoming more efficient: The system is rewarding the more skilled at proportionally higher rates, giving those with access to technology greater rewards for their heightened productivity, and giving those leading enterprises of growing scale greater returns for their companies’ incremental growth. Unfettered markets are doing their job. Isn’t it possible, he was positing, that overachievers are now finally able to capture their fair share of returns given their relative talents, productivity, and contribution of value to economic outcomes?”

Whatever it takes to help you sleep through the night, Larry. It’s the natural order and the FREE market doing its thing, which creates massive income disparity. No coercion, manipulation, or crimes against humanity are required. 

An experienced trader told Rothkopf that big players have an outsized influence on markets and even in the way countries govern: “In this way, big market players keep political leaders and other policy makers on a short leash: If a minister or president or central bank governor makes a pronouncement that markets find unpalatable one day, the country may find it difficult to borrow the next. This in turn will restrict economic growth, which means fewer jobs or less money for consumers.”

The Rothschild Dynasty

Rothkopf suggests there’s more turnover in the ranks of the elites these days, which he thinks is a good thing. It’s less driven by bloodlines and more about ideas and success.

“In the late eighteenth century, the Rothschild family built one of the world’s great international business networks the old-fashioned way: They had children. The clan’s patriarch, Mayer Amschel Rothschild, fathered nineteen offspring, ten of whom lived to adulthood and launched businesses throughout Europe, from Germany to England to Austria to Italy. Today, of course, mergers and acquisitions and new technologies make giving birth to networks considerably easier.”

The Globalists

There have always been conspiratorial elites, aristocrats, and oligarchs planning the fate of nations in secret. However, it’s never been easier to connect with people around the world. Thus, it becomes a global conspiracy. 

One former United States official said: “They have more allegiance to Davos and their ilk than they do to the people at home.”

“State power is declining and major multinational actors from corporations to terrorist organizations increasingly operate across borders or in the infosphere. While history, money, and local political power and force are still salient, global elites are navigating a world that neither laws nor customs nor traditional governments have caught up to. Like the robber barons who recognized and capitalized on the opportunities of interstate commerce before lawmakers and regulators knew what was happening and had a chance to react, networks of globalizers are defining the times by working around the edges of the old world.”

Thomas Friedman told Rothkopf that there won’t be a global government, rather governance by global organizations specializing in particular issues:

“We now have a whole set of issues that have arisen as globalization has intensified that require global governance, but there is no global government. So that creates a fundamental core problem. Not only is there no global government for all these issues which require global governance, there is not going to be global government. Sovereignty is always going to trump that. So the question is, then, what fills that gap? Well, what fills that gap is to some degree NGOs, operating transnationally on discrete issues.”

Not sure Friedman will prove right on that point. They’re doing their damnedest to destroy nation-states and dissolve borders. If Orwell was prescient or privy there will be a handful of regions.

By the way, Rothkopf says a few heads of state aren’t down with the globalist plan, because they see Globalism as a rebrand of Western Imperialism. They have a point. Rothkopf includes Vladimir Putin, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and Hugo Chavez in those ranks. 

Superclass Members of the Past

Rothkopf has a lot of historic examples of movers and shakers, including  Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller.

Both gave away millions in philanthropic efforts but practiced business ruthlessly. Kind of like Bill Gates today. 

Carnegie paid his workers poverty wages. He approved brutal attacks on strikers. His factories polluted rivers causing outbreaks of deadly typhoid. Many of his workers died from accidents on the job. 

“Homestead, the site of his most advanced ironworks, was described as ‘hell with the hatches on.’”

But, people only remember Carnegie’s philanthropy. Rothkopf, who worked at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace at the time of publication, doesn’t mention that much of Carnegie’s philanthropy was to push a Marxist agenda in the United States. Oversight?

Rockefeller built the greatest fortune in the modern era with Standard Oil, which became the world’s first multinational corporation. He gobbled up his competition but was smart about it. He recognized the talent working for the other companies and put them in prominent positions. He also paid high wages, which he could afford because he had a virtual monopoly on oil. 

When the Supreme Court forced him to break up the Standard Oil monopoly, Rockefeller made even more money from the separate companies … gotta love that anti-trust theater. 

Rockefeller also gave away a lot of his money to foundations and institutions that had globalist agendas. 

How Do You Get in the Club?

Private equity firms and hedge funds have massive amounts of capital to recruit the best and brightest from elite academic institutions. A top hedge fund executive told Rothkopf: 

“There are only every year a few hundred people coming out of the best schools in the U.S.—maybe a few thousand worldwide—who are the cream of the crop. Where do they start? Once it might have been the foreign service or law or some other field. But today, we have such a huge advantage in terms of the compensation we can offer that we get the first crack.”

Those that distinguish themselves in these firms and rise to the top qualify for club consideration. Not sure if there’s a formal application process or initiation rites.

Entertainers like Bono and Angelina Jolie are in. If they are willing to attend the meetings and grapple with the issues, the star power is valuable to the globalists. These celebrities have a direct line to the hearts and minds of millions that Klaus Schwab can only dream of.

Scientists, whose findings align with the grand narratives the globalists promote, are in the club. Rothkopf tells a story about meeting Mario Molina at Davos. He didn’t know who he was, but a woman told Rothkopf that Molina “helped save the world” by discovering the receding ozone layer in the atmosphere. Not only did he get his ticket punched for the elite soiree, but he was also awarded a Nobel prize in chemistry.

In recent years, the tech space spins up elite members in record time. Many are much younger than their counterparts. Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, qualified for membership at the tender age of 23, after his social platform exploded onto the scene.

Religion has been resurgent in the last few decades, as people crave spiritual meaning. The globalists tend to worship at the altar of scientism, but pastors and church leaders gain entry into the club if they have massive followings and influence, and they are willing to deliver certain messages that align with the agenda.


Rothkopf says that foundations like the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) or the Gates Foundation are the groups that get things done these days. While Davos features networking and theories, Foundations are collecting money and placing boots on the ground to address issues like poverty, global warming, and pandemics. 

Friedman said the CGI event is the closest we’re going to get to a global government.

Rothkopf said Bill Clinton is the world’s most prominent advocate for “enlightened globalization.”

Richard Holbrooke said:

“Right now it is clear that Bill Clinton is the most influential private citizen in the world. You can like it or hate it. You can marvel at it or wring your hands at it. But he is astonishing right now. And on the issues I work on—AIDS, for example—he is making a huge impact.”

My understanding of these big Foundations is they are the best way to launder money. Tomayto/Tomahto.

Eight Rules to Become Part of the Superclass

Rothkopf takes the key characteristics of people in the Superclass to create his eight rules for qualifying. I have a feeling the demographics have changed quite a bit in the 14 years since the publication of Superclass, but it’s still instructive.

  1. Be born a man.
  2. Be a baby boomer.
  3. Trace your cultural roots to Europe.
  4. Attend an elite university (Stanford, Harvard, University of Chicago, etc)
  5. Go into business or finance (63% of the superclass are in these industries)
  6. Have an institutional power base (less than 2% of the “superclass are not also associated with a company, a government, a military organization, a fund, a church, a media outlet, or criminal network.”
  7. Get Rich. Most of the world’s billionaires made the list by definition. 60% of the superclass are millionaires.
  8. Be lucky. Not all rich, ivy leaguers are in the club. You have to have a bit of serendipity to find your way into the halls of power.


  • A sampling of the Superclass rolls from Newsweek
  • This Wikipedia post purports to be a verified list of people Rothkopf identifies as part of the superclass. The list is always in flux as people die, fall out of favor, move to different positions, and fresh blood takes their place. 
  • The Power Elite by C. Wright Mills

Superclass Review: 4 out of 5 Stars

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