The Transnational Capitalist Class (TCC)

I had a grand opportunity on what Paul Edwards calls National Genocide Day. My family was assembled to take part in a turkey give-a-way to the local poor in Watsonville, California, and as a consequence I was able to spout out a lot of what I had just learned from Censored 2017, the annual yearbook from Project Censored. The downside was that I wound up plagiarizing much of their material, but the upside is that my presentation was recorded, which has enabled me to provide you with essential information for activists to tackle our greatest challenges anew. And a way to look at the anti-Trump protests from a fresh perspective.


The American ruling class has long been determined to be a mostly self-perpetuating elite that maintains its influence through policy-making institutions such a the National Association of Manufacturers, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Business Council, Business Roundtable, the Conference Board, American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, the Council on Foreign Relations, and other business-centered groups and think tanks. These associations have long dominated policy decisions within the U.S. government, and they are relatively unaffected by the kinds of protests that we witness on an ongoing basis; the ones currently in vogue.

Capitalist power elites exist around the world. The globalization of trade and capital brings the world’s elites into increasingly interconnected relationships. In The Transnational Capitalist Class (2000), Leslie Sklair argues that globalization elevated transnational corporations to more influential international roles, with the result that nation-states became less significant than international agreements developed through the World Trade Organization and other international institutions. Emerging from these multinational corporations was a transnational capitalist class, according to Sklair. And their loyalties and interests, while still rooted in their corporations, were increasingly international in scope.

In Global Capitalism and the Crisis of Humanity (2014) and other works, William Robinson claimed that 500 years of capitalism had led to a global epochal shift in which all human activity was transformed into capital. In this view, the world has become a single market, in which social relationships are privatized along with all else. He saw the TCC as increasingly sharing similar lifestyles, patterns of higher education, and consumption. The global circulation of capital is at the core of this international bourgeoisie, who operate 24×7 in oligopolistic clusters around the world. These clusters of elites form strategic transnational alliances through mergers and acquisitions with the goal of increased concentration of wealth, capital and power. The process creates a polyarchy of hegemonic elites.

 Paul Krugman and the U.S. Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis FRED research service, "Profits and Business Investment" New York Times, Public Domain

Paul Krugman and the U.S. Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis FRED research service, “Profits and Business Investment” New York Times, Public Domain

The concentration of wealth and power at this level tends to over-accumulate, leading to speculative investments and manufactured wars. The TCC makes efforts to correct and protect its interests through global organizations like the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, the Group of Seven (G7) and the Group of Twenty (G20), World Social Forum, Trilateral Commission, Bilderberg Group, Bank for International Settlements, and other transnational associations. Robinson claims that within this system nation-states become little more than population containment zones, and the real power lies with the decision makers who control global capital.

At the head of the TCC is what David Rothkopf calls the “superclass” in Superclass: The Global Power Elite and the World They are Making (2008). Apparently, that “superclass” constitutes 6,000 to 7,000 people, or 0.0001 percent of the world’s population. They are Davos-attending, private jet-flying, megacorporation-interlocking, policy-building elites of the world. People are the absolute peak of the global power pyramid.

In The Making of a Transnational Capitalist Class (2010), William K. Carroll focuses on the consolidation of the transnational corporate-policy networks between 1996 and 2006. He used a database of the boards of directors of the world’s 500 largest corporations, showing the concentrated interconnectedness of key corporations and increasingly small number of people involved. According to his analysis, the average size of corporate boards has dropped from 20.2 to 14.0 during the ten years of his study. Furthermore, financial organizations have increasingly become the center of these networks. Carroll argues that the TCC at the centers of these networks benefit from extensive ties to each other, thus providing both the structural capacity and class consciousness necessary for effective political solidarity. It is for this segment of the TCC that the Public Relations Propaganda firms are providing unprecedented services, propagandizing the globe with messages reflecting the ideologies, class interests, and core values of the TCC global empire of power and wealth.

One thing to note is that that TCC core is very happy to see protests in the streets focused on the downsides of Trump. Why? Because it all serves to reinforce the notion that there’s some significant difference between the Democrats and the Republicans. Whereas there is a slight difference here and there which can be considered important by a given identity group at a given time, the entire scenario unfolding against Trump is a welcome distraction from the fact that both parties support the TCC agenda. As long as the primary or exclusive energies of activists go into dialogue and demonstrations centered on the recent presidential election, no advances can be made with regard to the Big Picture. If Trump does manage to stop the TPP in its tracks, that can only be for a given moment. Ultimately, the TCC (all for the TPP) will have its way with us.

Unless we do something new. Which is going to require bringing some of those misinformed (too little informed?) protesters and some of those who oppose them on board with a new collective agenda.

In 2014, Peter Phillips and his Sonoma State University students in California identified the people on the boards of directors of the top ten asset management firms and the top ten most centralized corporations. Because of overlaps, this amounts to a total of thirteen firms, which collectively have 161 directors on their boards. That group of 161 represents the financial core of the world’s transnational capitalist class. They collectively manage $23.91 trillion (2014) in funds and operate 24×7 in nearly every country in the world. They are the center of the financial capital that powers the global economic system. Western governments and international policy bodies work in the interests of this financial core to protect the free flow of capital investment anywhere in the world. This group of 161 people, with a few thousand of their elite friends and colleagues, control $100 trillion, or half the world’s wealth.

One must know what a trillion is to fully appreciate the paragraph above, its meaning. Furthermore, I think that the info given thus far makes it clear why we should not fall for the TCC’s game plan of having us get caught up in the simplistic arguments centered on good and bad guys, those watching and those crossing the borders. That’s a black and white game that doesn’t wash, clearly. That’s a classic distraction, and leaders all over the world have employed a similar tactic to distract folks from domestic problems; they routinely have focused on “bad guys” abroad (with the help of their Public Relations Propaganda and the like), drumming up employment for “good guys” in wars. Thing is, now they also generate a fortune for members of that TCC through the sale of weaponry that’s unprecedented.

At any rate, the nation-state no longer really exists. And whatever form it takes does not include authentic democracy ever these days. And that’s just one reason for us to back up and question what we mean when we invoke America, America’s laws, etc. We must also review what the value is today of the U.S. Constitution. What parts are still viable, and to what degree we get distracted (as activists) by engaging in discussion and debate about Constitutional issues, yes?

The TCC represents the interests of several hundred thousand millionaires and billionaires who comprise the richest people inthe top 1 percent of the world’s wealth hierarchy. Ironically, this extreme accumulation of concentrated capital at the top creates a continuing problem for the TCC, who must scour the world for new investment opportunities that will yield adequate returns (7-10 percent). War is one use for over-accumulated capital. And an unending War on Terror (manufactured) offers a unique opportunity for the TCC to loan capital at a profit to governments for military actions, and to participate in rebuilding efforts made necessary by war.

The collection of taxes on working people’s incomes to pay for permanent war results in increasing pressure toward neoliberal governmental austerity measures, which further impoverishes the 99 percent and transfer yet more wealth to the world’s 1 percent.

We need to work together with others who differ from us. And we should be thankful that we still have an opportunity to do so.

  • Drawn from the work of Peter Phillips and his Sonoma State University students with thankful appreciation.
Rachel Olivia O'Connor is a freelance journalist. She can be reached at Read other articles by Rachel.