New Haveb Project

New Haveb Project (retrieved November 13, 2015)
Who Really Ruled in Dahl's New Haven?
by G. William Domhoff
Robert A. Dahl's Who Governs? (1961) is a study of New Haven, Connecticut, a coastal city with about 160,000 people in 1960. Located 80 miles east of New York City and 47 miles south of Hartford, the city is best known as the home of Yale University.
Dahl's study was the answer to all that supposedly ailed the social sciences in the 1960s. It refuted Hunter's (1953) claim that a relative handful of business leaders dominated Atlanta, and even more importantly, it "offered analogies with national politics that few other cities could provide" because of its "highly competitive two-party system" (Dahl, 1961, pp. v-vi). The United States is New Haven writ large. The book won a prize as the best book in political science for the year it was published and was one of the most widely cited books in the social sciences for the next 20 years.
In Dahl's view of New Haven in the 1950s, the local upper class was not based in the business community; the business community was passive and not very influential; and Yale University, for all its wealth, was on the periphery of local politics. The downtown business community could often block proposals it disliked which directly affected its economic interests, but it seldom took an initiatory role. When it came to power, the most important arena in New Haven was the political one. It was the mayor and his aides who initiated new programs, then sold their programs to the business community, Yale, and the general populace.
Although no one social class or interest group was able to dominate the political sector on a variety of issues, Dahl emphasized that there were indeed inequalities in New Haven. However, they were "dispersed inequalities," meaning that no one group had all of the different types of resources, such as social standing, legitimacy, wealth, knowledge, and public office,...

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