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Social Cohesion And Policy Cohesion.


The Bohemian Grove is a 2,acre virgin redwood grove in Northern California, 75 miles north of San Francisco mapwhere the rich, the powerful, and their entourage visit with each other during the last two weeks of July while camping out in cabins and tents. It's an Elks Club for the rich; a fraternity party in the woods; a boy scout camp for old guys, complete with an initiation ceremony and a totem animal, the owl.

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It's owned by the Bohemian Club, which was founded in San Francisco in The Bohemians started going on their little retreat shortly after the club was founded; it became big-time by the s, and it continues today. However, it is not a place of power. It's a place where the powerful relax, enjoy each other's company, and get to know some of the artists, entertainers, and professors who are included to give the occasion a thin veneer of cultural and intellectual pretension.

Despite the suspicions of many on the Right, and a few on the Left, it is not a secret meeting place to plot, plan, or conspire. The most important decisions typically happen just where we might expect: in the boardrooms of corporations and foundations, at the White House, and in the backrooms of Congress. Yes, as I show later, some wanna-be and has-been Republican politicians Sex meets in redwood terrace california visit the Bohemian Grove, including future and former presidents of the United States, but they are there to demonstrate what wonderful human beings they are, to cultivate potential financial backers, or to brag about their past exploits.

Readers who suspect that every gathering of the rich and the powerful has some deeper purpose may doubt this claim, at least until they see my evidence. For those who still might question my conclusions after reading this article, I recommend reading an excellent first-hand of the Bohemian Grove by a journalist from Spy magazine who snuck into the encampment in ; the author had every incentive to tell it exactly as he saw it. More recently, a reporter from Vanity Fair snuck into the Grove during the encampment to investigate logging activity as well as the usual goings-on, and his experiences are summarized in a May article entitled "Bohemian Tragedy.

In fact, every person who has written seriously on the Bohemian Grove agrees: even though they provide evidence that there is a socially cohesive upper class in the United States, the activities at the Grove are harmless.

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The Grove encampment is a bunch of guys kidding around, drinking with their buddies, and trying to relive their youth, and often acting very silly. These activities do contribute to social cohesion as an unintended consequence — which is why I decided to study the Bohemians in the first place — but the Grove is merely a playground for the powerful and their entertainers that gives us a window into a lifestyle that is far removed from that of average Americans.

If this is a web site about power, politics, and social change, why bother with the Bohemian Grove if it is not a place of power? That's a fair question, and an important one in terms of differentiating rival theories of power in the United States. The answer goes back to the kind of criticisms that used to be made of a class-domination theory by the most important group of theorists in the social sciences during the 20th century, the pluralists.

Pluralists deride the idea that there could be class domination in the United States, and one of the reasons they do is that the upper class of rich people is allegedly too fragmented to be able to organize for power. Heck fire, them rich people don't even know each other, most of 'em. All those wealthy capitalists that theorists like me talk about are just a list of names, not a for-real social class.

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So I was looking for an opportunity to show pluralists differently when I unexpectedly noticed that a wealthy liberal lawyer I was about to interview in late about campaign finance — you know, the kind of stuff I should be studying — had the membership lists for the Bohemian Club and the even more exclusive Pacific Union Club on a shelf in his waiting room.

We hit it off well during the interview, and he clearly liked to stir things up, so I asked him if I could photocopy the lists. He said "sure. Those two membership lists gave me the starting point for a study that would allow me to trace the social backgrounds and corporate connections of men who slept together in cabins and tents in the California redwoods, so I figured you couldn't get more "socially cohesive" than that.

Moreover, there is a literature in social psychology, called small-group researchor small-group dynamicswhich shows that people who meet in relaxed settings, and see their group as exclusive, become even tighter with each other than people in ordinary groups.

Even better, people in exclusive groups are more likely to listen to each other and come to a compromise if they have the task of figuring out what to do about some policy issue.

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In short, a study of the Bohemian Grove could show that social cohesion is an aid to the formation of policy consensus. I took to saying that from a social-psychological point of view, the upper class is made up of constantly shifting face-to-face small groups — a board of directors meeting at the corporation in the morning, a meeting of a policy discussion group in the afternoon, a drink with some buddies at an exclusive club in the evening. And best of all, of course, many of them camped out together at the Bohemian Grove one year or another. Although my study was well received in many circles, it did not convince anyone, and it got me some new criticisms besides.

The pluralists promptly distorted what I argued by saying I was a conspiratorial thinker who believes that policy is made in secret at the Bohemian Grove. At the same time, the usual pluralist claim that the upper class was not "cohesive" slowly faded away in favor of more emphasis on standard arguments that are dealt with elsewhere on this web site.

For my views on conspiratorial thinking. Some of the fancier theorists of that by-gone day panned the study too. They thought it was trivial and irrelevant. Why worry about social cohesion as a factor in policy cohesion when the structural imperatives of capitalism make capitalists well aware of their interests and all too ready to agree on government policies that will further those interests?

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They didn't buy my belief that it was necessary to take the issues concerning social cohesion and social psychology seriously. Whereas I thought that Texas oilmen and Wall Street bankers might well need a little fraternizing to come to trust each other, my critics on the left said the differences from industry to industry and region to region were trivial. Things didn't get any better when a few left-wing activists grabbed onto my book and said that there were in fact political conspiracies hatched at the Bohemian Grove.

They said that the atomic bomb was planned at the Grove, for example, a claim that misses all the key points about what I said in my book on this issue. A member of the Grove asked the club president if he could use the area during an off-season month to meet with other A-bomb planners; no other Bohemians were present, or knew about the secret meeting, which could have been held anywhere. A few years later, some extreme right-wingers got hold of my book and concluded that the "Cremation of Care" ceremony, a harmless put-on that starts the encampment, in fact promotes devil worship and homosexuality.

One rightist even suggests there is child sacrifice at the Bohemian Grove.

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An alarmist video and a web site make these incredible — and nonsensical — claims. So now I am writing about the Bohemian Grove for another reason as well as the original one: to set the record straight.

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Contrary to what some leftists think, any political discussions that happen there could have been held at any one of several other venues where such discussions usually occur — for example, restaurants, downtown men's clubs, golf courses, policy-discussion groups, and board of director meetings.

Contrary to the rightists, the activities are harmless. Well, they of course talk politics now and then, and hear speeches by would-be and former political leaders, but that's not what the conspiratorial thinkers on either side of the political spectrum are talking about. You'll learn more about the political guests in the section on Lakeside Talks.

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I used four very different methods to put together the story of the Bohemian Grove: membership network analysis, archival searches in historical libraries, interviews with informants, and participant observation at the downtown clubhouse and the Bohemian Grove itself. If the Bohemians didn't overlap with the Pacific Union Club, a for-sure upper-class club, the study might have stopped right there.

But they did overlap. Moreover, members of both clubs were often in the San Francisco Social Registeran upper-crust telephone book, called a "blue book" in the old days. I was confident that the Bohemian Club was an upper-class venue, but I soon learned that many members were not members of the upper class — for reasons that help to make the club unique.

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The next step was to study the social club and policy connections of all the Bohemians. This part of the study showed that many Bohemians were corporate chieftains, members of policy-planning groups, trustees of think tanks and opinion-shaping groups, and members of social clubs all over the country. We constructed a large matrix based on the overlapping members in 30 of these types of organizations. When we studied it with a fancy program for "network analysis," the Bohemian Club was No.

For a very interesting and colorful of The Links Club of New York, the most central club and third-most central organization overall, check out this portrait by an avid middle-class golfer who convinced a "certified WASP" member to let him visit. As far as social structure goes, this centrality analysis was the heart of the Bohemian Grove study.

But to delve into social cohesion and social psychology, it was necessary to know more about the club, such as its history and current activities, so off I went to libraries, especially stand-alone historical libraries that are full of upper-class memorabilia, not scholarly books.

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There I found old histories of the club, along with histories of specific camps and a text of the Cremation of Care ceremony. It was a bonanza. Among other things, I could then check the names of 19th century members against membership lists for other clubs and organizations to learn more about the social origins of the founding members. In these libraries, I also found most of the pictures that accompany this essay.


Informants played an important role in the study. I asked everyone I knew in and around Santa Cruz, which is only miles from the Bohemian Grove, if they knew anything about it, and soon found students who knew students who had worked there, and friends who had friends who had once been performing members — i. Just as I was finishing my study, I learned that a person in Santa Cruz I knew well had once been a member, and he contributed greatly to the final version of the study by adding little details that would make it clear to anyone who knew anything about the Grove that I had a good informant, or was a secret member, or something.

For instance, he told me of a camp, called Poison Oak, that served a lunch called Bulls' Balls Lunch, where everyone came by to eat roasted cattle testicles brought by a rancher from near Fresno, CA. Another camp had a soft porn collection. One invaluable informant was a long-haired grad student at Berkeley who was very nervous about talking to me when I arrived at his house in Oakland about 9 a.

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We hadn't been talking long when he asked me if I would like a hit. I didn't really want one, but I felt caught — if I said no, he might trust me even less. So I said yes and he led me to a big drawer in a closet, where he had an amazing stash, with ts of many different qualities. We each had a few hits of a Grade B t, and then he suddenly said I could have the rest. I tried to be cool, but I was soon too far gone to know for sure what he was talking about.

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I excused myself every few minutes to go to the bathroom, where I'd pinch my hands and arms to try to sober up, splashed cold water on my face, slapped myself, breathed deep. I eventually comprehended most of what he had to say, and what he had to say was absolutely incredibly helpful, but my notes went up and down and all around on after. It was from this informant that I learned for the first time what a big deal the Cremation of Care ceremony was in the eyes of the members.

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