Week of April 22: The Policy Formation Process

Important announcements!

Fall Course: I’ll be teaching AAS 245: History of African Americans in the Wednesday 6-8:40 PM time slot if anyone’s interested. Section H81, course code 57646. It meets the “US Experience in its Diversity” core requirement. It is not writing intensive.

[UPDATE:] Final assignments are finally posted on the assignments page. There are two options: one assignment for those doing fieldwork from home or who did enough to write about their organization. The second option is the alternate assignment, which uses the Black Panther Party as a case study.


  • Lehman has a loaner program for computers/tablets if you don’t have a reliable one. Fill this form (link) out immediately to get on the list!

Instructions for this week: Listen to the following NPR segment on think tanks, then Read the presentation by your classmates and listen to my lecture (it’s about 48 minutes long) then comment on Wilson’s chapter. In chapter 9, Wilson analyzes the process that the ruling class uses to influence public policy and people’s perceptions of ideas through the use of think tanks and foundations. This chapter is one of the most important ones of the whole book. Take some time to carefully read, think about, and comment on it.

Listen to the following 15-minute segment from NPR’s On the Media: “Jayne Mayer on the Rise of Conservative Orthodoxy.” (Go to the direct link if you don’t see the player below.) Mayer does an excellent job of charting the history of foundations and think tanks that Wilson describes in the chapter for this week’s lesson.

This week’s  presentation:

Student Presentation by Renée, Ashleigh, and Michael.

PDF Download:  Wilson_Chapter_9_Spring2020

This week’s audio lecture:

It’s approximately 48 minutes long. Play it in your browser by pressing the arrow below. Try it in a different browser or on a laptop/desktop computer if it doesn’t play–especially on mobile devices–and please report any problems to me.

Comments on posts:

You’ll notice the “Leave a Comment” button is now active below. Here’s how it’ll work: you can use these to discuss points raised here.  A few points:

  • Your first comment will have to be approved by me: after that, you can comment without approval
  • Comments section will only be open to enrolled students
  • You have to leave your name (enter as first name and last initial only) so a) I can make sure only people in the class are commenting and b) you get credit for the comment
  • Remember to be respectful, especially when responding to classmates

To ‘participate’ in the class, I’d like to see everyone 1) post a substantive comment of their own based on either Wilson’s chapter, the presentation, or my lecture using some of the questions raised. conversation prompts, and 2) to respond thoughtfully to someone else’s comment—not just agree/disagree, but add on evidence or ask a follow-up question. It’s fine with me if conversation continues in a thread as long as it does, but two responses showing a clear engagement with the reading will count for being ‘present.’ Does that make sense? You have until next Wednesday to write those two comments for credit. The comment section closes after 14 days.


19 thoughts on “Week of April 22: The Policy Formation Process

  1. Emma R

    I think that it was very informative that Wilson spoke about Policy Formation Process, He mentions how whites use the government to hold on to the power, which is true because of every move that made the government has to know and it can not be against the law because you will go to jail. A way of government control is the use of social security, its a set of numbers that are tied to your name for life, and this how the government knows where you are at all times. Wilson also speaks about the process that is used to influence people, by trying to shape your opinion. They use resources that are the use of money, the human knows that the more money you have the more things can get done. Research is how will you be able to get your idea into the world, and who are good funders, its either a private funding or public funding like a university. Decision making is how the policies will be planned or put into groups with help from the research part of the process. Opinion making is what the government and councils so when they make a decision, they also use the media and public figures to get their idea out. Lastly, is the law-making the final part of the process when the executive comes together in court.

    1. Nevia Cridlan

      “We must note the important role foundations play in the policy planning network and in shaping the political consciousness of the American populace.” pg.(182)
      A strong and firm organization is build on good foundations, it will take a lot of resources to maintain it in order for it not to collapsed. Ideology also is a part of building good foundations, it gives us more than enough data to start the process. Wilson spoke about foundation in a very positive way, it provide support for anyone in their society. It also gives hope to bring other programs into existence. I believe that Wilson was talking from his own experience that gave him a lot of knowledge.

    2. Fatoumata Tunkara

      Hey Emma,

      I like the points you made in your post. In response to what you wrote about “whites use government to hold power” I think this is very true but its more so the white elite corporate class. As you stated money means influence therefore that’s how they maintain their power. I think that its imperative for Blacks to gain economic power in order to have influence over the government would you agree ?

    3. Nevia Cridlan

      Emma, I agree with you with what you say about the Policy Formation Process it does has a lot of information. I love the way in which professor Williams break down each part, and make it more understandable. Getting the resources together had to be the first part of the process so everything can fall into place to complete the process. I believe the media plays the biggest part getting their idea out because thousands people use it for many different reasons. Great Job,

  2. Fatoumata Tunkara

    In Chapter 9 of Wilsons “Blueprint for Black Power” I found many of the points Wilson brought up in regards to the policy formation process to be very insightful. Wilson defines the policy formation process as “the process of rule creation”. The rules are essentially created by the elite in order to cater to their interests. What Wilson is providing evidence for throughout the chapter ties into his argument that the government who claims to be “for the people” is heavily influenced by the elite more specifically white males in America. I think this is a very important point Wilson is making because the way in which the white male business class maintains hold of their power is by influencing government and polices. This influence affects subordinate groups like African American badly because they wont reap benefits from policies that are catered to the rich.To further add to this argument is the section of the chapter that explores “Think Tanks”. The “think tanks” are policy planning organizations and through this is how the elite fund and have influence over the government. Think tanks are very powerful because they shape public opinion and policy. Wilson states “They also counter the reign of true democracy in America and the ideas and policies which could make it reality” (173). My overall understanding from this chapter is how in depth the white elite business class is shaping our daily lives. As long as the white elite business class holds the economic means and political influences over the government subordinate groups like African Americans will struggle to attain power.

    1. Bereket Mengistu

      I love your observation to Wilson’s point on Policy-making. One thing I question is that, you wrote, ” The rules are essentially created by the elite in order to cater to their interests. ” Do you think the elites make rules with the direct intention of the rule catering to the interest? For me, it seems as though that might be their main intention, they have great ways of disguising their involvement. As professor mentioned on the audio, they give scholarships and other benefits to cover up for their involvement.

    2. Aprika T

      The points that your brought up in your response are also things that stood out to me in this chapter. Before reading this book there were many things that I did not know about in depth but the way Wilson explains the different topics has allowed me to gain a lot of informative insight

  3. Jose Tejada

    A concept I was introduced to a long time ago was that politicians only do things for three reasons: it benefits them directly, they were severely pressured by the people to do so, or special interest makes them do it. This idea is definitely supported by chapter 9. Policy-making is the process of making rules. As Wilson states, “Behind every rule is an entrepreneur or interest group who, for one reason or another, sought to have the rule created and by whose efforts legislation came into being in an effort to defend or advance his or its interests.” This reminds me of the election of Barack Obama. His becoming the president was obviously a great step into a better world because finally there was the first African American president. Many thought it was the end of racial tensions entirely. Others expected him to be an activist. They expected his agenda to be all about helping minorities and uplifting the black community. The harsh reality is that he was what he was, a politician. As a society, people need to understand the importance of their involvement in politics. It is vital that we participate and elect people who work for our communities and if they don’t then we vote them out. If we don’t, we will stay in the cycle of electing people who will work for the corporations and special interests that fund their campaigns and their pockets.

    1. Hadijah Alhassan

      Hi Jose,

      You made some valid points in regard to people’s feelings and beliefs when it came to Obama. I think Obama was a step, but to me he was just a face with a little bit of power. We know that presidents don’t have total control over anything, because everything needs to be approved. Especially, when it comes to laws being passed. I think if we incorporate Wilson’s theories about collectively gathering black folks to build their own networks of experts, and an understanding how the political system works we can go even further. I also think that we need more people of color in the political system, and policy making groups. I think black wealthy elites should invest in our own political policy groups, advisors, and think tanks.

  4. Bereket Mengistu

    Jane Mayer, was excellent in that podcast. She exposes all the conservative political influencers and how they go about their jobs. People like Louis Powell wrote to office to “change the public opinion to keep ruling.” They did that through media content, education, and other ways to basically change people’s ideology. It’s such a manipulative way of power control and I was pleased to hear Mayer expose it. She also discusses the two ways to have a political influence, one is by determining a problem and manufacturing the solution to those that depend on it and the other one is by giving scholarships and funding to have an economic control to further gain the political control.
    I enjoyed reading chapter 9 and listening to Professor’s podcast. I find the details on those policy-makers, think tanks, foundations and other political influencers to be insightful, but I still find Wilson to be very repetitive.
    Professor, thank you for discussing about the Broken Window theory, a theory that if one commits a small crime(fraction) such as public drinking and you put a punishment for it then you’ll be saving the person from committing bigger crimes like theft, murder, etc. It’s such a problematic theory. It’s so racist and classist. The poor doesn’t have a back yard to lounge around on their day off, no lake house or money to go on a vacation to one of those open air drinking places, so they drink on their stoops. And incriminating that is just a way of getting rid of the poor or pushing them down to stay poor. Meanwhile, the real criminals will stay safe and operating by making laws like this that target poor communities and Black people. This makes me sick.

    1. Leah

      I agree that Jane Mayer created thoughtful respnoses to dominant white conservative elite ruling ideology that manifests almost every industry. It is hopeful to think that there are ways in which we can change this ideology, however, the institutions that support the change that favors the well being of minorities often do not have the funding in order to do so. I agree that it is incredibly manipulative of the white ruling elite.

  5. Esme Lovemore

    Before I read the second sub-topic of the Policy Formation Process I decided to take an in-depth look at the organizational chart on page 170. I observed that all major or minor functions of the government is established on the Policy Planning group as seen in the chart.. They are the center of all plans. One of their function is that “They provide a setting where conflicts within the power of the elite can be discussed and compromised. To me, this makes lots of sense because they are the ruling class they will not agree upon any rules or issues that do not go in their favor. Economically and politically they will always have an advantage over the more subordinate class. Is that fair, no but since power is in their hands they have the control to do whatever they dem best.

  6. Michael Ogundipe

    “Behind every rule is an entrepreneur or interest group who, for one reason or another, sought to have the rule created and by whose efforts legislation came into being in an effort to defend or advance his or its interests.” page (167)
    I believe that this quote holds true with today’s government. We see many different ways Republicans try to give tax cuts to the rich, or try to reduce or take away resources from lower income families. We see many corporations funding different political candidates who runs for office, so that they can influence them. All of this is just so the owners of these corporations can increase their power to higher levels.

  7. Nevia Cridlan

    The question was asked. What is the importance of the black community supporting their own organizations (schools, strategy groups ect). Chapter Nine Group.

    The importance of the black community supporting their own organization is to implement the strategies and resources needed to move from failures into having success, more opportunities for people of color.

  8. Hadijah Alhassan

    Chapter 9 breaks down the different concepts and tactics when making political policies. This chapter also reiterates the tactics that the “Ruling Elite” does to manipulate the political system to work in their favor. One of this things that stood out to me was how corporations utilize the façade of philanthropy work through organizations to move policies In their interests. I also learned that the public policies from Washington are determined by the ruling class. The role of the Policy Planning sectors seems as if they play the role of lobbyist when it comes to the function of providing laws passed.
    In the chapter it says “In order to come to power and finally reach equality in the United States, blacks, too, must become expert map readers. To this end they must organize and control a component and well-funded intelligence-gathering agency.” I think this is a powerful statement. Knowledge is power, because once you have a true understanding of how the political system work you can build on the deficiencies. Secondly, black people can come together and build a system that benefits the minority. Wilson gives the “Afrikan American community” the steps that can be utilize to gain power.

  9. Aprika T

    The beginning of Renee Pendarvis, Ashleigh Peeler, Michael Ogundipe’s presentation they began talking about public policy and Wilson’s view on it. The first thing that stood out to me was when he stated “that public policy is not determined by government officials in Washington, but instead it is decided by the corporate elite,” which means that the public policies we currently have in place are aimed to serve only the interests of the corporate class but they are disguised as rules that are for everyone. This reminds me of Chapter 11 when Wilson spoke about mainstream media being controlled by White elites and the majority of the content we see is often chosen by these White elites. As well another thing that stood out to me in this groups presentation is when they begin speaking about things the Afrikan American community needs to do in order to have a stronger front and goes on to say that the Afrikan American community lacks intelligence and not the number being low, what I took from that statement is the Afrikan American community has to begin taking it upon themselves to become educated and truly understand that things aren’t always what they seem and most times its corrupt.

  10. Leah

    I agree that Jane Mayer created thoughtful respnoses to dominant white conservative elite ruling ideology that manifests almost every industry. It is hopeful to think that there are ways in which we can change this ideology, however, the institutions that support the change that favors the well being of minorities often do not have the funding in order to do so. I agree that it is incredibly manipulative of the white ruling elite.

  11. Leah

    One thing that really interested me in this chapter was the broken window policy. I follow a fewd different accounts on social media that exploit videos of New York City Blacks being victimized and abused by the NYPD for infractions that would normally be carried out as fines and tickets, but instead are met with harassment and violence (see decolonizethisplace and shaunking for references). This can also be seen in relation to using public spaces now that we have been in quarentine for some time and summer is approaching. A few days ago, a picture was taken at a park in the West Village where hundreds of people congregated without masks to sit in the local park while NYPD offered masks to everyone, yet people in lower income areas are being harassed for the same thing.
    The organization that I was going to do my fieldwork at is an LGBTQ center in the Bronx called Destination Tomorrow. One way in which my organization is using its resources to counter the influence of outside groups is by supplying the Black queer youth with mentors that can relate to their experience. With a great majority of the individuals running the groups that are hosted by the organization being Black queer adults, it gives the youth an opportunity to speak about their experiences with authenticity and receive validation from likeminded individuals.


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