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Originally published Monday, April 14, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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"Superclass" | How ultimate movers and shakers have the whole world in their hands

"Superclass — The Global Elite and the World They Are Making" by David Rothkopf Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 379 pp., $26 It's not just...

The Associated Press

Author appearance

David Rothkopf

The author of "Superclass" will discuss his book at 7 tonight at the University Book Store's Seattle branch (206-634-3400 or www.ubookstore.com).

"Superclass — The Global Elite and the World They Are Making"

by David Rothkopf

Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 379 pp., $26

BOOK REVIEW

It's not just trade and finance that are being globalized these days, it's sheer power — the power of about 6,000 distinguished people to get big things done across national frontiers, says author David Rothkopf.

Trouble is, he complains, this "Superclass" isn't helping 2 billion powerless people who get along on $2 a day or less. He warns that unless those 2 billion get a voice, globalization will be in danger.

The 6,000 are a scattered lot. Americans know about President Bush and Pope Benedict XVI. But how about Wu Xiaoling, who controls $1.3 trillion worth of foreign reserves from her post as deputy governor in the People's Bank of China? It's a hoard that Communist Chinese leaders have hung over the head of the world's financial markets.

Then there's Paulo Coelho, the Brazilian writer who has sold more than 100 million copies of his books. And Rex Tillerson, head of Exxon Mobil. Know about them?

Rothkopf takes pains to show in "Superclass — The Global Power Elite and the World They Are Making" that he has long experience with members of, and aspirants to, this "superclass."

He includes:

Heads of 120 governments that impact other countries, by war or otherwise.

Commanders of the most powerful militaries.

Key executives of 2,000 big corporations, 100 richest financial institutions and 500 investment firms (Bill Gates, Paul Allen and Jeff Bezos are mentioned in "Superclass," though not Howard Schultz).

Executives of international bodies, governmental and nongovernmental.

Authorities of the biggest religious groups, terrorist leaders, criminal masterminds, the most widely read bloggers, thinkers, scientists, academics and artists who also impress the world.

Before serving President Clinton as deputy undersecretary of Commerce for international trade, Rothkopf founded a company that arranged events for executives of influential organizations. He recalls sitting at a dinner next to Henry Kissinger, who ignored him throughout except for one remark before getting up to speak.

"Mr. Rothkopf? ... Let me give you some advice," said Kissinger. "When you are having an after-dinner speaker, it is best if you eliminate the salad course."

The remark foreshadows one of the author's key contentions: The 6,000 have the power to obtain almost anything they want — except more time. That's why they spend so much of it spanning the world in customized private planes. He devotes some space to that privilege.

"For private jet travelers," he writes, "globalization is not an abstract concept but a day-to-day reality.... For them, the greeting card platitudes of globalization are truths proved by their daily existence: Borders have disappeared and the world is truly one global community."

The Swiss resort of Davos used to be known for sanatoriums, skiing and its attraction to writers including Robert Louis Stevenson, Arthur Conan Doyle and Thomas Mann. Since the 1970s, it has become famous for annual meetings of the World Economic Forum. Members of the superclass gather there from all over the world in January to talk about great problems and generate news about their discussions.

Such figures as the pope and Osama bin Laden don't appear, for reasons of their own, though their huge power is just as real. But as a "forum" Davos is known more as a talking shop than as a source of decisive action.

Rothkopf says power across national borders is not enough.

"If the people at large do not become stakeholders in globalization, then they will become its enemies — and its undoing," the book concludes.

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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