The American political system works to the advantage of private interests and entrenched power, systematically excluding the vast majority of people from the process of public decision making: this is the less than novel starting point and conclusion of Parenti's tired polemic. Writing in the style of radical enlightenment--the ""we are taught that. . . but the truth is"" school--Parenti has drawn loosely on the many empirical and theoretical studies done by academics and investigative reporters over the last decade and more. He describes the undemocratic influence of wealth, the law, lobbyists, the mass media, schools, etc., persistently haranguing the reader with his simple message. Sliding back and forth between elite theory and class analysis, Parenti never confronts the question of their incompatibility, although he seems to prefer the latter. Similarly, he constantly refers to the racial and sexual composition of ruling bodies--the familiar white male--but rejects the notion that a change in that composition would be significant, since it is the existence of such bodies in themselves that he opposes. Parenti's book therefore displays the confusions and hazards of uncritically attempting to wed old-fashioned class theory with newly popular movements on behalf of racial minorities, women, homosexuals, etc. His concluding call for a new socialist party rings hollow after 300 pages describing the all-encompassing power structure. Apparently aimed at sympathetic readers, yet as pedantic and condescending as a primer for the politically illiterate.