Archive for the ‘Mills’ Category
C. Wright Mills remains a model for those who wish to become intellectuals: by the evidence of his massive output in the twenty-three years of publications he was the antithesis of the specialist or the expert. When most in the human sciences followed the path of least resistance by writing the same articles and books over and over, Mills ranged widely over historical cultural, political, social, and psychological domains. He was interested in the labor and radical movements and wrote extensively on them; as a close student of Max Weber he made some of the most trenchant critiques of bureaucracy; he was among the leading post-war critics of the emergent mass culture and the mass communications media and, despite its ostensibly introductory tone, The Sociological Imagination may be America’s best contribution to the ongoing debate about the relationship of scholarship to social commitment, a debate which has animated literary as well as social science circles for decades.
What makes The Power Elite most relevant today, and much more than an analysis of the institutional structure of America in the late 1950’s, is that C. Wright Mills’s thesis relies upon a compelling description of the social structure in America at the bottom level of society, what he calls a mass society. Mills suggests that, in the present, democracy exists in form and rhetoric rather than in substance and practice. The Power Elite considers the implications of structured domination in modern democratic society and how this generates not merely political apathy but the occlusion of thought in both public life and social analysis.
Mills’s mass society thesis illustrates how power in America effects individuals and the ways in which social theory may need to reassess its embrace of pluralism as the guiding principle of American political society. As this essay will argue, many sociological and political theorists, in their eagerness to rationalize and embrace the ideology of 19th century pluralism, have overlooked the significance of Mills’s mass society thesis or rejected it outright for being too pessimistic and dismissive. His theory of mass society posits a public that is atomized and alienated.