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.
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