C. Wright Mills: Sociological Imagination and the Power Elite

Wright Mills and his view on the power elite and the sociological imagination

Wright Mills' "The Power Elite"

Fifty years ago, C. Wright Mills completed his trilogy on American society with the publication of , which encompassed, updated, and greatly added to everything he had said in (1948) and (1951). The book caused a firestorm in academic and political circles, leading to innumerable reviews in scholarly journals and the popular press, most of them negative. Bristling with terms like "the warlords," "the higher immorality," "the power elite," "crackpot realism," and "organized irresponsibility," it nonetheless contained a very large amount of research, much of it in the 47 pages of Notes. It became a classic because it was the first full-scale study of the structure and distribution of power in the United States by a sociologist using the full panoply of modern-day sociological theory and methods.

The Power Elite is a 1956 book by sociologist C

According to C. Wright Mills, among the bestknown power-elite theorists, the governing elite in the United Statesdraws its members from three areas: (1) the highest political leadersincluding the president and a handful of key cabinet members andclose advisers; (2) major corporate owners and directors; and (3)high-ranking military officers.

Finally, Mills is continually concerned in his writings with the threat to two fundamental human values: "freedom and reason." Mills characterizes the trends that imperil these values as being "co-extensive with the major trends of contemporary society.” These trends are, Mills states throughout his writings, the centralization and enlargement of vast bureaucratic organizations, and the placing of this extraordinary power and authority into the hands of a small elite.