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Encyclopedia > C. Wright Mills

Charles Wright Mills (August 28, 1916, Waco, TexasMarch 20, 1962, West Nyack, New York) was an American sociologist. Mills is best remembered for studying the structure of power in the U.S. in his book The Power Elite. Mills was concerned with the responsibilities of intellectuals in post-World War II society, and advocated relevance and engagement over disinterested academic observation, as a "public intelligence apparatus" in challenging the policies of the institutional elites in the "Three" (the economic, political and military). is the 240th day of the year (241st in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. ... Year 1916 (MCMXVI) was a leap year starting on Saturday (link will display the full calendar) of the Gregorian calendar (or a leap year starting on Friday of the 13-day-slower Julian calendar). ... For the Branch Davidian siege in Waco, Texas, see Waco Siege. ... is the 79th day of the year (80th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. ... Year 1962 (MCMLXII) was a common year starting on Monday (the link is to a full 1962 calendar) of the Gregorian calendar. ... West Nyack is a hamlet (and census-designated place) located in Rockland County, New York. ... Sociology (from Latin: socius, companion; and the suffix -ology, the study of, from Greek λόγος, lógos, knowledge [1]) is the systematic and scientific study of society, including patterns of social relationships, social action, and culture[2]. Areas studied in sociology can range from the analysis of brief contacts between anonymous... The Power Elite is an influential book written by sociologist C. Wright Mills in 1956. ...


Life and work

Mills graduated from the University of Texas at Austin in 1939 and received his Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1941. After a stint at the University of Maryland, College Park, he took a faculty position at Columbia University in 1946, which he kept, despite controversy, until his untimely death by heart attack. The New Men of Power: America's Labor Leaders (1948) studies the Labor Metaphysic and the dynamic of labor leaders cooperating with business officials. Mills concludes that labor is appeased by bread & butter, has given up structural challenge while becoming comfortable as part of the system. With such incorporation in the system, he saw them playing a (be it a somewhat subordinate one) role as the New Men of Power among the US Power Elite. University of Texas redirects here. ... Year 1939 (MCMXXXIX) was a common year starting on Sunday (link will display the full calendar) of the Gregorian calendar. ... University of Wisconsin redirects here. ... For other uses, see 1941 (disambiguation). ... The University of Maryland, College Park (also known as UM, UMD, or UMCP) is a public university located in the city of College Park, in Prince Georges County, Maryland, just outside Washington, D.C., in the United States. ... Alma Mater Columbia University is a private university in the United States and a member of the Ivy League. ... Year 1946 (MCMXLVI) was a common year starting on Tuesday (link will display full 1946 calendar) of the Gregorian calendar. ... Year 1948 (MCMXLVIII) was a leap year starting on Thursday (link will display the 1948 calendar) of the Gregorian calendar. ...

White Collar: The American Middle Classes (1951) contends that bureaucracies have overwhelmed the individual city worker, robbing him or her of all independent thought and turning him into a sort of a robot that is oppressed but cheerful. He or she gets a salary, but becomes alienated from the world because of his or her inability to affect or change it. Year 1951 (MCMLI) was a common year starting on Monday (link will display the full calendar) of the Gregorian calendar. ...

The Power Elite (1956) describes the relationship between the political, military, and economic elite (people at the pinnacles of these three institutions), noting that these people share a common world view: The Power Elite is an influential book written by sociologist C. Wright Mills in 1956. ...

  • the military metaphysic: a military definition of reality
  • possess class identity: recognizing themselves separate and superior to the rest of society
  • have interchangeability: they move within and between the three institutional structures and hold interlocking directorates
  • cooptation / socialization: socialization of prospective new members is done based on how well they "clone" themselves socially after such elites

These elites in the "big three" institutional orders have an "uneasy" alliance based upon their "community of interests" driven by the military metaphysic, which has transformed the economy into a 'permanent war economy'.

The Sociological Imagination (1959) describes a mindset—the sociological imagination—for doing sociology that stresses being able to connect individual experiences and societal relationships. The three components that form the sociological imagination are 1. History: how a society came to be and how it is changing and how history is being made in it 2. Biography: the nature of "human nature" in a society; what kind of people inhabit a particular society 3. Social Structure: how the various institutional orders in a society operate, which ones are dominant, how are they held together, how they might be changing, etc. The Sociological Imagination gives the one possessing it the ability to look beyond their local environment and personality to wider social structures and a relationship between history, biography and social structure. Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to: The Sociological Imagination The Sociological Imagination (ISBN 0195133730) was a book written by C. Wright Mills in 1959. ... Year 1959 (MCMLIX) was a common year starting on Thursday (link will display full calendar) of the Gregorian calendar. ... Sociological imagination is a sociological term coined by American sociologist C. Wright Mills in 1959 describing the ability to connect seemingly impersonal and remote historical forces to the incidents of an individual’s life. ...

Other important works include: The Causes of World War Three (1958), Listen, Yankee: The Revolution in Cuba (1960), and The Marxists (1962). Jan. ... Year 1960 (MCMLX) was a leap year starting on Friday (link will display full calendar) of the Gregorian calendar. ... Year 1962 (MCMLXII) was a common year starting on Monday (the link is to a full 1962 calendar) of the Gregorian calendar. ...

The novel The Death of Artemio Cruz (1962), by Mexican writer Carlos Fuentes, is dedicated to him. The dedication says: "To C. Wright Mills, true voice of North America, friend and companion in the struggle of Latin America". This article is about the literary concept. ... The Death of Artemio Cruz (original Spanish - La Muerte de Artemio Cruz)kelsey rose was here is a novel written in 1962 by Mexican writer Carlos Fuentes, and is considered to be a contributor to the Latin American literary movement knowns as Magical Realism. ... Year 1962 (MCMLXII) was a common year starting on Monday (the link is to a full 1962 calendar) of the Gregorian calendar. ... A writer is anyone who creates a written work, although the word more usually designates those who write creatively or professionally, or those who have written in many different forms. ... Carlos Fuentes Carlos Fuentes Macías (born November 11, 1928) is a Mexican writer and one of the best-known living novelists and essayists in the Spanish-speaking world. ... For other uses of terms redirecting here, see US (disambiguation), USA (disambiguation), and United States (disambiguation) Motto In God We Trust(since 1956) (From Many, One; Latin, traditional) Anthem The Star-Spangled Banner Capital Washington, D.C. Largest city New York City National language English (de facto)1 Demonym American... Latin America consists of the countries of South America and some of North America (including Central America and some the islands of the Caribbean) whose inhabitants mostly speak Romance languages, although Native American languages are also spoken. ...


There has long been debate over Mills's overall intellectual outlook. Mills is often seen as a closet Marxist because of his emphasis on social classes and their roles in historical progress. Just as often, others argue that Mills more closely identified with the work of Max Weber, whom many sociologists interpret as an exemplar of sophisticated (and intellectually adequate) anti-Marxism and modern liberalism.

While Mills never embraced the "Marxist" label, he nonetheless told his closest associates that he felt much closer to what he saw as the best currents of flexible, humanist Marxism than to its alternatives. He considered himself as a "plain Marxist", working in the spirit of young Marx.[citation needed] In a November 1956 letter to his friends Harvey and Bette Swados, Mills declared "[i]n the meantime, let's not forget that there's more [that's] still useful in even the Sweezy [Paul M. Sweezy, founder of Monthly Review magazine, "an independent socialist magazine"] kind of Marxism than in all the routineers of J.S. Mill [i.e., liberal intellectuals] put together." [1].[2] Paul Marlor Sweezy (April 10, 1910 – February 27, 2004) was a Marxian economist and a founding editor of the magazine Monthly Review. ...

Hence, though he died before taking up his plan to "work out [my intellectual] position in a positive and clean-cut way," [3] Mills clearly understood his position as being much closer to Marx than to Weber, albeit influenced by both.

Mills argues that micro and macro levels of analysis can be linked together by the sociological imagination, which enables its possessor to understand the large historical sense in terms of its meaning for the inner life and the external career of a variety of individuals. Individuals can only understand their own experiences fully if they locate themselves within their period of history. The key factor is the combination of private problems with public issues: the combination of troubles that occur within the individual’s immediate milieu and relations with other people with matters that have to do with institutions of an historical society as a whole.

Mills shares with Marxist sociology and other "conflict theorists" the view that American society is sharply divided and systematically shaped by the ongoing interactions between the powerful and powerless. He also shares their concerns for alienation, the effects of social structure on the personality, and the manipulation of people by elites and the mass media. Mills combined such conventional Marxian concerns with careful attention to the dynamics of personal meaning and small-group motivations, topics for which Weberian scholars are more noted. In sociology, conflict theory states that the society or organization functions so that each individual participant and its groups struggle to maximize their benefits, which inevitably contributes to social change such as changes in politics and revolutions. ...

Above all, Mills understood sociology, when properly approached, as an inherently political endeavor and a servant of the democratic process. In The Sociological Imagination, Mills wrote: "It is the political task of the social scientist -- as of any liberal educator -- continually to translate personal troubles into public issues, and public issues into the terms of their human meaning for a variety of individuals. It is his task to display in his work -- and, as an educator, in his life as well -- this kind of sociological imagination. And it is his purpose to cultivate such habits of mind among the men and women who are publicly exposed to him. To secure these ends is to secure reason and individuality, and to make these the predominant values of a democratic society."[citation needed]


The Society for the Study of Social Problems established the C. Wright Mills Award in 1964. Also Nintendo emulator: 1964 (emulator). ...

Further reading

  • C. Wright Mills, an American Utopian- (1983). Irving Louis Horowitz.
  • C. Wright Mills, A Native Radical and his American Roots" (1984) Rick Tilman

ISBN 0-02-915010-8

  • C. Wright Mills, Key sociologist,By John Eldridge,(1983)
  • C. Wright Mills: Letters and Autobiographical Writings (2000). Kathryn and Pamela Mills (eds). ISBN 0-520-23209-7
  • Radical Nomad: C. Wright Mills and His Times (2006). Tom Hayden with Contemporary Reflections by Stanley Aronowitz, Richard Flacks, and Charles Lemert. ISBN 1-59451-202-7
  • Intellectuals in Action: The Origins of the New Left and Radical Liberalism, 1945-1970 (2002). Kevin Mattson. ISBN 027102206X
  • "Mills's The Power Elite 50 Years Later." By G. William Domhoff in Contemporary Sociology, November 2006.
  • "A Mills Revival?", by Stanley Aronowitz, Logos Journal, Summer 2003.

// Charles Lemert (b. ... Stanley Aronowitz Stanley Aronowitz (born 1933) is professor of sociology, cultural studies, and urban education at the CUNY Graduate Center. ...

External links


  1. ^ 7-nov-2007 17.07 library.umass.edu Remo,I just reviewed the Mills correspondence ion the Swados Papers, and, yes, that is an accurate quote. In a letter dated Nov. 3rd [1956] Mills writes, " What these jokers -- all of them -- don't they realize that way down deep and systematically I'm a goddamned anarchists. I'm really quite serious and I'm going over the next few years to work out the position in a positive and clean-cut way. In the meantime, let's not forget that there's more still useful in even the Sweezy kind of Marxism than in all the routineers of JS Mills put together." I'm happy to send you a photocopy of the entire letter if you like.Please let me know if you have any questions, or if I can be of further assistance. Best regards, Danielle -- Danielle Kovacs Curator of Manuscripts Special Collections and University Archives W.E.B. Du Bois Library University of Massachusetts 154 Hicks Way Amherst, MA 01003 (413) 545-2784 [1]
  2. ^ This is a quotation from a letter by Kathryn Mills on 13 nov 2007 to Regainfo: The main point from the letter from 1956 that relates to the comments in the article seems to be the part in which Wright says he thinks there's more of value in Marxist writings than in all the "routineers of J.S. Mill" put together, and the part about wanting to work out his ideas in a clean cut way. It would be fine with me -- I don't think it would be misleading at all -- if you quoted those parts of the letter, but I don't agree with the idea of quoting the casual reference to anarchism in the context of the article for Wikipedia. Another alternative you may want to consider is quoting a passage from one of Wright's letters to Tovarich, which are parts of a manuscript that Wright wanted to publish eventually -- and for that reason I think they reflect his nuanced thinking.
  3. ^ see previous notes



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