C. Wright Mills liked to think big. His analyses of power elites, white collar workplaces, the Cuban Revolution, and potential sources of radical social transformation were influential with thinkers, activists, and concerned citizens in many parts of the globe. Daniel Geary describes Mills’s ideas and their impact on a number of social movements, especially the New Left.
I am a Lecturer in Digital Journalism at the University of Stirling and a former research fellow at the University of Denver’s Center for Middle East Studies. I am the author of The Road to Iraq: The Making of a Neoconservative War (Edinburgh University Press, 2014). I write for The Observer, The Nation, The Daily Beast, Los Angeles Review of Books, The Atlantic, The New Republic, Al Jazeera, Dissent, The National, VICE News, Huffington Post, In These Times, Le Monde Diplomatique, Die Tageszeitung (TAZ), Adbusters, Guernica, London Review of Books (Blog), The New Arab, Bella Caledonia, Asia Times, IPS News, Medium, Political Insight, The Drouth, Canadian Dimension, Tanqeed, Variant, etc. I have appeared as an on-air analyst on Al Jazeera, the BBC, TRT World, RAI TV, Radio Open Source with Christopher Lydon, Alternative Radio with David Barsamian and several Pacifica Radio channels.
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2 thoughts on “C. Wright Mills Reconsidered”
For a comprehensive and detailed account of the power structure research undertaken and inspired by C.Wright-Mills visit:
Of course what university sociologists like C.Wright-Mills failed to anticipate was the power of the “cultural apparatus”-which they conveniently for elites described only superficially-to apathize entire populations to the extent of the mental and physical dispossession to which they would,in each engineered financial crash,fall victim.
So while Mills was good at coining neologisms like the phrases,”culture apparatus” and “power elite” that inaugurated the whole area of “power structure research”,indeed helped proselytize for the relatively new discipline of sociology itself,he was utterly vague about how subject populations could resist the elite-driven machinations he described.
Wright-Mills’ insight that there existed in 1950s America a cohesive power elite that dominated by means of a left-right paradigm that advanced their interests no matter which party was elected will hardly be seen as a revelation today.
Wright-Mills was noticeably reticent about identifying the key power bases wherein the elite operated but at least he had a sense that such bases were more than just retirement homes for movers and shakers who had been put out to grass!
For all his propagandizing re-the virtues of the “sociological imagination”-another Mills slogan-he failed to anticipate the insidiousness and subtlety the elites he described had at their disposal in order to weaponize the very culture over which they dominated.
In this sense,Mills was guilty like the all the other sociologists of his era and beyond-as well as the self-designated “progressive liberal-left” today-of thoroughly underestimating the power of elites to sustain the monolithic control they exercise.
In the power-structure research he pioneered Mills never laid a glove on the “scientific dictatorship” so assiduously coveted by the Anglo-American elites which he and sociologists of his ilk-by means of “power-network mapping” and “content analysis”- pretended to expose.
Perhaps it was the fictional creative imaginative power of Orwell-rather than any of the elite-financed and co-opted university “sociological imaginations”-who came closest to describing the “scientific dictatorship” with which we now have to contend.