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Taking It Big: C. Wright Mills and the Making of Political Intellectuals Hardcover – July 10, 2012

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Columbia University Press (July 10, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0231135408
  • ISBN-13: 978-0231135405
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.3 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,811,536 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


Stanley Aronowitz tells a great story: the uniqueness of C. Wright Mills's trajectory through his time and the value of his work for ours. Mills's legacy is rich and timely and fully merits the kind of attention Aronowitz pays it. This book will reintroduce a whole generation of readers to ideas that were once everywhere and will give those ideas the concrete, stripped-down force they used to have.

(Bruce Robbins, Columbia University)

C. Wright Mills is perhaps sociology's clearest and best exemplar of a public intellectual. For more than fifty years, his work has sparked the enthusiasm of students and the commitment of scholars to a sociology that informs self-understanding and big social issues. In Taking It Big, Stanley Aronowitz puts Mills in context, identifies the theoretical perspective behind his classic works, and demonstrates Mills's intellectual relevance to today's politics.

(Craig Calhoun, president, Social Science Research Council, and University Professor and director of the Institute for Public Knowledge, New York University)

Rich in insight and scholarship.... Aronowitz has added positively to the literature on Mills and the American post-war Left with this fascinating study.

(Paul Reynolds Marx & Philosophy Review of Books)

Readers will find many rewards here, chief among them the insights of a sociologist who manages to capture Mill's energy and genius while maintaining a critical tone...Highly recommended.


a tour de force of public intellectual achievement on one of the world's most important thinkers

(Working USA)

The main value of the book is its contribution to the revival of interest in Mills and its encouragement to social scientists to follow Mills's project of studying "up" by addressing big theoretical problems and by identifying ways in which power operates.

(Barbara A. Misztal American Journal of Sociology 1900-01-00)

The book's broad scope and brilliant analyses of Mills's writings trump any of the existing overviews of his work.... This is indeed an invaluable addition to the existing literature.

(Mel van Elteren Journal of American Culture)

Aronowitz has done an excellent job producing this intellectual and political biography of C. Wright Mills: it brings to life the thinking and courage of arguably one of the most important American-born theorists in sociology.

(Kim Scipes Logos 1900-01-00)


Stanley Aronowitz--himself a towering public intellectual--has written the definitive book on one of the towering public intellectuals of twentieth-century America. Don't miss it

(Cornel West, Princeton University)

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By L. A. Brudner-white on December 10, 2012
Format: Hardcover
This is the major work on Mills whose relevance, not only to the study of political dynamics, to radical social change and social equity might otherwise be under valued today, just when it is most needed, if not interpreted by another author deeply in touch in recent decades with in the dynamics of time and socio-economic change in the struggle for the American economy and soul. Mills was a hybrid, a bridge and a break across traditions. As such a deep understanding of his contributions which were much in advance of his time requires a broad read across different bodies of philosphical and social science literature and that includes at key point going beyond some insights of Marx to capture today's newly emplaced power ellites as they are situated in a changing world. While Mills' best known work probably is The Power Elite, even that work might appear static unless updated in the totality of Mill's concerns and understood as part of a more complex project that is best elucidated over specitfic periods of time. Aronowitz himself is a major theorist on class, socio-political dynamics, labor struggles and activism etc is perhaps the best positioned person in America to understand and interpret Mills, especilly as Aronowitz has written a great deal on social change and the dynamics of various aspects of economy and laabor in the modern and his intepretation of Mills brings the trajectory of the work into the immediately relevant present political struggle in America Also by reading across Mill's works at various points in time, Aronowitz heightens our awareness of Mill's relevance basically relevance which is anything is augmented at the present moment, as facilitated by Aronowitz's reading of Mills.Read more ›
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By bookish girl on January 18, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Taking It Big surely is the best analysis of the development of Mills' sociology that is available. It is a must read for anyone interested in appreciating what needs to be done to provide for the continued viability of the discipline. Aronowitz's vast reservoir of knowledge is very evident. Who else but Stanley Aronowitz can make intelligent and useful reference to forgotten scholars such as Siegfried Bernfeld?
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By gerardpeter on October 13, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
C Wright Mills died more than fifty years ago. In poor health, he was only 45. A formidable sociologist who challenged the dominant ideas in his discipline. The Power Elite, first published in 1956, remains a key text in the study of politics. He took his values outside academia, an outspoken and influential radical. Letter to the New Left written in 1960 was profoundly important, inspiring a generation of students to question the received wisdom of conservative America. This is the fourth biography to appear in the last decade, showing a renewed interest in his style and in his thinking.

By all accounts he was a difficult man. He rebuilt Harley-Davidson motorbikes and rode aggressively in his personal life. This book, however, is a study of his intellectual development. Prior knowledge of his work is required and a grounding in the social sciences, perhaps even to graduate level.

Aronowitz follows a chronological path. His PhD thesis on the philosophy of John Dewey was completed in 1940. In the aftermath of war he was assigned a study of Puerto Rico, but also finished New Men of Power, on the trade unions. The seminal White Collar was followed by Character and Social Structure, a collaboration with Hans Gerth. After Power Elite Mills produced explicitly political pieces on Cuba, where he lived for a month, and the Cold War. The Sociological Imagination [1960] constitutes a programme for the social sciences and hard-hitting critique of his peers. At the end of his life he was working on a sociology of the modern intelligentsia. The Prison Notebooks were not yet available in English, yet the thinking of Mills and Gramsci are close. An extraordinarily impressive output, in quality and diversity.
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