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The Power Elite Paperback – February 17, 2000

ISBN-13: 978-0195133547 ISBN-10: 0195133544

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press (February 17, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195133544
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195133547
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 1 x 5.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (39 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #206,905 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"A classic...the first full-scale study of the structure and distribution of power in the Unites States by a sociologist using the full panoply of modern-day sociological theory and methods."--Contemporary Sociology

About the Author

The late C. Wright Mills, Professor of Sociology at Columbia University, was a leading critic of modern American civilization. Alan Wolfe is University Professor and Professor of Political Science and Sociology at Boston University. He is the author or editor of more than ten books, including Marginalized in the Middle and One Nation, After All.

Customer Reviews

This book remains an important and fascinating sociological work.
New Age of Barbarism
The United States, that great, immutable bulwark of freedom, is instead a mass of some 260 million souls effectively controlled through the corporate media systems.
Jeffrey Leach
C. Wright Mills, Dwight D. Eisenhower, and George Washington were men capable of incorruptible vision.
David L. Parnell

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

140 of 146 people found the following review helpful By Jeffrey Leach HALL OF FAME on September 12, 2003
Format: Paperback
C. Wright Mills's examination on the inner workings of the ruling structures of America, "The Power Elite," had an enormous influence on the development of the New Left during the 1960s. This book became the bible of choice amongst the founders of the Students for a Democratic Society in the early 1960s, serving as one of the key components Tom Hayden borrowed from when he wrote "The Port Huron Statement," the first credo issued by that group. It could be safely argued that a student of Leftism in twentieth century America couldn't even begin to grasp the ideology of that movement without looking at this book. C. Wright Mills died before seeing the effects the New Left would have on American society, but his book lives on in reprint after reprint.
"The Power Elite" begins its examination of the power structure in America by looking at local systems of elites. These microcosms of power, much more common in the earlier era of our country, constituted numerous bases of influence across the country. These people were the ones who owned the local mills, or worked as the local lawyer or doctor. They often owned land and saw themselves as the height of local society. But as America grew in size, these local elites gave way to a nationalized power structure that overrode the old, regional ruling constructions. In the process of showing how regional elites eventually formed a national system, Mills examines the old moneyed classes in the United States, how the powerful and wealthy set up networks of influence through elite schools, and how the power elites recruited new members through such institutions as corporations and government service.
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42 of 44 people found the following review helpful By Barron Laycock HALL OF FAME on December 16, 2000
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
No one has written with more verve and authority about the awesome and frightening capabilities of man than the late C. Wright Mills, a prominent and controversial sociologist who wrote such memorable tomes as "White Collar", an exploration of the emerging American Middle class in the early 1950s, and "The Sociological Imagination", a brilliant introduction to the values of employing the sociological perspective in better understanding the realities of ordinary life. In this book, "The Power Elite", Mills delivers a provocative examination of the nature of power, privilege, and status in the United States, and how each of these three critical elements of power and property in this country are irrevocably connected to each other, and how they affect and determine the life chances and material hopes of ordinary human beings. What is most amazing about this book is that while it was written almost fifty years ago to detail what Mills saw as the principal characteristics of American society at the century's mid-point, it also has great verve and value in understanding our contemporary cultural dilemma.
After nearly fifty years, that in and of itself is powerful testimony to his enduring value as a scholar and an original thinker. To Mills, it is critical to understand what he viewed as inherent differences between personal troubles of the individual on the one hand, which that particular person has the responsibility to resolve and overcome, and social ills on the other hand, which are beyond both the ken or control of the solitary individual. Indeed, according to Mills, increasingly in the 20th century one finds himself trapped by social circumstance into dilemmas he is absolutely unable to resolve without significant help from the wider social community.
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29 of 32 people found the following review helpful By Erin Esposito on February 17, 2003
Format: Paperback
Although this book first came out in the 1950's, the information is still ever so pertinent to American society in the 21st century. Fact: America is operated by a small group of individuals better known as the "elites."
Granted we may live in a democratic society, but truth be told, it is not the millions of common people who have the power - it is those filthy rich people who have money and connections - that run the country. James Madison is probably rolling over in his grave, for when he wrote the Federalist Paper #10, he feared what the majority would do to the minority. Madison had it all wrong - it's the minority that does the controlling of the majority.
Mills book is a powerful read! This is a book that brings a moment of enlightment insofar as to understanding the extent of power the elites possess and the impact of such power in our system.
Mandatory reading for all political science majors and people who are interested in pursuing endeavors in the field of politics.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By K. Johnson VINE VOICE on February 17, 2006
Format: Paperback
What is strikingly apparent even though this book was published in 1956, is that many of the factual bases of it and its observations are seen today, in 2006. And, the current power-structure will continue to operate this way. It is increasing, and will continue to do so. This is where democracies often lead.

There are a few thousand people in the United States that control almost all aspects of society. These few thousand individuals, hold leadership posts in the political, military, and economic spheres. An extremely high percentage of these individuals were educated in the same schools, come from upper-class families, belong to the same public clubs, and often the same secret societies. The members of this ruling group hold the same interests and values. And this group, self-selects the majority of its members. This is why there won't be change in the values and course of direction of the United States. One of the biggest myths of American society is that the middle class has influence on which direction and course, our society takes. The American middle class does not have interests or values in common with the Power Elites that control and run US society.

Because of these differences, who benefits?

The shift from the land-owning elites to the Oligarchic Corporate Rich began in earnest after the American Civil War.

Today, the foundations of the "3 tiers of control" that form the current oligarchic power structure of the United States has been long in the making, be it by intentional design, convenience, and/or by coincidence. (The first is the most intentional and influential.
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