- Paperback: 448 pages
- Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1/18/00 edition (February 17, 2000)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0195133544
- ISBN-13: 978-0195133547
- Product Dimensions: 8 x 1 x 5.3 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 91 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #53,975 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Power Elite 1/18/00 Edition
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"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.
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The Power Elite is a great primer but the reader must do further research to obtain a deeper understanding. In doing so one should be mindful of Otto Von Bismark statement that "the less one knows how laws and sausages are made the better one will sleep at night".
World War Two caused an expansion of the Federal Executive's powers, and motivated extreme coordination between United States industry and its military. The Federal Executive and the military controlled much taxpayer money, and a series of revolving door opportunities were created to coordinate war-related industrial production. Industrial opportunities opened the power elite's door to Federal Executive politicians and to the military, people who themselves were not wealthy but who controlled taxpayer money. Mills provides extensive discussion of the Eisenhower administration but specifically excludes most of the Congress from his power elite definition: while Congress controls the taxpayer purse strings, Congress simply cannot absorb the detailed knowledge of running the Federal Executive or the Pentagon. And the Cold War following World War Two put the United States on a somewhat permanent war footing: the industrial / Federal Executive / military's power elite portal endured.
Mills' study was published originally in 1956 during the Eisenhower administration. It is somewhat ironic IMO that C. Wright Mills' study omits President Eisenhower's January 17, 1961 parting caution: "This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. We must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist."
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. "The Power Elite" is a masterful attempt on Mills' part to accurately describe the nature of American society, and to detail how wealth, power, and privilege systematically influence and affect the ordinary individual's progress in the economic, social, and political domains.
Mills specific focus in this book is on the interlocking nature of three aspects of the power elite in this country, including the military, the corporate, and the political elite. According to Mills, they share a mutuality of life experiences, educational backgrounds, and economic situations that they cooperate and support each other to the detriment and disfavor of the mass of ordinary Americans. Mills wanted to alert his contemporaries as to the critical ways in which the nature of power and privilege had changed in the 20th century, and while many critics have openly criticized his findings and his conclusions after the book's publications, many readers now find his prognostications and warnings regarding the ways in which the power elite would collusively wrest and manipulate control of every aspect of life in this country an amazingly accurate critique of the true nature of power and privilege in America.
Mills often write eloquently regarding the ways in which a person's recognition of "what's what" and "who's who" based on the ability to judge the information within the social environment would dramatically aid him or her in operating within the social environment. Obviously, these words and this observation are as valuable as ever. This is a wonderful book, written in a very accessible and entertaining style, meant both for an intellectual audience and for the scholastic community as well. While it may not be for "everyman", any person wanting to better understand and more fully appreciate how individual biography and social history meaningfully interact to create the realities we live in will enjoy and appreciate this legendary sociological critique and invitation to the pleasures of a sociological perspective by one of its most remarkable proponents some half century ago.
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