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C. Wright Mills

From Academic Kids

Charles Wright Mills (August 28, 1916, Waco, TexasMarch 20, 1962, Nyack, New York) was an American sociologist. Among other topics he was concerned with the responsibilities of intellectuals in post-World War II society, and advocated relevance and engagement over disinterested academic observation.

Contents

Life and work

Mills graduated from the University of Texas at Austin in 1939 and received his Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin in 1941. In 1946 he took a faculty position at Columbia University, which he kept, despite controversy, until his untimely death.

White Collar: The American Middle Classes (1951) contends that the titular workforce is politically conservative because members tend to identify with the companies they work for.

The Power Elite (1956) describes the relationship between political, military, and business leaders, noting that such individuals are often graduates of certain universities, are members of the same exclusive social and country clubs, and usually intermarry with other elites.

The Sociological Imagination (1959) describes a mindset—the sociological imagination—for doing sociology that stresses being able to connect individual experiences and societal relationships.

Other important works include The New Men of Power: America's Labor Leaders (1948), The Causes of World War Three (1958), Listen, Yankee: The Revolution in Cuba (1960), and The Marxists (1962).

Critical conflict theory

Mills thought it was possible to create a good society on the basis of knowledge and that people of knowledge must take responsibility for its absence.

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 individuals immediate milieu and relations with other people with matters that have to do with institutions of an historical society as a whole.

In modern society those centralization of power and that the men who head government, corporations, the armed forces and the unions are closely linked. The means of power at the disposal of centralized decision makers have greatly increased. The Power Elite is made up of political, economic and military leaders. Eisenhowers military-industrial complex gives a clear image of the entwinement of these bases of power.

Mills shares with Marxist sociology and elite theorists the view that society is divided rather sharply and horizontally 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 the mass media. At the same time however Mills does not regard property (economic power) as the main source of conflict in society.

Quotations

Nobody talks more of free enterprise and competition and of the best man winning than the man who inherited his father's store or farm. — C. Wright Mills

Above all, do not give up your moral and political autonomy by accepting in somebody else's terms the illiberal practicality of the bureaucratic ethos or the liberal practicality of the moral scatter. Know that many personal troubles cannot be solved merely as troubles, but must be understood in terms of public issues - and in terms of the problems of history making.

Further reading

  • C. Wright Mills, an American Utopian (1983). Irving Louis Horowitz. ISBN 0029150108
  • C. Wright Mills: Letters and Autobiographical Writings (2000). Kathryn and Pamela Mills (eds). ISBN 0520232097

External links

fr:C. Wright Mills nl:Charles Wright Mills ja:チャールズ・ライト・ミルズ pl:Charles Wright Mills

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