Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
C. Wright Mills
Charles Wright Mills (August 28, 1916, Waco, Texas – March 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.
Life and work
Mills graduated from the University of Texas 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.
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 individual’s 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 who hold power have come to exercise it in hidden ways. The rational systems hide their power so that no one sees their sources of authority or understand their calculation. For the bureaucracy the world is an object to be manipulated. Mills argued that the growth of large structures has been accompanied by a 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. Eisenhower’s “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.
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.
- 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
The contents of this article is licensed from www.wikipedia.org under the GNU Free Documentation License. Click here to see the transparent copy and copyright details