C Wright Mills Sociological Imagination and the Power Elite



see right mills was a sociologist who believed that knowledge was the crucial element to social change he was a hugely influential radical social theorist one example of his works which supports this distinction is his legendary book on social power in 1964 the Society for the study of social problems established the see right mills award this award is given to the individual whose work best exemplifies outstanding social science research and a great understanding the individual and society in the tradition of the distinguished sociologist Searight Mills he felt society needed to change and that change would come through those who had knowledge and used it properly he felt that critical thinking was the means of obtaining this crucial knowledge and thus use this thinking to create what he called the sociological imagination see right Mills was a social conflict theorist who argued that a simple few individuals within the political military and corporate realms actually held the majority of power within the United States and that these few individuals made decisions that resounded throughout all American lives to look at an example of the hierarchy of power imagine a triangle with the executive branch military leaders and corporate leaders at the top interest group leaders legislators and local political leaders in the middle and then the common masses the everyday people at the bottom Mills wrote the power elite identifying certain individuals as the national upper class that owned most of the country's wealth runs its banks and corporations are in control of the universities and mass media and staff some of the highest ranking positions within governments and courts Mills further explained that these elites often move fluidly between positions within the three controlling realms for example Hillary Clinton moved from the position of first lady to that of Senator to Secretary of State mitt Romney moved from the corporate world to governor and even as a presidential candidate Mills noted that these power elite usually were people who interacted with each other regularly and typically held the same political and economic views or agendas many power lead theorists actually argue that there is not such a thing as a true democracy because these few individuals have so much power that the wishes of the average people cannot be heard these theorists believe that those at the top are so distant from the average people and that they are so powerful that there isn't any true competition for them thus they usually tend to get what they want see right Mills once stated that it is the political task of the social scientists to translate personal troubles into public issues what does this mean exactly how our personal problems a matter of public issues these might be two questions that you are asking yourself after reading this quote let us look at exactly what see right mills meant by this statement and how it applies to you your community into society as a whole in order to get a better understanding of how personal troubles are linked to public issues and in order for one to grasp a better understanding of their own personal lives one must first fully understand that there is a link or a connection between the public and the private one must see the difference between what trouble is and what an issue is to Mills trouble is an individual's character and with those limited areas of social life of which he is directly and personally aware an issue then is matters that transcend these local environments of the individual and the limited range of their life basically a personal trouble has to do with the individual and to resolve the trouble one must look at the character and life of the individual issues then have to do a society in some element within it for example if you have one person who is unemployed then you get that individual skills and abilities to try and resolve the problem this means that the trouble of unemployment is caused by something within the individual however if you have 14 million people unemployed then this is beyond the individual and is now a social issue this issue cannot be corrected by focusing on only the individuals but must be resolved by looking at the bigger social elements involved so just how exactly does one make the connection or see the link between the personal and the public see right Mills stated that to do this one must use critical thinking skills such as the use of the sociological imagination the sociological imagination is defined as an awareness of the relationship between an individual and the wider society this awareness then allows us to make the connection of what is happening to us personally to the wider broader social world this imagination allows us to go beyond personal observations to understand the more complex social issues for example let's look at the issue of divorce when looking at divorce through the lens of one's personal troubles divorce is very difficult on the individuals involved emotionally financially and even spiritually divorce is a personal hardship for the husband and the wife involved not to mention the children as well by using the sociological imagination one sees that divorce is not just a simple personal problem for those individuals involved but one that has consequences on a social level looking at divorce sociologically one can see that with the rise in divorce and with the increase in blended families divorce has actually redefined a crucial social structure that a family today the nuclear family is not the only type of family that exists within society we now have a society that has connections and issues between family members in blended families stepparents step-siblings half siblings and single-parent families on a broader scope divorce then becomes public issues reaching its tentacles that affect schools government agencies businesses and even religious institutions the sociological imagination allows us to become more active participants within our own society for it allows us to better understand what is going on and how various parts of society and the individuals within society are affected as we become more aware of the effects we then can become a catalyst for change see right Mills was a social conflict sociologist who studied the power structure within the United States in his work the power elite Mills explained how just a few individuals within the government military and corporate worlds held most of the wealth and power within the country he stated that due to these power elite the average people within the United States were simply not in true control has taught to us according to democracy many theorists believe that the United States does not have a true democracy simply because of the great power held within the select power elite few Mills also believed that knowledge was the key to promoting social change he believed is the job of all social scientists to connect individual problems with greater social issues in order to create changes that would solve the problems Mills coined the term sociological imagination which means awareness between oneself and the broader social world around them Mills believe that when a link or connection was found between individual problems to greater social issues one could better understand their own lives and social change could come about to create a better society

10 thoughts on “C Wright Mills Sociological Imagination and the Power Elite

  1. Right, Mills said these things. But he was wrong. Actually if each individual took responsibility for themselves and got their act together the big issues would be solved.

  2. He was absolutely correct about "knowledge" being key. And that's exactly why he was both targeted by the elites and his works were used by the Trilateral commission in 1973 to decimate all public and many private educational institutions core curriculum. What Rockefeller(who headed the commission) and his elite friends got was a system that graduates memorization without the capacity to think critically. The nationwide college campus protests during the 60s thru to late 70s were also targeted for educating young people to question and demand change. You can clearly see the bell curve after the changes were implemented. Today shows the full effects as even post grads are complete robots today who simply don't have the knowledge to know how far they are buried in the sheep herd.

  3. Phew, helped a lot. I got a sociology class this semester at my University and this specific article by C Wright Mills is the highlight of a research study we are suppose to conduct.

  4. This was produced before the 2016 election. The video recognized Hillary Clinton as a member of the power elite 2:09 . Donald Trump was thought to be an "outsider," and maybe he was in the fact he never held a political office. But he was a billionaire business leader (and a friend of the Clintons and other political figures both on the right and left)

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