The Rhetoric of C. Wright Mills

Reading The Power Elite is a joy. Mills writes with clarity, verve, and emotion. He clearly feels that something is out of kilter in American society and that social science can help to understand the problem. Alan Wolfe wrote an afterword in 2000 to praise Mills for his ability as a social scientist, but takes issue with his ability as a social critic. The first ten chapters of the book describe mid 20c American society very well, the final five chapters shift to social criticism.

C. Wright Mills and the Past of Elite Theory

I’m digging a further into elite theory and uncovering a rich history of material that makes me feel both inadequate and intensely interested in learning more. I’m currently working my way through The Power Elite by C. Wright Mills published in 1956. The book is a great snapshot of mid 20c sociology of elites. Mills describes three levels of American mid-century society, the masses, a middle level, and the power elite.

Are scientists part of the elite?

Chris Hayes appeared on Point of Inquiry to pitch his new book The Twilight of the Elites. Chris Mooney and he discussed the difference between science and Wall Street, two areas of human activity that appear to value intelligence above all other qualities, and both of which claim to be meritocracies. Hayes argues that meritocracy has failed because it has devolved into a system of ‘inequality in, inequality out.’ Could science suffer from the same problem?

Hayes recapitulates Lasch

Twilight of the Elites: America After Meritocracy, a new book by Chris Hayes, calls for massive reform and wealth redistribution to balance the scales in American politics. The sad thing is that the book appears to retell many of the arguments Christopher Lasch made in Revolt of the Elites, published in 1995. At the start of the twentieth century the big political fear were the ‘masses.’ Jose Ortega y Gasset and Walter Lippman told us that the masses were too entitled or too stupid to be trusted with power; that they were losing faith in the democratic ideals of the Western world and turning toward the radical politics of communism.