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The Power Elite

4.08  ·  Rating Details ·  889 Ratings  ·  51 Reviews
First published in 1956, The Power Elite stands as a contemporary classic of social science and social criticism. C. Wright Mills examines and critiques the organization of power in the United States, calling attention to three firmly interlocked prongs of power: the military, corporate, and political elite. The Power Elite can be read as a good account of what was taking ...more
Paperback, 448 pages
Published February 17th 2000 by Oxford University Press, USA (first published 1956)
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Erik Graff
May 05, 2016 Erik Graff rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those interested in the New Left & the history of American sociology
Recommended to Erik by: Edward Erickson
This book had a profound influence on me and on my generation. I read it no later than 1969, but may have read it as early as 1967. In any case, all of my older, political friends had read it and encouraged me to read it.

Basically, Mills argues that the USA is owned and operated by a very small portion of its population, acting behind the institutional smokescreen of representative politics and elections which they subtantially finance and control. So far as I recall, his major emphasis is in de
Blaise Lucey
Sep 07, 2013 Blaise Lucey rated it it was amazing
A quote that should make you read The Power Elite:

"On the one hand, there is the increased scale and centralization of the structure of decision; and, on the other, the increasingly narrow sorting men into milieu. From both sides, there is the increased dependence upon the formal media of communication, including those of education itself. But the man in the mass does not gain a transcending view from these media; instead he gets his experience stereotyped, and then he gets sunk further by that
Lucid explanation of American 'aristocracies'. Slightly outdated, but not nearly as much as I had anticipated. Simplistic, but still insightful.
Todd Stockslager
Jun 02, 2015 Todd Stockslager rated it it was ok
Shelves: politics
Review title: Needs a real new edition
The "new edition" of this edition of this 1950's social science classic is nothing more than a reprint with a short 15-page critical essay from 2000 tacked on the end. What it really needs is a real and extensive updating to be read as anything other than a work limited by and to the time and place of its creation.

I first read The Power Elite as a student of history and government in the late 1970s, when much of the criticism and commentary that Mills aimed
Joshua Sauvageau
Jun 21, 2012 Joshua Sauvageau rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I just picked this book up on a whim, cynically imagining that, even after 56 years, it may have some salience to the current American political structure. I was not disappointed. Or rather, I was, if only in our body electorate.

Having just finished watching the Zeitgeist Trilogy, perhaps I was primed for a work that many may consider a conspiratorial treatise. I won't deny that I was seeking independent verification of my own hypotheses, but I would be open to reading a counterpoint to this wor
Fred R
Feb 12, 2012 Fred R rated it it was ok
Not as good as I had hoped, it's more in the line of: "I assemble this information so as to inspire action by the downtrodden masses." It was interesting to me how much political influence he ascribed to the Military, which I don't entirely trust, even given the era the book is analyzing (early Cold War).

The problem for Mills is:

1. Our elite is incompetent
2. Our elite is not democratic enough

Now, there are situations in which both propositions could hold, but as a general rule, and despite their
Apr 27, 2015 1.1 rated it really liked it
Though it did take the better part of three months to read, I consider it excellent. Mills' writing is top-notch, and the topic is well-explored. It may not be the most heartening read, and the temptation is to call it dated, but it is roughly as applicable as the day it was published. Have a taste:

"It is in this context of material prosperity, with the demagogic right setting the tone of public sensibility; the more sophisticated conservatives silently achieving established power in a largely u
Corbin Routier
Dec 09, 2014 Corbin Routier rated it it was amazing
The book attempts to describe how power is becoming more centralized in the U.S. between the government, the corporations, the military, and the church. He shows that conspiracy theories are a waste of time. He shows that it is very logical to consolidate power in the way that it is being done (from the viewpoint of those in power). Fewer and fewer people have access to power as those in power start making more and more rules for how to be a part of influential circles. A very good book describi ...more
William Leight
Jun 27, 2014 William Leight rated it really liked it
"The Power Elite" hasn't really aged all that well. Not because its arguments are no longer applicable to the modern world, as the rather self-satisfied afterword to my edition asserts, but for precisely the opposite reason: because its main claims have largely graduated to the level of common knowledge. For instance, a significant part of Mills' argument amounts to an extended version of Eisenhower's warning about the rise of the military-industrial complex. Mills doesn't use that particular ph ...more
Apr 02, 2014 Kenneth rated it it was amazing
Shelves: reviewed
One of the better books on the subject. Classic text of sociology from the 1950's that still holds true (more or less) today.

Describes the inner circles of power in America in the post-war world with rare insight for the time. Of particular interest is the logic of the mutual exclusive re-enforcement of “right” based solely on money. Common rhetoric now, yet novel then.

Was thinking the other day along these lines why more wealth tends to exclude less wealth.

Why is the person with more money th
Gary Bruff
Mill's masterpiece, this book allows its readers to peer into the shady upper echelons of power in America. Interlocking directorates run the show. This means that the top business executives, the top military officers, and the board members of churches, universities, and other non-profits are the same people--either coming from the same families, or serving in each of these capacities at different times in their careers. This results in among other things the military industrial complex, where ...more
C. Wright Mills' The Power Elite is a worthy classic of social science. Mills analyzes, using interviews, public records, and other sources, the structure, character, and importance of a class he calls 'the power elite,' as they are during the 1950s (in addition to delving briefly into the history that brought them to that state). Mills ascribes the following characteristics and definitions to his power elite:

By dint of their positions in relationship to large, influential institutions (chiefl
Steven Peterson
Apr 10, 2010 Steven Peterson rated it really liked it
First published in 1956, this was a classic in sociology at the time. The focus of this book? The American power elite, of whom Mills says (Page 3): "The power elite is composed of men whose positions enable them to transcend the ordinary environments of ordinary men and women; they are in positions to make decisions having major consequences." In this volume, Mills seeks to identify the power elite of the United
States at the time.

He notes a variety of venues from which the power elite comes.
Hannah Lockhart
This is in my snoozy pile only because it is a university book which means it is doomed to collect dust and then at random intervals, be feverishly thumbed through, drenched in highlighter fluid and then brutally discarded once the essay has been completed.

However, in the end, Mills taught me some valuable things about American power structures and how these power structures self-perpetuate. I could see some parallels between Mill's analysis of the U.S. and Ireland, despite the fact that the U.
Feb 19, 2009 Craig rated it it was amazing
Much of what Mills covers has already seen light in some other works I have read (Media Monopoly by Bagdikian and most of Chomsky). This does not dilute his message, if anything other publications reinforce and illuminate the basis of this sociological classic, supported with good data. I agree with the afterword by Alan Wolfe except that I believe that Mills in his social criticism (the last half of the book) was not incorrect in calling the bureaucratization of and resulting mindless decisions ...more
Alexandra Chauran
Apr 17, 2015 Alexandra Chauran rated it it was amazing
I read this book for my dissertation. It was fascinating. The author has a way with words. Basically this is the dude who invented The Man. Though his rants today might sound like the ramblings of any anti-elite stoner at a party, back in the day this was mind-blowing stuff. If you can put yourself in that headspace when you read the book it's pretty good, humorous, and insightful.
May 16, 2015 Tom rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was a terrific book. A lot of the abstract ideas might seem like common sense / general knowledge to cynical people of the modern day, but this book's value is in how it empirically demonstrates the *structural* linkages between the privately wealthy, the military, the corporation, and the government. Further, it uses these linking factors to explain the evolution and the current structure of power in the United States. It's fascinating too that even though the book was written in 1956, I t ...more
Jan 12, 2015 devrim rated it liked it
Very interesting book to get an idea about the power structure in the States untıl 60s. As mentioned in the afterwords, the book is short of predicting the dynamic change in the power structure with the new age. The language is not smooth enough yet a good read.
Will Sync
Apr 02, 2015 Will Sync rated it it was ok
Wow what a terrible writer. The ideas he's trying to convey are brilliant, but he doesn't really have power in his writing. I would suggest "The War State" for clear overview of how/what/when/where/why on this subject. #militaryindustrealcomplex
Jan 17, 2015 Steve rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
Mills provides an imaginative depiction of the milieu (which is also his favorite word) of American power in an extremely boring and repetitive style. Some of his arguments are insightful, and some are little more than completely-obvious (although they may not have been in 1956). Although he occasionally strays into the tin-foil arena of argument, the vast majority of his ideas are reasonable if not always insightful.
Leilani & Rich Darling-Linfield
Maddeningly profound insights as to how the Power Elite elevates unqualified people into the highest echelons - no wonder the mass portions of our economy are so weak, uncreative and repetitive, serving a "bewildered herd" of consumers.
Lucía Vijil Saybe
"Dueños de un poder, resultado de un sistema irresponsablemente organizado. Su elevada posición no es fruto de su virtud moral".
Comprender las élites en el escenario estadounidense podría tornarse complejo, pero los recorridos históricos son necesarios.
Oct 09, 2011 Caleb rated it it was ok
This is a book that I wished I had read during college (and not weeks after having a kid). Mills' book is considered a social science classic about 1950s America and the changes that were happening after WWII to society, power, and class. All that was interesting enough, but it's now 60 years old and that dates some of his thoughts and his writing can be dry. In addition, the second half of the book is less observation and more criticism and became even drier such that I will have to admit to ha ...more
Sep 30, 2016 BMR, MSW, LSW rated it it was amazing
I requested this book back in December 2015 and my library finally bought it.

This was a revelation, in that so much of the mire our political system is currently in was gathered a century ago if not earlier.

I picked it up after seeing it referenced in another history book (though it was so long ago I have no idea which one). I'm going to buy it and underline the good parts.

It is very dense and academic, which is why it took me nearly a month to finish it as opposed to my usual 3-4 days to comple
Sep 20, 2014 Claire rated it it was amazing
I read this a long time ago, but I liked it! I don't remember why. I just have a strongly positive feeling about this book.
Oct 20, 2014 Peter marked it as to-read
Recommended by M.N. Moore as "the classic work on this subject" of "the secret government that won't change."
Aug 25, 2011 Dayshia rated it it was amazing
This book ushered in a new intellectual milestone for my collegiate reading experience. I guess I could rightly say that my eyes have been covered for the past 21 years I've lived. A highly condensed and grade appropriate edition should be published for high school Civics classes. A highly condensed and updated version fit to be a supplementary text of any social sciences class should be published for colleges. This assessment of 1950's arrangement of institutional powers that make the decisions ...more
Rolip Saptamaji
Nov 12, 2012 Rolip Saptamaji rated it liked it
buku yang pertama kali dipublikasikan pada 1956 ini menjadi epik bagi para ilmuwan politik. buku klasik ini memeiliki asumsi-asumsi yang tajam mengenai bagaimana kekuatan elit terbentuk di Amerika Serikat (USA), siapa saja mereka dan bagaimana mereka mempertahankan kekuasaannya.
meskipun kajian klasik, model analisis yang diperkenalkan oleh Mills masih dapat digunakan sebagai referensi untuk membongkar kekuasaan elit dan tetap menjadi referensi tandon bagi para ilmuwan politik.
Aug 10, 2009 leighcia rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Mills describes the various cross-sections of the American elite. He explores each group’s characteristics, but focuses mostly on the influence they have in decision-making. Mills particularly highlights the close connections between corporate, military and executive power as well as the gridlock of Congressional, representative government. He asserts that most decisions that affect American lives, are made without democratic assent
Oct 02, 2016 Ray rated it it was amazing
Great book describing the elites in America and how they got that way and how they stay that way. According to the author there are three of these elites : the economic, political and military. Even though it was written in the 1950s it is still relevant today. Anybody who wants to understand American society should read this book.
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American sociologist. Mills is best remembered for his 1959 book The Sociological Imagination in which he lays out a view of the proper relationship between biography and history, theory and method in sociological scholarship. He is also known for studying the structures of power and class in the U.S. in his book The Power Elite. Mills was concerned with the responsibilities of intellectuals in po ...more
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“Perhaps J. P. Morgan did as a child have very severe feelings of inadequacy, perhaps his father did believe that he would not amount to anything; perhaps this did effect in him an inordinate drive for power for power’s sake. But all this would be quite irrelevant had he been living in a peasant village in India in 1890. If we would understand the very rich we must first understand the economic and political structure of the nation in which they become the very rich.” 8 likes
“The idea that the millionaire finds nothing but a sad, empty place at the top of this society; the idea that the rich do not know what to do with their
money; the idea that the successful become filled up with futility, and that
those born successful are poor and little as well as rich - the idea, in short,
of the disconsolateness of the rich - is, in the main, merely a way by which
those who are not rich reconcile themselves to the fact. Wealth in America is
directly gratifying and directly leads to many further gratifications. To be
truly rich is to possess the means of realizing in big ways one's little whims
and fantasies and sicknesses....”
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