Letters and Autobiographical Writings

Letters and Autobiographical Writings

Letters and Autobiographical Writings

Letters and Autobiographical Writings


One of the leading public intellectuals of twentieth-century America and a pioneering and brilliant social scientist, C. Wright Mills left a legacy of interdisciplinary and hard-hitting work including two books that changed the way many people viewed their lives and the structure of power in the United States: "White Collar" (1951) and "The Power Elite" (1956). Mills persistently challenged the status quo within his profession--as in "The Sociological Imagination" (1959)--and within his country, until his untimely death in 1962. This collection of letters and writings, edited by his daughters, allows readers to see behind Mills's public persona for the first time.

Mills's letters to prominent figures--including Saul Alinsky, Daniel Bell, Lewis Coser, Carlos Fuentes, Hans Gerth, Irving Howe, Dwight MacDonald, Robert K. Merton, Ralph Miliband, William Miller, David Riesman, and Harvey Swados--are joined by his letters to family members, letter-essays to an imaginary friend in Russia, personal narratives by his daughters, and annotations drawing on published and unpublished material, including the FBI file on Mills.


In the decades since the death of our father, C. Wright Mills, critics and admirers have written about him and his work with wildly varying degrees of factual accuracy as well as the expected divergence of opinions. in 1995, after we received copies of letters he had written to one correspondent over a twenty-year period, we decided that the time had come to allow his own words to speak for themselves.

This volume includes approximately 150 letters selected from more than 600 that Mills wrote to his parents, friends, and colleagues; several autobiographical essays from one of his unfinished manuscripts; and a number of other writings of interest. We chose material for its liveliness, current relevance, and ability to show Mills's point of view, presenting a broad scope of subject matter and mood: from anger to affection, self-doubt to fearless exuberance, the social sciences to motorcycles, the writing life to international politics, from Texas to New York, Denmark to Cuba. Our sources of information for the annotations to this collection range from newspaper articles of the day and other published works to the now-declassified fbi file on Mills and our own interviews with family members and friends.

When we started work on the manuscript for this book, we had to decide how to refer to our father. Like a character in a Russian novel, he went by many names. He was Charleswright to his mother; Charlie to his old friends; C. Wright to his first wife; Wright to his second and third wives . . .

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