Mills, C. Wright

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Mills, C. Wright

C. Wright Mills, 1916–62, American sociologist, b. Waco, Tex. He studied at the Univ. of Texas (A.B., M.A., 1939) and the Univ. of Wisconsin (Ph.D., 1942) and spent his academic career (1946–62) as a professor at Columbia Univ. A controversial figure, Mills advocated a comparative world sociology and criticized intellectuals for not using their freedom responsibly by working for social change. He was an advocate of an economic determinism heavily influenced by Karl Marx and Max Weber. His best-known book is The Power Elite (1956), in which he explained the power structure of postwar American society in terms of a ruling militarized corporate-capitalist oligarchy. Mills's other books include White Collar (1951), in which he discussed the propertyless middle-class workers who provided a vast staff for the ruling elite, The Sociological Imagination (1959), Listen, Yankee (1960), and The Marxists (1962).

See biography by I. L. Horowitz (1983); K. Mills and P. Mills, eds., C. Wright Mills: Letters and Autobiographical Writings (2000).

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