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The Power Elite. By C. Wright Mills

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The Power Elite written by C. Wright Mills in the year 1956 is a statement, consisting mostly of evaluation and critique, on how the organization of America has evolved. Specifically, Wright discusses on how the three key players of America’s society has intermingled and entwined thereby forming the power of elite. Accordingly, the power of elite comprises of the military, corporate and political society. However, of the three, the author had never made a statement as to its hierarchy.

Before going further, it is important to know what is “power elite” as described by the author. The power elite, according to the book, are people who are in command of privilege and almost holding all of the affluence, who themselves, rotates, having their own chance to hold high position in the society, whether in politics, military or economy.

At the outset, Wright traces the roots on how these powerful elites was formed. He began by examining the base of the system that is the regional and local society. His examination reveals that at the beginning, this group of elite power is scattered. Consequently, he goes through the narration showing how these local systems have turned into a national system. It at this point, where Wright has accounted on how the influential and well-off individuals have put up connections of influence, by going through the same elite schools, organizations and clubs, and oftentimes had also attended the same secret functions.

In addition thereto, he also presented how the power elites enlist new constituents by means of networking. These involve those individuals who became members of the elite not by his richness or power, but through his skill and or intelligence. Going through the second part, he had relayed persuasively by presenting that the concept of pluralism in America no longer exist and that individualistic is governing the society today, as confirmed by the power that has become gradually more concentrated on a national scale, the power elite.

Looking on the way how the book was written, it can be said that it is forcibly argued and skillfully written, employing the use of insightful and brief method. Wright, who is a well known sociologist, was able to write with such vigor and authority, in as much as he was able to comprehend the realities of society. It is can also be said that it is realistic, since pertinent statistics were also incorporated, enabling him to present the scenario clearly.

As a result, even if the book was written a long time ago, many of the points and observations it wishes to convey may still be perceived presently.  An obvious illustration of a person who may belong to the power elite are Colin Powell and Dick Cheney. The former once served the military department of America, who after retiring has smoothly entered the political world, appointed as the Secretary of State. While the latter has shifted from politics as member of the Congress and Secretary of Defense then to corporate world, as CEO of Halliburton, then back to politics as Vice President.

Moreover, Wright was able to present book comprehensively and straightforwardly in an engaging manner, which may be read both by a knowledgeable reader and academic community too. Although it is not intended for the common individual, any individual, regardless of race, rank and age, who wishes to augment his knowledge to fully understand how a society and its system operates, may read this book and still would to be able to fully relate to what is actually happening in our society. It is because the book was written effectively to convey the actuality to its reader through a sociological viewpoint.

However, since the book has presented a very complex and alarming situation of the country, Wright seems to fail to state the reason as to why this situation has come up.  Furthermore, it also bears stressing that the book did not mention what does the power of elite do with their supremacy in the society.   Lastly, in view of the fact that Wright, being a sociologist, had already identified the said occurrence, worthy to note is that, he did not propose or even made mention of the possible solutions to the scenario being presented.  Considering that the very concept of democracy is somewhat questioned, it seems unusual for a sociologist who is perceptive of the social changes, was not able to think of possible reforms which America might undergo.

In the end, still, it can be said that this book is insightful since this book aims to warn all concerned countries the way the formation of society’s leadership is transforming.  In addition thereto, this book is worth reading since it has stood the test of time because it can motivate each of its readers to ponder on how to organize the structure of their country without leading to the power elite which the author described. Thus, by being conscious of this situation, Wright was able to pose question in the minds of Americans whether their society is as democratic as defined in their constitution. Besides, the book’s thought is also applicable to almost all contemporary societies in as much as almost all contemporary countries are also in the same situation.


http://www.allannoble.net/book_review_the_power_elite.htm, The Power Elite by Allan Noble, August 23, 2004, retrieved December 7, 2006.

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