Encyclopedia of Religion
and Society

William H. Swatos, Jr. Editor

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(1916-1962) American sociologist, born in Waco, Texas. Graduated from the Universities of Texas and Wisconsin, and taught at the University of Maryland before becoming full professor at Columbia in 1956.

Mills's most important works are White Collar: The American Middle Classes (Oxford University Press 1951), which is a somewhat pessimistic analysis of the changing nature of the American middle class; The Power Elite (Oxford University Press 1956), which presents the thesis that the United States was governed by a set of interlocking and self-perpetuating business, military, and political elites; and The Sociological Imagination (Oxford University Press 1959), an outline of the humanistic impulse that he considered to be essential to the discipline of sociology. He was also the author (with Hans Gerth) of Character and Social Structure (Routledge 1954) and coeditor and translator (with Gerth) of selections in From Max Weber: Essays in Sociology (Oxford University Press 1946), a volume that was critical for introducing the larger Weberian corpus to a generation of Anglo-American scholarship.

A radical on the political left who saw sociology as a means of challenging social ideas and prejudices, Mills was an influential critic of the consensus and functionalist perspectives. Although his work has been criticized for lacking a sound empirical base and for being relatively unrelated to general theories of modern society, he was an important figure in American postwar sociology as well as a significant influence on the New Left.

Colin Campbell


G. W. Domhoff and H. B. Ballard (eds.), C. Wright Mills and the Power Elite (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1968)

J. E. Eldridge, C. Wright Mills (New York: Ellis Harwood, 1983).

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