The Power Elite  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

The Power Elite is a book written by sociologist C. Wright Mills in 1956. In it Mills calls attention to the interwoven interests of the leaders of the military, corporate, and political elements of society and suggests that the ordinary citizen is a relatively powerless subject of manipulation by those entities. The structural basis of The Power Elite is that, following World War II, the United States was the leading country in military and economic terms. According to Mills, the Power Elite are those that occupy the dominant positions, in the dominant institutions (military, economic and political) of a dominant country, and their decisions (or lack of decisions) have enormous consequences, not only for the U.S. population but, "the underlying populations of the world." Mills outlines the historical structural trends that led to the ascension of the power elite as involving a concentration of economic power and the cultural apparatus in the hands of a few, the emergence of a permanent war economy in the U.S. during and after WW2, the emergence of a bureaucratically standardized and conditioned (controlled) mass society and a political vacuum that was filled by economic and military elites. Due to the interchangeability of top positions within these three institutions, the members of the power elite develop class consciousness and a community of interests guided by a militarized culture, or what Mills described as the military metaphysic.

The book is something of a counterpart of Mills' 1951 work, White Collar: The American Middle Classes, which examines the then-growing role of middle managers in American society. A main inspiration for the book was Franz Leopold Neumann's book Behemoth: The Structure and Practice of National Socialism in 1942, a study of how Nazism came into a position of power in a democratic state like Germany. Behemoth had a major impact on Mills and he claimed that Behemoth had given him the "tools to grasp and analyse the entire total structure and as a warning of what could happen in a modern capitalist democracy".

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Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "The Power Elite" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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