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Like The Government And Corporations, Man

1047 words - 4 pages

When I first read the “The Power Elite” by C. Wright Mills, I saw the title and immediately approached it cautiously. I am a born skeptic, and to me the title conjured images of hippies passing around reefer talking about like, the Illuminati man. However as I read Article 56, chapter 13 of Understanding Society: An Introductory Reader, I was struck by rationally Mills approaches a complex and controversial subject. Particularly effective is his systematic approach of breaking his thesis down into observable facts and logical ideas. “The Power Elite” begins by defining who or what a power elite is. Mills then examines the crucial areas they dominate as well as the system that exists to support and propagate their influence. He ends by examining the situations that led to the creation of the power elite, how institutions contribute to their formation, and the historical context of the ever increasing concentration of power that has made this status possible.
As I read this article many passages and ideas seemed to jump out at me. The first is when Mills seeks to define who the power elite are and how they perceive themselves. Mills defines the power elite rather broadly, “They rule the big corporations, they run the machinery of the state...they direct the military establishment” (Anderson et al. Page 465). However, it is what Mills says next that struck me as particularly poignant. He explains that the power elite do not actually see themselves as particularly powerful. Instead he says that they, “are uncertain about their roles” and that “No matter how great their actual power, they tend to be less acutely aware of it than to the resistances of others to its use” ( Anderson et al. Page 465). I find it humorous and somewhat typical of the human condition that even those whose decisions have far reaching and drastic implications are more aware of the limitations of their power than its (broad) extent. The second instance where Mills observations seemed to grab hold of me was when he explains that an entire system of “advisers and consultants, spokesmen and opinion-makers are often the captains of their [the power elites] higher thought and decisions” (Anderson et al. Page 465). While this may seem rather common sense due to the human races inherent tendency toward ever more complex bureaucracy, Mills offers an interesting insight on celebrities and their role. He states that, “they do often have the power to distract the attention of the public or afford sensations to the masses...” (Anderson et al. Page 465). In our age of hyper-connectivity, as entertainment ever more thoroughly permeates the fabric of our society it is truly stupefying to realize that celebrities are just as much a part of the bureaucracy that supports the power elites as the rest of the support system that surrounds these people. The implications of this are frightening, as celebrities and media saturate our lives further and further the general public will become...

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