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Mills, C(harles) Wright

Mills, C(harles) Wright (1916–62) An American sociologist whose most important work was published during the 1950s. As a radical on the political left, he was an unusual figure in American sociology at this time, taking up a position that might be better described as liberal-populist rather than socialist. His most important substantive studies were probably White Collar (1951), an analysis of the American middle class, and The Power Elite (1956) in which he argued that the United States was governed by a set of interlocking and self-perpetuating élites.

He is remembered primarily for The Sociological Imagination (1959)–an excellent introduction to and outline of the humanist impetus behind sociology as a discipline. The sociological imagination is the sociological vision, a way of looking at the world that can see connections between the apparently private problems of the individual and important social issues. He argues for a humanist sociology connecting the social, personal, and historical dimensions of our lives, and which is critical of abstracted empiricism and grand theory alike. His translation of long passages from the work of Talcott Parsons into simple English sentences is an exemplar of critical discussion. See also MILITARY-INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX; UNEMPLOYMENT.

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