c. wright mills Quotes

C. Wright Mills Quotes

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    • To have peace and not war, the drift toward a war economy, as facilitated by the moves and the demands of the sophisticated conservatives, must be stopped; to have peace without slump, the tactics and policies of the practical right must be overcome. The political and economic power of both must be broken. The power of these giants of main drift is both economically and politically anchored; both unions and an independent labor party are needed to struggle effective.
    • In the United States: a handful of corporations centralize decisions and responsibilities that are relevant for military and political as well as economic developments of global significance. For nowadays the military and the political cannot be separated from economic considerations of power. We now live not in an economic order or a political order, but in a political economy that is closely linked with military institutions and decisions. This is obvious in the repeated 'oil crisis' in the Middle East, or in the relevance of Southeast Asia and African resources for the Western powers:
    • The more we understand what is happening in the world, the more frustrated we often become, for our knowledge leads to feelings of powerlessness. We feel that we are living in a world in which the citizen has become a mere spectator or a forced actor, and that our personal experience is politically useless and our political will a minor illusion. Very often, the fear of total permanent war paralyzes the kind of morally oriented politics, which might engage our interests and our passions. We sense the cultural mediocrity around us- and in us- and we know that ours is a time when, within and between all the nations of the world, the levels of public sensibilities have sunk below sight; atrocity on a mass scale has become impersonal and official; moral indignation as a public fact has become extinct or made trivial. We feel that distrust has become nearly universal among men of affairs, and that the spread of public anxiety is poisoning human relations and drying up the roots of private freedom.We see that people at the top often identify rational dissent with political mutiny, loyalty with blind conformity, and freedom of judgment with treason. We feel that irresponsibility has become organized in high places and that clearly those in charge of the historic decisions of our time are not up to them. But what is more damaging to us is that we feel that those on the bottom- the forced actors who take the consequences- are also without leaders, without ideas of opposition, and that they make no real demands upon those with power. However: Our minds are not yet captive. We belong to those who are still capable of personally rejecting (the official myths and the unofficial distractions)...we have got first to get it clear with ourselves that we do not belong and do not want to belong to an unfree world. As free men and women we have got to reject much of it and to know why we are rejecting it.
    • For the corporation executives, the military metaphysic often coincides with their interest in a stable and planned flow of profit; it enables them to have their risk underwritten by public money; it enables them reasonably to expect that they can exploit for private profit now and later, the risky research developments paid for by public money. It is, in brief, a mask of the subsidized capitalism from which they extract profit and upon which their power is based.
    • An expensive arms race, under cover of the military metaphysic, and in a paranoid atmosphere of fright, is an economically attractive business. To many utopian capitalists, it has become the Business Way of American Life.'
    • Those in authority within institutions and social structures attempt to justify their rule by linking it, as if it were a necessary consequence, with moral symbols, sacred emblems, or legal formulae which are widely believed and deeply internalized (by the masses).These central conceptions may refer to a god or gods, 'the votes of the majority', ('freedom', 'democracy'): or the alleged extraordinary endowment of the person of the ruler himself.Various thinkers have used different terms to refer to this phenomena: Mosca's 'political formula' or 'great superstition', Locke's 'principal of sovereignty',Sorel's 'ruling myth',Weber's 'legitimations', Durkheim's 'collective representations', Marx's 'dominant ideas':Mannheim's 'ideology', Herbert Spencer's 'public sentiments' Gramsci's 'hegemony' all point to the central place of master symbols in social analysis.'
    • If you do not specify and confront real issues, what you say will surely obscure them. If you do not embody controversy, what you say will be an acceptance of the drift to the coming human hell.
    • We know well that all new cultural beginnings today must be part of world culture; that no truly intellectual life can occur if the mind is restricted; that no art can have genuine and everlasting value if it is not in a universal language. East and West. God knows there is enough restriction. Enough laziness of stereotypes. Smash them, we say to ourselves. And the only way to do that is to open up a true world forum that is absolutely free...It will be the seedbed of the future. It will be the climate in which new minds can form themselves and then solve problems we don't yet even know about.'
    • Here's to the day when the complete works of Leon Trotsky are published and widely distributed in the Soviet Union. On that day the USSR will have achieved democracy!
    • [A]s a proportion of the labor force, fewer individuals manipulate things, more handle people and symbols.
    • Nobody talks more of free enterprise and competition and of the best man winning than the man who inherited his father's store or farm.
    • In a society of employees dominated by the marketing mentality, it is inevitable that a personality market should arise. For in the great shift from manual skills to the art of 'handling', selling and servicing people, personal or even intimate traits of employees are drawn into the sphere of exchange and become commodities in the labor market:Kindness and friendliness become aspects of personalized service or of public relations of big firms, rationalized to further the sale of something. With anonymous insincerity, the successful person thus makes an instrument of his own appearance and personality:In the formulas of 'personnel experts', men and women are to be shaped into the 'well rounded, acceptable, effective personality' (to close the deal or to make the sale)...
    • The personality market, the most decisive effect and symptom of the great salesroom, underlies the all pervasive distrust and self-alienation so characteristic of metropolitan people. Without common values and mutual trust, the cash nexus that links one man to another in transient contact has been made subtle in a dozen ways, and made to bite deeper into all areas of life and relations.People are required by the salesman ethic and convention to pretend interest in others in order to manipulate them:Men are estranged from one another as each secretly tries to make an instrument of the other, and in time a full circle is made: one makes an instrument of himself and is estranged from it also.'
    • The economy - once a great scatter of small productive units in autonomous balance, has become dominated by two or three hundred giant corporations, administratively and politically interrelated: The political order, once a decentralized set of several dozen states with a weak spinal cord, has become a centralized executive establishment which has taken up into itself many powers previously scattered: The military order, once a slim establishment in a context of distrust fed by state militia, has become the largest and most expensive feature of government.
    • [T]the market is sovereign and in the magic economy of the small entrepreneur there is no authoritarian center: in the political sphere: the equilibrium of powers prevails, and hence there is no chance of despotism.
    • The broadening of the economic order which came to be seated in the individual property owner: dramatized by Jefferson's purchase of the Louisiana Territory: 'The supremacy of corporate economic power: consolidated by the Supreme Court decision of 1886 which declared that the Fourteenth Amendment protected the corporation: [the New Deal, leading to], within the political arena, as well as in the corporate world itself, competing centers of power that challenged those of the corporate directors.
    • The American elite does not have any real image of peace - other than as an uneasy interlude existing precariously by virtue of the balance of mutual fright. The only seriously accepted plan for peace is the full loaded pistol. In short, war or a high state of war-preparedness is felt to be the normal and seemingly permanent condition of the United States.
    • America- a conservative country without any conservative ideology - appears now before the world a naked and arbitrary power, as, in the name of realism, its men of decision enforce their often crackpot definitions upon world reality. The second-rate mind is in command (through the mass media) of the ponderously spoken platitude. In the liberal rhetoric, vagueness, and in the conservative mood, irrationality, are raised to principle...These men (of the Power Elite) have replaced mind with platitude, and the dogmas by which they are legitimated are so widely accepted that no counter-balance of mind prevails against them. Such men as these are crackpot-realists; in the name of realism they have constructed a paranoid reality all their own:They have replaced the responsible interpretation of events with the disguise of events by a maze of public relations:'
    • What the main drift of the twentieth century has revealed is that the economy has become concentrated and incorporated in the great hierarchies, the military has become enlarged and decisive to the shape of the entire economic structure; and moreover the economic and the military have become structurally and deeply interrelated, as the economy has become a seemingly permanent war economy; and military men and policies have increasingly penetrated the corporate economy.
    • In a public, as we may understand the term, (1) virtually as many people express opinions as receive them, (2) Public communications are so organised that there is a chance immediately and effectively to answer back any opinion expressed in public. Opinion formed by such discussion (3) readily finds an outlet in effective action, even against - if necessary - the prevailing system of authority. And (4) authoritative institutions do not penetrate the public, which is thus more or less autonomous in its operations.-In a mass, (1) far fewer people express opinions than receive them; for the community of publics becomes an abstract collection of individuals who receive impressions from the mass media. (2) The communications that prevail are so organised that it is difficult or impossible for the individual to answer back immediately or with any effect. (3) The realisation of opinion in action is controlled by authorities who organise and control the channels of such action. (4) The mass has no autonomy from institutions; on the contrary, agents of authorised institutions penetrate this mass, reducing any autonomy it may have in the formation of opinion by discussion.
    • The top of modern American society is increasingly unified and often seems wilfully co-ordinated: at the top there has emerged an elite of power.The middle levels are a drifting set of stalemated balancing forces: the middle does not link the bottom with the top.The bottom of this society is fragmented,and even as a passive fact,increasingly powerless:at the bottom there is emerging a mass society.
    • But now that war has become seemingly total and seemingly permanent, the free sport of kings has become the forced and internecine business of people, and diplomatic codes of honor between nations have collapsed. Peace is no longer serious; only war is serious. Every man and every nation is either friend or foe, and the idea of enmity becomes mechanical, massive, and without genuine passion. When virtually all negotiation aimed at peaceful agreement is likely to be seen as 'appeasement,' if not treason, the active role of the diplomat becomes meaningless; for diplomacy becomes merely a prelude to war or an interlude between wars, and in such a context the diplomat is replaced by the warlord......In other words 'the morale of the State Department is so broken that its finest men flee from it, and advise others to flee.'
    • Without an industrial economy, the modern army, as in America, could not exist; it is an army of machines. Professional economists usually consider military institutions as parasitic upon the means of production. Now, however, such institutions have come to shape much of the economic life of the United States.Religion, virtually without fail, provides the army at war with its blessings, and recruits from among its officials the chaplain, who in military costume counsels and consoles and stiffens the morale of men at war... The family provides the army and navy with the best men and boys that it possesses (showing its subordination as an institution in the current epoch). And, as we have seen, education and science too are becoming means to the ends sought by the military.'
    • [O]ne could translate the 555 pages of The Social System into about 150 pages of straightforward English. The result would not be very impressive.
    • It is the political task of the social scientist - as of any liberal educator - continually to translate personal troubles into public issues, and public issues into the terms of their human meaning for a variety of individuals. It is his task to display in his work - and, as an educator, in his life as well - this kind of sociological imagination. And it is his purpose to cultivate such habits of mind among the men and women who are publicly exposed to him. To secure these ends is to secure reason and individuality, and to make these the predominant values of a democratic society.
    • One great lesson that we can learn from its systematic absence in the work of the grand theorists is that every self-conscious thinker must at all times be aware of - and hence be able to control - the levels of abstraction on which he is working. The capacity to shuttle between levels of abstraction, with ease and with clarity, is a signal mark of the imaginative and systematic thinker
    • A (world) society in which all men and women would become people of substantive reason, whose independent reasoning would have structural consequences for their societies, its history and thus for their own life fates.
    • Above all, do not give up your moral and political autonomy by accepting in somebody else's terms the illiberal practicality of the bureaucratic ethos or the liberal practicality of the moral scatter. Know that many personal troubles cannot be solved merely as troubles, but must be understood in terms of public issues - and in terms of the problems of history making.
    • c. wright mills

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