The 7 “Blind” men and the US Elephant – 1 The Sociologist

The first “blind” man was the Sociologist Professor C. Wright Mills. His book, The Power Elite, published in 1956, was the first full-scale study of the structure and distribution of power in the United States.

Mills examined how the concentration of power had pooled within three main hierarchies. “There are a few thousand people in the United States that control almost all aspects of society. These few thousand individuals hold leadership posts in the political, military, and economic spheres. An extremely high percentage of these individuals were educated in the same schools, come from upper-class families, belong to the same public clubs, and often the same secret societies. The members of this ruling group hold the same interests and values. And this group self-selects the majority of its members.”

According to Mills the three hierarchies of power in the United States – political, military, and economic – are interlocking and form a ruling class whose members, at the time, could generally be grouped into one of the following six distinct groups – the Social Register (today replaced by Forbes’s annual top 500 richest people in the world list), the Celebrities, the Chief Executives, the Corporate Rich, the Warlords, and the Political Directorate.

The people at the highest levels of these institutions see each other socially and look after one another by doing each other favors because they not only serve together on the boards of directors of corporations, charitable organisations, and other bodies, but they also share a mutuality of life experiences, educational backgrounds, and economic situations. This self-interest is of course to the detriment of the American people who they derogatively refer to as the masses.

Mills highlights the “revolving door” between government, military, and corporations that helps maintain the power elite’s dominance over American life. He explains that when cabinet members, senators, and top generals and other military officials retire, they usually become corporate executives; whereas conversely, corporate executives often become cabinet members and other key political appointees.

The power elite use the conglomerate media to broadcast their opinions to the masses,  which believe and regurgitate what the conglomerate media run by the elites feed them. The masses are simply easily manipulated spectators led to believe that they are making the decisions: “This is why there won’t be any change in the values and course of direction of the United States. One of the biggest myths of American society is that the middle class has influence on which the direction and course our society takes. The American middle class does not have interests or values in common with the power elites who control and run US society.”

As 19th century Cassandra, Mills’ dire omen on how the power elite would gradually but collusively gain control of every aspect of life was an amazingly accurate analysis of the true nature of power and privilege in America.


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