THE POWER ELITE
C. Wright Mills
The power elite consists of the top leaders in three areas: the corporate elite is made
up of the executives from large companies; the military elite is the senior officers;
and the small political elite includes the president and top officials in the executive
and legislative branches.
oThese elite officials all know each other and act in unison when critical
decisions must be made.
The powers of ordinary men are circumscribed by the everyday worlds in which they
live, yet they often seem driven by forces they can neither understand nor govern.
The very framework of modern society confines them to project not their own, but
from every side, such changes now press upon the men and women of the mass
society, who accordingly feel that they are without purpose in an epoch in which they
The power elite is composed of men whose positions enable them to transcend the
ordinary environments of ordinary men and women; they are in positions to make
decisions having major consequences. Whether they do or do not make such decisions
is less important than the fact that they do occupy such pivotal positions: their
failure to act, their failure to make decisions, is itself an act that is often of greater
consequence than the decisions they do make.
oThey are in command of the major hierarchies and organizations of modern
society. They rule the big corporations. They run the machinery of the state
and claim its prerogatives. They direct the military establishment. They
occupy the strategic command posts of the social structure, in which they are
not centered the effective the effective means of the power and the wealth and
the celebrity which they enjoy.
The power elite are not solitary rulers. Advisers and consultants, spokesmen and
opinion makers are often the captains of their higher thought and decision.