The term “power elite” was popularized by C. Wright Mills (1916-1962), a professor of sociology at Columbia University from 1946 until his death in 1962. Wright authored the book The Power Elite (1956), but he also used the term “power elite” in a 1948 newspaper article and in a 1954 book chapter titled “The Labor Leaders and the Power Elite.” The power elite are dominant members of the military, corporate and political fields, and the average person has little power against this elite rule.
“Power elite” was also used in 1942 and 1943 to describe the ruling class in Germany (then the Nazi party).
Wikipedia: The Power Elite
The Power Elite is a book written by the sociologist, C. Wright Mills, in 1956. In it Mills calls attention to the interwoven interests of the leaders of the military, corporate, and political elements of society and suggests that the ordinary citizen is a relatively powerless subject of manipulation by those entities. The structural basis of The Power Elite is that, following World War II, the United States was the leading country in military and economic terms. According to Mills, the Power Elite are those that occupy the dominant positions, in the dominant institutions (military, economic and political) of a dominant country, and their decisions (or lack of decisions) have enormous consequences, not only for the U.S. population but, “the underlying populations of the world.” Mills outlines the historical structural trends that led to the ascension of the power elite as involving a concentration of economic power and the cultural apparatus in the hands of a few, the emergence of a permanent war economy in the U.S. during and after WW2, the emergence of a bureaucratically standardized and conditioned (controlled) mass society and a political vacuum that was filled by economic and military elites. Due to the interchangeability of top positions within these three institutions, the members of the power elite develop class consciousness and a community of interests guided by a militarized culture, or what Mills described as the military metaphysic.
(Oxford English Dictionary)
power élite n. a social or political group that exercises power.
1942 H. W. Weigert Generals & Geographers x. 241 They, and with them the critics in the Anglo-American world, underestimated the impetus of this power élite in Germany.
1988 P. Monette Borrowed Time xii. 308 Cocaine wasn’t a problem till it started turning up among the children of..the Washington power elite.
4 February 1943, Daily Boston Globe (Boston, MA), “After the War” by Otto Zausmer, pg. 14:
Some of the prerequisites for such a system are: The definite abolition of the military caste, the power elites, of course, the Nazi party and all its nuclei, and such surviving privileged groups and ideologies which tend to reproduce German aggression.
26 June 1948, Dallas (TX) Morning News, “Labor Has Powerful Elite Afraid to Use Its Power” by C. Wright Mills, sec. 2, pg. 3, col. 3:
(Note—Mills is director of the labor research division at Columbia University. In September, Harcourt, Brace will publish his book, ‘The New Men of Power,” which will tell who America’s labor leaders are, and how they will act in the coming crisis.)
I call labor’s 400 “the new men of power,” but there is some wish in that title. They might as well be called “the reluctant elite,” for they are a power elite afraid to use their power.
OCLC WorldCat record
Author: Arthur W Kornhauser; Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues.
Publisher: New York : McGraw-Hill, 1954.
Edition/Format: Book : English
The labor leaders and the power elite / C. Wright Mills
OCLC WorldCat record
The power elite
Author: C Wright Mills
Publisher: New York, NY : Oxford Univ. Press, 1956.
Edition/Format: Book : English : 3. pr
New York City • Government/Law/Politics • Wednesday, February 20, 2013 • Permalink