By John D. Brewer (auth.)
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Extra resources for C. Wright Mills and the Ending of Violence
It is not power to impose decisions on others but control over one’s own life. This naturally led him to ask who is involved in making the decisions that impact on ordinary people’s lives if not they themselves. Power elites, the state, politics and political parties thus become central to 32 C. Wright Mills and the Ending of Violence Mills’s understanding of the sociological imagination. He was particularly concerned to unravel how the social structure, history and the political state impact on the lives of ordinary people in their personal milieux in such a way as to denude them of power, freedom and choice.
This was one form of inequality and injustice that Mills was not attuned to, although few others passed him by, and it only serves to show that he was a creature of his Texan culture. Texas produced other contradictions in his life. While rejecting his upbringing, he never changed his Texan drawl, would often draw long and slow on his pipe thinking as if sitting on his stoop, he loved the television programme Rawhide (according to his daughter, Mills and Mills, 2000: xviii) and talked fondly in letters to Miliband about going hunting there with his father.
Coser thus had sympathy for Mills’s approach to sociology and this was implicit in his essay on the American civil rights movement. According to Coser, its emergence required social structural conditions, many with a historical specificity with which Mills would have agreed, such as the mechanisation of cotton production, rural depopulation of the South and urban migration, and the expansion of opportunity for Black workers arising from labour shortage in the Second World War. But it also required key individuals, whom Coser refers to as ‘skilled political actors’, like Martin Luther King, who were sufficiently motivated for political engagement and direct involvement, and able to exploit these structural conditions to mobilise Black people by various strategies for change which appealed to their values and interests.