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date: 18 February 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter examines The Power Elite, a radical work by C. Wright Mills that challenges the foundations of US liberal democracy and analyses the conditions under which democratic pluralism in the country can be reversed. Focusing on the theory of divided and united elites in relation to the system of checks and balances, Mills argues that the emergence of a power elite in the United States after 1945 necessitates a reevaluation of the foundations of democratic pluralism due to the significant changes in the competition for power and alternation in office at different levels of government. He also contends that members of only three elite groups had access to positions of national power: the “corporate rich,” the “warlords,” and the members of the “political directorate.” This chapter considers the rise and the fall of the elite model by assessing the four strands of Mills’s thought, one of which concerns the formation of state elites as the “true” power elite.

Keywords: C. Wright Mills, liberal democracy, democratic pluralism, elites, checks and balances, power elite, corporate rich, warlords, political directorate

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