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New York, New York, 1945–1956

When you're involved in a job of writing, to do it well you have to live it: the notes you take on books you read, the meanings you are aware of in events, even how the street scene looks to you.

C. Wright Mills, letter to
Dwight Macdonald, dated Saturday,
November 20, 1948

Almost any advice he gave ended with the exhortation, "Take it big, boy!"

Dan Wakefield, "Taking It Big:
A Memoir of C. Wright Mills,"
Atlantic Monthly, September 1971


Mills had begun to become acquainted with the radical intellectual milieu of New York City through his writing for the New Leader and politics while he was still in Maryland. After his arrival in New York, Mills's projects for Columbia University's Bureau of Applied Social Research helped provide him with some of the research materials and skills needed to work on his trilogy on American society. The Bureau subsidized much of the research for Mills's book on labor leaders, New Men of Power (1948), and backed some of the interviewing needed for White Collar (1951). Also, his affiliation with Columbia provided a good platform from which to address the public. As Jamison and Eyerman point out, "Mills was in the unique position of being an outsider social critic armed with insider skills and information."[1]Mills's third book on American society, The Power Elite (1956), added the title phrase to the American vocabulary.

At Columbia Mills also continued to write articles. Noteworthy examples from the early 1950s include "A Diagnosis of Our Moral Uneasiness" published in the New York Times Magazine (November 23, 1952) and "The Conservative Mood" in Dissent (winter 1954).

He continued to see some of the same friends despite his move to New York. Two close friends whom Mills had met in Maryland—Harvey Swados and Dick Hofstadter—settled in the New York area in 1946. Hofstadter left the University of Maryland to take a job at Columbia University. Swados, returning from a few years with the merchant marines and beginning his career as a writer, got married and settled in nearby Rockland County. Mills also kept in touch with his old friend in Wisconsin, Hans Gerth. They would finish their second collaboration several years after Mills arrived in the big city: Character and Social Structure: The Psychology of Social Institutions was published in 1953.

Judging from a letter Gerth wrote March 10, 1945, he was still smarting from the fact that Oxford University Press and politics had both mistakenly given Mills top

billing in credit lines for From Max Weber. To make matters worse, Gerth's position at the University of Wisconsin was uncertain. In a letter dated April 25, 1945, Mills had asked Gerth if it was true that Gerth had no job lined up at Wisconsin for the coming year.

To Hans Gerth, from New York City, dated April 30, 1945
Dear Gerth:

The State Department has asked me to go to Germany. The position involves tracing down possible links in the communications network which the Nazis have set up—in all countries. Due to my heavy commitments here in NY I am unable to go, and am writing them to that effect. With the letter, I am making the strongest recommendation which I can that you be given the job.

Last night I talked with Hannah Arendt in detail about the thing, and she thinks it is a wonderful opportunity. She does not feel that at this time the kind of work involved would identify one with any particular political setup or government in such a way as to obviate later connections.… What you would really be is a finger man on the Nazis.

I do not know whether anything will come of it for you, for there is the matter of citizenship, but they are beginning to relax some of those rules. Apparently the need for people is very great, now that they have pulverized the entire society. At any rate should they get in touch with you, this note will give you a preliminary clue to what's up, and will give you time to think about it.

I am personally mad with grief that I can't go. But it would mean being a real bastard to Columbia, as we are about to go into the field with a rather expensive piece of research involving a continuous administration. It's just impossible.


Gerth was eventually rehired for the coming year at the University of Wisconsin and given tenure.

In the summer of 1945, Mills and Freya separated and Mills moved to an apartment of his own on 14th Street, in Greenwich Village. When Mills was living alone in the

mid-1940s, he had two love affairs known to us. The first was with a Polish sociologist named Eva Hoffberg.[2]We believe she is the woman Mills refers to in the following letter. (The second romantic relationship was with Hazel Gaudet.)

The next letter also mentions J. B. S. Hardman, an experienced trade unionist and intellectual who was an important influence on Mills during the time he was studying labor activism. Although Mills and Hardman did not follow through on the book they discussed preparing together, they did collaborate on Hardman's magazine, Labor and Nation; Mills became one of its contributing editors. Later Mills dedicated his book on labor leaders, The New Men of Power (1948), to Hardman. The dedication reads: "for J. B. S. Hardman, Labor Intellectual."

To Frances Mills, from New York City, dated January 28, 1946, 8:30 A.M.

Just got your letter and before I start the mad rush will drop you a quick answer. My god, how can I tell you in a letter or in a whole flock of them what I am doing and what I am thinking? I am living very fully, I should say, but with many distractions and some uneasiness. Here is my routine: I go to the Bureau office off Columbus Circle every morning and work on statistical study 'til 12:30 or one, then I either go down home (323 W 14th Street) and work the afternoon, or to the Public Library or to Columbia University Library. I stay at down[town] home Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday nites and stay [at] up[town] home (upper east side) with my girl Monday Wednesday and Friday. She is a young professional woman a little older than I and I guess you could say we are sorta crazy in love.

I make lots of speeches unfortunately. Next one at Princeton next Feb. 12, then Cleveland March 1st. I am as you know writing three books:

  • a book on influence: statistical study;[3]

  • on labor and politics with J B S Hardman … a wonderful old man who runs a magazine down in the village;

  • 96
  • The White Collar Worker … my Guggenheim book (I am now half pay on Guggenheim and half pay from Columbia).

So I am not only busy; I am in transition in all sorts of ways but have things pretty well under control now.

Yes, I remember how we used to roam around in architecture and I still spend a good deal of time thinking about interior decoration and odd things. I wander thru the junk shops occasionally but they are so high here that you just can't buy anything. Little tables 24 inches high with thin legs are 100 dollars; bottles of good type for lamps run to 40 and 50. It's just impossible to buy anything. So you see, if you do get things cheaper, glasses cut from bottles and so on I'd be very grateful if you'd send me them and of course let me know what they cost. I sent you the plan for my apt some time ago, I think.

Got to work now. Good bye. Mills

To Hans Gerth, from New York City, undated (January or February 1946)
Dear Gerth:

The index proof came today [for From Max Weber]. They did a fine job on it, retyping the whole thing, simplifying etc. before sending it to the printer. I've checked it and am sending it back. […]

Am editing a little book with J B S Hardman of the Inter-Union Institute on Labor and Politics. Would you write a piece for it? On gy [German] labor. Sturmthal does one but that's not enough. I'll write you about it when it jells a little and send you a list of people. We will combine trade union men and academics, one or two of each writing on the various themes. Have met a lot of trade union research men around here and spend my evenings often with them. Every now and then we have a stenotypist take down the whole evening's discussion and build dialogues from it; last nite, e.g., on role of the professional staff in trade unions. All of this centers around the Inter Union Institute. Hardman is a wonderful old man; Russian socialist about 64. I'm learning lots from association with him. He's a type I've not known too well before. I think it was Perlman who once said

in explanation of him, "He is in revolt against boredom in the labor movement."

So you see I'm getting the edges knocked off me in talk, not working too intensely at any one project, but feeling my way among some fine human beings, accumulating the lore of variously located people.

Going to try to get to Cleveland March 1. Maybe I'll see you there?


To Frances Mills, from New York City, undated (probably April 1946)
Dear Mother:

Just a note to thank you for the lighter. I don't know how you always know just what I want but for two months now I've been trying to get some serviceman to get me one just like that. It really works and I like it enormously. Thanks a whole lot.

I have been appointed as a professor to Columbia University at $4,500 a year.[4] It carries life tenure and I only teach 8 hours a week. I will begin working there Feb. 1947. From Jan. '46 to Feb. '47 I'll be on the Guggenheim and at this Bureau. Well, I made it; as you know that's what I've been working for. I am resigning from Maryland University for good and taking up permanent residence in NY City. I can expect a raise at Columbia in about 18 months after I begin—up to $6,000. In the meantime, despite the terrible expenses of NYC I can get along and keep up two households, as I'm doing, with the $4,500.

Be seeing you. Thanks again for the wonderful lighter. Mills

In the next letter Mills responded to comments from Miller on a draft in progress; we believe the draft was for Mills's article entitled "What Research Can Do for Labor."[5]


To William Miller, from New York City, undated (probably spring 1946)
Dear Bill:

Got your criticism this morning, for which many thanks. It is immensely helpful. On the style points I think you are 100% right. I am, indeed, happy to get that kind of criticism—that it is too loose and talky and etc.—for always I've been fighting being too formal and academic. Anyway I'm going to stiffen up the language and all a good bit altho keeping it simple.

About the large point you raise: You are right that I am not clear about technician vs. intellectual problem. SO: I'm going to move "types of intellectuals" up front and really clarify it; also, I think, add a fuller account of the research possibility.

In general tho, I am going to hold to the word intellectual and insist that to be useful to labor in political and economic fight, the intellectual has to be a technician also. But the technician also has to be an intellectual. What are we fooling around with it for: by intellectual here we mean humanitarian socialist. What the hell else? So I'll say so in some innocent, hard-boiled way.

Thanks. Thanks again and again. Yours forever, Mills

To Hans Gerth, from New York City, dated August 1946, Monday
Dear Gerth:

Thank you for the memorandum about the contributions to M. W. [Marianne Weber]. I didn't know she was writing memoirs, but am indeed very glad to hear it. […]

Pamela (and you will forgive my writing about it) is getting to be an uncontained joy: she talks so much and learns so fast that it makes me dizzy when I calculate what would happen if she kept it up for 10 years at this pace![6] She often spends whole afternoons with my paints now (I'm doing some oils!) and gets them all over herself in a terribly

funny pattern. (Somehow her bottom is always painted blue when she is finished with it all … can you please tell me what that might mean?) […]

I still read a lot of history at night and politics; I ran into another nest of very cheap books (20 and 30 cents a piece) in the Marxists revisionist vein and a lot of Trotsky and Victor Serge pamphlets and so on. I'm trying to get a whole view of post 1917 radicalism. Could you loan me for 10 days Trotsky's Literature and Revolution? (I'll mail it right back.) Libraries here don't have it, and I'm anxious to read it.

I am writing a few little things, and a lot on the New Middle Class (white collar man … old title); I've now got really good figures on white collar labor unions from 1900 to 1944; it is surprising how large a total they make. I have worked out the proportions of the total wageworker and the total white collar worker that is unionized for each 5 year point within these 45 years. (By 1944, 14.8% of the white collar workers and 30% plus of the wageworkers were members of unions.) So these tables, with their cross tabulations, make up the backbone of a good 50-page hunk on white collar unions. I'm going back to 1900 with most series and examining party platforms and speeches to pin down the appeals made to them. It is a lengthy job, but I hope it will be definitive in several respects.

I have not seen any reviews of the Weber; I gather from your letter that the Nation carried a review of it. I have to look that up.

Am glad to hear you are getting down earnestly to the text on social psychology [Character and Social Structure], as you say in your note. My files on it are quite active and I've written during the summer a few sections for chapters still pending. In this connection, I wish you'd sometime answer my last letter about our arrangements.[7] If you don't, and if we don't come to some sort of mutually agreeable understanding, we'll only jam up in the future, so won't you think about it? […] Please believe that I do not wish to "row" in any way about it all, but why don't you give me a full reaction to my letters?

Yours Sincerely,



To Frances and Charles Grover Mills, from New York, New York, undated (probably late summer 1946)
Dear Mother and Dad:

Thank you very much for the brush, which just arrived. The old one was downright unhygienic by now, and I shall throw it away and replace it by this one. It is very fine, and pretty too, so thanks for it very much.

Nothing has changed since I last wrote you. I still work at home a great deal of the time and I am alone most of the time. I rather like living alone, you know, as it enables me to apportion just the time I want to various things. I read a lot late into the night: books on history and politics mostly. I think maybe I am almost secretly "preparing" for something, with all this, but I don't really know what. I write some on the book about the "new middle class" (white collar man) and it is coming along.

Dick Hofstadter came back into town a few days ago, for his term at Columbia this fall, and I'll probably see a lot of him.

Pamela is well and as precocious as usual. That one is coming along all right; she'll amount to more than any of us. […]

Goodbye, and thanks again for the lovely brush.

Your son,


Charlie Mills

The following letter mentions Ruth Harper, who later became Mills's second wife. Ruth was the only child of immigrants from Scotland and Norway; she was born in Seattle, Washington, and grew up in New Jersey, where her father was an electrical engineer for the Bell Telephone Laboratories.

Ruth graduated from Mount Holyoke College in 1943 with a B.A. in mathematics (and minors in physics, political science, and economics). She met Mills in October 1946, when he interviewed her for a job. At the age of twenty-four she was executive secretary for the League of Women Voters in New York State, and she had about a year of prior experience with interviewing and statistical studies. Mills, then thirty years old, hired Ruth to do research for White Collar, using part of his Guggenheim grant.


To Frances and Charles Grover Mills, from New York City, dated December 18, 1946
Dear Mother and Dad:

I have just gotten the nuts, which I have now eaten—yes, all of them—and the lovely rooster, which I intend to take to my new office! He, the rooster, is just the sort of thing you would never buy for yourself but would just want like hell. And here he is, all mine. Thank you very much. I am truly delighted with him. He is so white and fierce looking, and yet he is only a peaceful little rooster.

Things go all right here, I suppose. I work very hard now getting my desk cleaned up and the new semester, when I begin regularly to teach at Columbia, lined up. I have a lot of papers and things to give. I go to Boston Saturday the 28th and Sunday the 29th to give one; then back here for Jan. 6th. But it will all get done somehow. Today I had mailed from the office to you a little paper, or address, I gave last spring in Cleveland, which is only now being published.

The book on white collar workers is coming along slow but sure. I'm not wanting to rush it. After all, the translation Gerth and I did was a book for specialists (incidentally it is selling well; I expect by next 18 months or so to make a couple of thousand from it) but this white collar book: ah, there's a book for the people; it is everybody's book. So I am trying to make it damn good all over. Simple and clean cut in style, but with a lot of implications and subtleties woven into it. It is my little work of art: it will have to stand for the operations I never will do, not being a surgeon, and for the houses I never built, not being an architect. So, you see, it has to be a thing of craftsmanship and art as well as science. That is why it takes so long. There is no hurry. It will stand a long time, when it is finally done. It is all about the new little man in the big world of the 20th century. It is about that little man and how he lives and what he suffers and what his chances are going to be; and it is also about the world he lives in, has to live [in], doesn't want to live in. It is, as I said, going to be everybody's book. For, in truth, who is not a little man?

About January 15th I occupy the new office that has now been remodeled uptown at Hamilton Hall, Columbia campus. I will still come to the Bureau about one day a week but my headquarters will shift. I intend to sink a little money into office furnishings. I've worked in barns long enough; you both know how the Bureau looks. Well,

I'm going to get a leather couch in dull green and stuff like that. Also a rug on the floor. The University will get my bill. If they won't pay it, I'll kick like hell … and pay it myself by the month or something. But the damn thing is going to be right. Drapes too, in grey monks cloth or something like that. I know a man who does interiors and I'll have him fix it up.

Ruth and I are doing very nicely; she is on some interviews now for White Collar. Hazel, as I think you know, is in Reno, completing her divorce and doing some tabulations for me via long distance. She will marry some guy out there and remain there. Eva is teaching in Bard College, a cute little place up the Hudson. I spent the weekend out at Jeannette Green's in a New Jersey suburb. Lots of woods there and I rested quietly and ate a lot of ham and things. Eleanor, whom you don't know, ran off to Europe with some guy to write another novel (see THE BITTER BOX by Eleanor Clark); Thelma Erhlich is doing some analysis for me on labor leaders; Helen Schneider is also working now with me on people who belong to unions as compared with those who do the same kind of work but don't belong to unions. In short, part of my staff runs off, and to some of them I farm out work to do for love, at a distance. Some remain and they are all kept busy as little bees. And some new ones come along from time to time to contribute to the advance of science and the academic profession.

Got to go to sleep now, as am dead tired. Thanks again for the rooster. Every morning in the new office I will say Hello to him, and it will make all four of us feel better: you and you and the rooster and me.

your son, Wright Mills

To Frances and Charles Grover Mills, from New York City, dated February 15, 1947, Saturday afternoon
Dear Mother and Dad:

Thanks for your long letter. Everything here is getting along OK. I am not yet moved into the new office and there is even some doubt

that I will get the beautiful one I had my eye on. I may have to take a room I don't really like, in which case I won't fix it up at all. I am now teaching, for the first time in two years, and I find it takes time. In addition, all the research jobs are going along as usual, so the teaching is just an added burden. I work on three books: the White Collar volume, the book on labor leaders, which should be soon finished, and the book on opinion leadership, materials for which I gathered in Decatur, Ill. two summers ago. I have a total of 15 people who are assisting me on this, but still it takes time to get them at it. In addition, the Navy consultation job is maturing and we may land the $70,000 contract, in which case I'll have to direct the study. I almost hope it does not come thru.

Freya is apparently OK and Pamela, whom I see every Sunday as usual, is wonderful as ever. You can imagine what my life is like from the above paragraph; it is a fourteen hour day and at night I dream of it all. […]

Bye now. Yours, Mills

After two years of separation, Mills and Freya finalized their divorce in Reno, Nevada, in 1947.[8]Mills wrote the following two letters while he was spending six weeks in Reno in order to complete the divorce, prior to his marriage to Ruth.

To Ruth Harper, from Reno, Nevada, dated June 2, 1947 Monday morning

Well, things are not going so badly. As you recall, I got here last Tuesday and was settled here on the ranch by Tuesday night. I wrote you then. The next morning the guy that runs the place asked me in the

morning didn't I want to take a little ride on a horse and I said how long and he said just an hour or so, and I went. We rode all day long, chasing deer up around the mountains. I wasn't sore at all either in the ass or in the head; because now I've done that, I believe that a horse is an instrument of production in certain lower forms of industrial life.

So Thursday I wrote most all day and likewise with Friday and Saturday and Sunday morning. The typical days—and they will continue without variation—run like this: up at 7. Write an hour. Eat breakfast 8:15. Stay in room and write 'til 1 P.M. at which time lunch. Loaf an hour after that in sun … work during afternoon but not pushing, primarily reading and revising manuscript if have done well in morning; otherwise push. Knock off about 5:30 and fool with guitar or nap until 7. Dinner at 7:15. Then play pool and ping pong for around 2 hours. Sleep at 10 o'clock.

The guy that runs the place don't like this schedule so much because this way he doesn't make any extra on me for horses etc. but after that first day he is getting to know that I'm not organizable. The great individualistic West is a lot of crap; it's an organized setup.

Yesterday around 1 o'clock Hazel and Graham, her husband, came out. He is a very nice guy, really very nice. Naturally they brought a picnic, which meant one whole chicken for each of the three of us. And naturally I ate all of mine—the first time I've overindulged since leaving New York. Well we just talked around … he's tied in with architecting and contracting for public buildings and stuff in Reno and they seem very happy indeed. Because of the chicken I was uncomfortable all afternoon: too full.

My god, look at the kind of stuff I'm writing … like one school girl gossiping to another. The reason is, though, that last night I missed you, was lonely for you and felt all soft about you. Do you know what I mean? Well, there was a word back in the 20s that fits it like a glove; the point is I'm goofy over you.

Goddamn it, write.

I was sunburned (that all-day ride) and am now peeling all over the face. Guess it is necessary after so long without any sun. Will do it gradually now, and all over, not just the face and hands.

[unsigned copy]


In the following letter, Mills mentions the quote that he used as the epigraph for The New Men of Power (1948):

When that boatload of wobblies come
Up to Everett, the sheriff says
Don't you come no further
ho the hell's yer leader anyhow?
Who's yer leader?
And them wobblies yelled right back—
We ain't got no leader
We're all leaders
And they kept right on comin'

From an interview with an
unknown worker, conducted
by Mills in Nevada.

To Ruth Harper, from Reno, Nevada, dated June 7, 1947


Thanks for sending the POQ [Public Opinion Quarterly]. It came in handy. I wish you'd bundle up all the Business Weeks and Labor Actions that have come—just those two—and send them along sometime. I could use them. I have not read one paper or listened to one newscast since I left New York. I have no idea of what is going on and most of the time really care less. But there is labor stuff happening and it's stimulating to read about it from those two sources. […]

Later: I have 124 pages. It is getting to be nite. Outside it is raining. But inside it is snug. I feel philosophical rather than statistical. I feel goofie. About you.

Later: Christ, wasn't that little prose poem by An Unknown Worker of Nevada I picked up a honey? That'll go right on the title page."WE AIN'T GOT NO LEADER. WE'RE ALL LEADERS." That has just the right irony for a book on labor leaders.

You know, if a guy could wander around this country taking notes and talking with everybody, he could do a damn good book on it all. A sort of folklorish thing along different class lines. Pick up just

casual like, 200 longish "interviews," except nothing systematic. We're going to do that someday, you know. Except you're no good for it. You're too good-looking. They wouldn't tell you things like they do an old guy like me. I'm goofie over you. Especially when it rains.

[unsigned copy]

To Frances and Charles Grover Mills, from Reno, Nevada, undated (June or July 1947)

Thank you for your long letter. I swam for a couple hours today in the lake and am about pooped out from it, but I'll answer your questions. To begin with …

I am delighted that you two plan to come to NY during the Christmas season. I hope by then to have a larger apt. set up and so there may be plenty of room. We will have to wait until we see when the Christmas meetings of the sociology society are, but I think they will be in NY; so they won't interfere with any timing you decide is convenient with you. Anyway that is all settled now between us except the exact dates.

It is not really possible to tell you anything about Ruth Harper. […] She went to Mt. Holyoke College and has worked for me all spring. She is extremely bright and is going to be a professional sociological partner with me. She is a tall slender girl with shoulder length hair and very large brown eyes. She smokes too much, and is a little nervous like a colt at times. Her mother died when she was very young. They lived out in NJ […] where Jeanette Green lives.


Got to go to bed now. See you Christmas. The book comes along fine. I have written 240 pages in the 3 weeks plus I have been here! It just rolls out. A book on THE AMERICAN LABOR LEADER: Who He Is and What He Thinks.[9]

bye, love Mills


To Dwight Macdonald, from Sutcliffe, Nevada, undated (probably July 1947) Sunday Night
Dear Dwight:

Well, I got out here and put in six weeks on the divorce business. During the last week I ran into a lady, a cowboy lady, who gave me a big stone house on a mountain two miles above a lake, Lake Pyramid, for as long as needed. Ruth joined me, we were married, bought a jeep for transport, and plan to spend another month or so here. The thing is forty miles out of Reno, in pretty rugged country; but it is a hell of a lot of fun.

I have finished a fairly good draft on "The Labor Leader: Who He Is and What He Thinks." Wrote it like free association in 5 weeks: 432 double-spaced [pages]. Now I am browsing through it once, and then it will be typed in six or seven carbons. Will you read one for me?

I am anxious about the poll.[10] Ruth tells me that Mickey Sanes is out of town for the summer. The thing is all coded except the very last section. […] Anyway Dwight, I'm very sorry about the delay and I'll do my best to move it from out here. The first thing I do when I get back, if it isn't done, is sit right down and turn it out. I'll make a nice essay out of it on the phenomenon politics.[11]

You know, after turning out that labor leader book so fast (I would never have believed I could have done it) I just don't know whether it is worth a damn or not. So close to it, I guess. Dying for criticism. And naturally am dead broke so will try to get some kind of advance. Bill Miller will get a copy to you, after about 3 or 4 weeks, if you let me know you'll read it and let me have comments.[12]


I am playing the guitar now, about an hour a day in the sun, with the lizards running around on the rocks. This cabin is under a huge cliff, and from behind it you see a big valley going up and down below,[…]30 miles long and about 12 wide. And all the time in the house or out of it there is the smell of sagebrush, and at night of sagebrush fire in the fireplace.

I had to delay paying the lawyer to get the jeep, but he saw the situation and went along with me. You've got to have a car to get up here, and an ordinary [one] couldn't make it and besides, only new car immediately available here was a jeep (green with yellow wheels and six speeds forward!). I climb mountains in it; go anywhere a horse will, they say. Maybe I will hire myself out with it, and pull things about the middle of August. Anyway we'll drive it back to New York and maybe if have to, we'll sell it. In the meantime here we are with it and it's wonderful.

I start on the Influence study in about 4 days … the Decatur study.[13] Ruth brought out the files on it. Will try to shove it fast and come back to NY with fewer commitments.

Let me know what is going on in the world.

Yours, Wright Mills

To Hans Gerth, from New York City, dated Friday, February 13, 1948
Dear Gerth:

It was good to get your letter this morning, but bad to hear that H I and child have been so ill. [14]

To answer your query: yes, [Joseph] Bensman came around two or three days ago and left a copy of his MA thesis with me. Looks interesting, altho haven't read it yet. He thinks of doing something on men in unions etc. and I wanted to ask you about him. I think if he is worth it, I can fix up something with the UAW for him. Let me

know about how independent a field worker you think he'd make. Did you have to supervise his thesis closely or did he carry it pretty well alone?

Glad to hear you'll read the Labor Leader manuscript. To tell you the truth I am very worried about it: it is so very political; and what I'd like is your judgment about how naive, if at all, it is in that way. God knows what the consequences of it will be, but it had to be said anyway. I'll get a copy to you sometime within the next month. Either manuscript, if possible, or galleys. Your advice on it would be greatly valued.

Right now my time is monopolized, all but polishing up labor leader, on the Puerto Rico study. Going into the field with it next Monday here in New York: will get around 1,500 interviews among the migrants, and am trying to test empirically the "Protestant" ethic among these migrants … as a factor in their adjustment here, etc. Maybe it will work, maybe not: it's always that way, with me at least, on fieldwork. You gamble. So you cover yourself by at least getting information stuff. I had to drop my new course that was to be given this spring, on the wageworker in modern society, in order to devote more time to Puerto Rico.

There is some chance that I'll be thru Madison this summer. Plan to get hold of a house trailer, the smallest I can find, and hitch it up to the jeep I have and go west. I'll park on top of some mountain in the northwest and work a while for about six weeks or so, then travel slowly down the west coast into Mexico and back up thru the south. You can live almost as cheaply like that [as] at home in NY. And no telephones etc! You see the kind of escape visions I have. I dream of this thing at night and when I wake up each morning it is the first thing I think of!

Gerth, will you let me know your opinion of my going to the New School? I don't know much about the setup, but they have approached me informally about it (dead secret please). I think there may be trouble about this book on labor here at Columbia, and wonder whether I should jump in rank and tenure before it's out. You know me and you know some of those people at the New School: do you think we'd get along, or not?

Yours, Mills


In a letter dated March 31, 1948, Gerth replied that he thought Mills would be better off as associate professor at Columbia College than as full professor at the New School. Mills remained at Columbia.

Mills ended his book The New Men of Power with the following: "It is the task of the labor leaders to allow and to initiate a union of the power and the intellect. They are the only ones who can do it; that is why they are now the strategic elite in American society. Never has so much depended upon men who are so ill-prepared and so little inclined to assume the responsibility."

To Hans Gerth, from New York City, undated (spring 1948)
Dear Gerth:

Many, many thanks for reading the first batch of galleys [of The New Men of Power] and for being so generous with the comments. I think a few of them will be taken care of in later parts of the book, but I am carefully pursuing to see what can be done with the others.


In a few days I go on the first "vacation" I've ever had! Did I tell you the plan? Drive to Los Angeles in the jeep. Buy a small trailer to live in, 7 by 14 feet big; drive up into the mountains and sit down. I'll take my White Collar files and write three or four hours a day only. I have these 128 depth interviews, which are amazingly fun to read and analyze. Ruth has already laid out the analysis and she will carry on with that a few hours a day. Naturally I look forward to this: THIS summer is going to be my TURNING POINT. You of all people will know what that means! As well as what it doesn't mean!

Pamela is well and a great pleasure. In September I come back here and take her to Maine in the trailer for two weeks. As time goes on, Pam gets bigger, I shall spend much more time with her, including all summer. I hope H I and the children are well.

And thanks again. Yours, Mills


In 1948 politics was distributing copies of Let Us Now Praise Famous Men by James Agee and Walker Evans via mail order. That book stimulated the following letter from Mills, which was published in the spring 1948 issue of politics.

To Dwight Macdonald, from New York City, undated (spring 1948)
Dear Dwight:

I approached Agee's book with very definite expectations and needs in mind: From what you said when you gave it to me, I thought I might get some answers to a problem that has been consciously bothering me for six or seven years:

How can a writer report fully the "data" that social science enables him to turn up and at the same time include in his account the personal meanings that the subject often comes to have for him? Or: How can the writer master the detaching techniques necessary to modern understanding in such a way as to use them to feel again the materials and to express that feeling to the readers?

I put this question in terms of "social science" because every cobbler thinks leather is the only thing, but it is a problem faced by any writer on social and human topics. Social scientists make up a rationale and a ritual for the alienation inherent in most human observation and intellectual work today. They have developed several stereotyped ways of writing which do away with the full experience by keeping them detached throughout their operation. It is as if they are deadly afraid to take the chance of modifying themselves in the process of their work.

This is not a merely technical problem of analysis or of exposition. It is part of a much larger problem of style-as-orientation. And this larger issue, in turn, seems to arise from the bewildering quality and pace of our epoch and the unsureness of the modern intellectual's reaction to its human and inhuman features. We are reaching a point where we cannot even "handle" any considerable part of our experience, much less search for more with special techniques, much less write it within the inherited styles of reflection and communication.

I bring all this up, because on the surface, Agee's text is a report of a field trip to the south during the middle thirties; but underneath, it is an attempt to document his full reactions to the whole

experience of trying as a reporter to look at sharecroppers. As a report on the sharecropper south, it is one of the best pieces of "participant observation" I have ever read. As a document of how a man might take such an experience big, it is something of a stylistic pratfall.

We need some word with which to point, however crudely, at what is attempted here and at what I have tried to describe above. Maybe we could call it sociological poetry: It is a style of experience and expression that reports social facts and at the same time reveals their human meanings. As a reading experience, it stands somewhere between the thick facts and thin meanings of the ordinary sociological monograph and those art forms which in their attempts at meaningful reach do away with the facts, which they consider as anyway merely an excuse for imaginative construction. If we tried to make up formal rules for sociological poetry, they would have to do with the ratio of meaning to fact, and maybe success would be a sociological poem which contains the full human meaning in statements of apparent fact.

In certain passages, Agee comes close to success. Observe how he reports in a sentence or two the human significance of authority between landlord and tenant, white and Negro. Observe how he handles associations in descriptions, never letting them get in the way of the eye which they guide to the meanings. I think the best things in the volume are the sections on work (320 ff) and on the summer Sunday in a small southern town (375 ff). In some of these pages imagination and painstaking reporting become one and the same unit of sharp sight and controlled reactivity: they are visions.

But of course the quality about Agee that is best of all is his capacity for great indignation. Printed less than a decade ago, the book in its fine moral tone seems to be a product of some other epoch. For the spirit of our immediate times deadens our will very quickly, and makes moral indignation a rare and perilous thing. The greatest appeal of this book comes from Agee's capacity for indignation.

The motive and the frustration that lift his work above the plain sociological report is his enormous furiosity at the whole arrangement that sent him to the south and his crying terror at being personally estranged from the sharecroppers. This fury is what makes him take it big. He is furious with the magazine people who sent him into

the south "to spy," and he is furious at himself for not being able to break through into the human relation he wants with the sharecroppers he is studying, or rather whom he is trying to love.

If I ask myself, why on the whole it just doesn't come off, the only answer I can find is that in taking it all so big, Agee gets in his own way. Instead of easing himself into the experience in order to clarify the communication of how it really is, he jumps into it, obscuring the scene and the actors and keeping the readers from taking it big. And underneath this is the fact that Agee is overwhelmed and self-indulgent; almost any time, he is likely to gush. He lacks, in this book, the self-discipline of the craftsman of experience: When you get through, you have more images of just Agee than of the southern sharecroppers, or even of Agee in the south among the sharecroppers.

This failure is most apparent when we contrast the magnificent Walker Evans photographs with Agee's prose. These photographs are wonderful because the cameraman never intrudes in the slightest way upon the scene he is showing you. The subjects of the photographs—family groups of sharecroppers, individuals among them, children, a house, a bed in a room—are just there, in a completely barefaced manner, in all their dignity of being, and with their very nature shining through. But Agee often gets in the way of what he would show you, and sometimes, romantically enough, there is only Agee and nothing else.

Given the diffculties of sociological poetry, however, I think that what is important about the book is the enormity of the self-chosen task; the effort recorded here should not be judged according to its success or failure, or even degree of success; rather we should speak of the appropriateness and rarity of the objective, remembering that Agee has himself written: "The deadliest blow the enemy of the human soul can strike is to do fury honor."

If you can think of any other examples of sociological poetry, let me know of them.

Yours, Wright Mills


To Hans Gerth, from outside Los Angeles, California, dated June 16, 1948
Dear Gerth:

Just received your long letter of comments and the Weber bibliography, forwarded to me here, general delivery. The bibliography looks wonderful! I only wish that I had received the letter about the book two days before: I've already sent galleys back.[15] But in about 2 weeks or 3 I should get page proofs and it is still possible to do things with them. All your points are very well worth very serious consideration, and I am now studying them with an eye to how they might be taken into account. I'm afraid only the smaller ones can really be met at this unfortunate stage of affairs; appropriate adjectives and verb changes can do wonders … but the two or three major points I'm afraid are endemic in the book pretty much and represent my own shortcomings that can't be taken out by merely verbal changes. But I'll do my best. Anyway, you will know how extremely grateful I am for your generous giving of time and knowledge to the galleys. After I have gone thru the letter with a typewriter making notes to myself, and with the page proofs before me for changes that are possible, I'll write you a "counterstatement"!

We have got a trailer on order, have to wait a few more days to get it delivered, also for check to be deposited in New York bank. In meantime are living in auto court: miserable existence for a week. But what's a week?

Am just getting down seriously to white collar job, and am overwhelmed by notes accumulated over 5 or 10 years! Will I ever make order out of this chaos of bits and pieces and grand notions that won't come off? I brought two big file drawers (stuffed) with me for the summer work and perusal. This designing of a book, making an architecture out of it, is a tricky business, isn't it? On the labor book I learned a lot about that, but after all, that was a simple kind of outline and things fell readily into place; this thing covers the world of modern society, hence to carve out of it a pathway without stumbling all over yourself is hellish. What I am trying to do is straighten out the themes … when to introduce each of them and how to hook it into given contexts. Then there is the intensive material from the

depth interviews, and finally the Census type stuff. I'm tempted to do splice-ins, something like the USA by Dos Passos. Call one the CLOSEUP:"ALICE ADAMS AND KITTY FOYLE," e.g., or "The Status Strip." Throw those in about 2–3 pages; then panorama, e.g., "Society as Salesroom" which tries to generalize a mood or feeling or just plain fancy. Finally a census, which will be straight figure talk. I'll try to embed these three types of splice-ins in a good straight text. Sounds very daring when I write it down like this, and I don't think I'm nearly good enough of a writer to get away with it, but why not try? You can always twist it back into orthodox textual presentation.

Thanks again for your criticism, of which more later. Leave to visit Chicago College next spring has been granted!! Be seeing you.

Yours, CWM

To William Miller, from New York City, undated (summer 1948)
Dear Bill:

Got your letter and the review of the Ford book.[16] Thank you for both: I am very glad to see that you are coming around to flamboyance in style, even tho you don't print it (ahem), and even tho you sell out so cheaply to the commies: $1.65 each. Seriously, the Ford book seems wonderful and I look forward to reading it. About flamboyance: don't you love it? God, only way to live: the only personal answer to bureaucratic precision and form which, part of the managerial demiurge, would stultify everything we do and are. (I'm now writing chapter 6, The managerial demiurge—salaried managers level of wc [white collar workers].)


I don't really know how I'm doing, but Jesus God, I'm in there trying hard; don't mean that I work long hours, I don't: say about 5 or 6 a day, and brooding over it rest of day, but sleep 9 or 10 hours, shamefully. Would you like to see the outline?


Introduction: The new little man (poetically presents cream of book: insight).

Part one: The old middle class

  • Ch. 1 The world of the small entrepreneur (sets utopian past; other three chapters tell what happened to it and its heroes).
  • 2. The independent farmer
  • 3. The small business man
  • 4. The distribution of independence

Part two: The new society

Part two, once the dull factual part, now becomes different: all facts buried in poetic-sweep stuff about meaning, for people, for society.

  • 5. The white collar world's general panorama and mechanics of how they rose
  • 6. The managerial demiurge (managerial and supervisory)
  • 7. Brains, Inc. (professional) … case: Time and Bureau
  • 8. The enormous file (offce workers … case: Metropolitan Life)
  • 9. The biggest bazaar in the world (salespeople … case: Macy's)

Part three: The new middle class

  • 10. Predetermination
  • 11. Aspirations and success
  • 12. The white collar girls
  • 13. Alienation
  • 14. White collar unions
  • 15. Political role of new middle class

No pronouncements, no calls for action: moods, probings, latent meanings make explicit.

You can see how much I've learned about writing a book from New Men of Power and especially from the talks with you. I see the structure of the whole quite well now, and you know how important such guidelines are in each individual part.


By the way, am delighted by Earl's reaction to labor book: for God's sake, prod him into doing something publicly if possible.

Schlesinger Jr. wrote Davis at Harcourt Brace this for the jacket: "C. Wright Mills' The New Men of Power is a brilliant, original and provocative work, genuinely democratic and boldly radical in its character. Prof. Mills will not expect total agreement from all his readers; but I have not read for a long time any book which in its main bearings casts more valuable light on the tensions of American society or which is more stimulating and fruitful in its challenges to the reader." Well! Anyway, it shows we can get away with it among the liberals.[…]


Of course we plan, if you want, to carry out our pattern of last summer: going to New York, picking up Pamela, and you and Bucky, and going to the Cape for about 10 days.[17] Would you like that? The three women can sleep in the trailer and you and I can sleep outside. Cooking just like at home, so it should be no trouble for anyone and fun all around. Let us know. The timing should be about the last week in August, or first week in Sept. OK, it's all set. Write again about this. Current address, for next ten days at least:

C. Wright Mills
care: Yosemite Lodge
Yosemite National Park

Travelogue department [from Ruth]: As you can see it is now Yosemite. Yosemite is a place where the insides of the earth got restless and jutted or pushed their way up to the sky about 10,000 feet. On top it's all bare granite rock with snow and no trees; a little lower down, 8,000 ft, there are scraggly trees, rocky twisting roads and blue blue lakes since the only thing they reflect is sky.[…] we came from Frisco straight to the high country, taking the trailer over grades so steep that we had to get into fourwheel drive, and roads so curvy that I'd have to get out and see if a car was coming before we could go ahead—three hours to go fifty miles.

Mills is convinced and so am I that he now can take the trailer anywhere. Anyway we found a pleasant camp at 8,500 feet in sort of a meadow, a brook and a view of the rocks. When you got out of the sun it was extremely cold and the next morning we found that we couldn't breathe. It was like a big weight on our chests which we could never fight off unless we kept walking like the energetic hikers around us—walking forces the thin air into the lungs they say. Wanting only to sit on our asses and work, it was no good, so we hitched the trailer up and started back the slow fifty miles and came into the valley, which is at 4,000 feet, about seven miles long, one mile wide and completely enclosed on all sides by rock walls that go up to 8,000 feet extremely quick, and have water falling over their sides at various places. Like everyone else here I find the waterfalls quite wonderful, but Wright says "What else do you expect water to do when it comes to the edge of a cliff?" as he keeps watching them out of the rear view mirror. There are about five to ten thousand people in the valley but you never see them because they can park only in designated camps, which are hidden under high trees. We are in the only camp that has people a good hundred yards away from each other—the ground is on a hill and rocky so it's hard to pitch tents and get cars into, which gives us rocks and woods on all three sides and a view down the hill to a few camps of people, a modern john, running water, and the high rocks on the other side of the valley. About a mile away there is all sorts of equipment, from a drugstore to a hospital—even a movie which changes its shows every two days so of course we go every other night. We expect to stay here till about the end of July when we'll start a slow trip back east, bringing with us many words.

Wright says he forgot to tell you about Chicago. Yes, it is all set. He got his leave of absence for the spring term, and, at great expense to Chicago, a good deal of mutual looking over will be done with no commitments on any sides. Also, something which, no matter how much I like trailer life, is rather good to hear. The plan had been according to Wright, that we might live in Chicago in the trailer, but Dave Riesman has offered us the use of his big house there, which he won't be using so we'll be able to fence off a few rooms for ourselves and have hot running water.

What about Cape Cod?



To Frances and Charles Grover Mills, from New York City, undated (probably September 1948)
Dear Mother and Dad:

I just returned from a 20,000 mi. trip, and received your card, for which many thanks. Here is where we went: from NY to Los Angeles, CA, where we bought a house trailer. Then slowly up the coast to San Francisco, where we stayed about two weeks. Then Bill Miller joined us by plane and the three of us traveled up to British Columbia; and then we zigzagged across the continent inside Canada, ending up in Montreal, from which place we came back to New York. I picked up Pamie and we went on to Cape Cod, Mass. for about a week by the Atlantic Ocean. All in all quite a trip. I'd promised myself a real vacation and finally had it … after 6 years of hard work.

But the real climax was this: about 800 mi. from NYC, in Ontario, at a place called Lake Temagami, we bought two small islands. One is one and three-quarters acres and the other, about 30 feet of open water away, is one-fourth of an acre. These two together, bought from the crown for summer residence, cost 175 dollars! Next summer we'll go up there and build a stone house from the stones on the beach of the place. To get to these islands you have to leave the highway and travel by boat about 32 mi. thru beautiful lakes and river ways. It is cool up there and utterly isolated. However, a freight boat comes thru and stops every other day with fresh vegetables and stuff. I'll have to buy next summer a small outboard motorboat. As soon as we build a little shack for temporary residence or get a big tent you both must come up and stay a while with us. I'm recruiting labor for clearing the land a little. It's now dense forest and underbrush and am offering food and board for 7 hours [work] a day every other day!

The jeep almost fell to pieces after such a long hauling of the trailer, so yesterday we traded it in as down payment on a new Kaiser automobile painted sky blue! The payments are only $89 a month, but I hope to sell the trailer at a small profit and so be able to pay off the entire thing in about a month.

I've been asked to lecture at Chicago University from Jan. to July next year, 1949, and have accepted, obtaining a leave of absence from

Columbia. We're trying now to get a place to live out there for those six months.

Yesterday I mailed you a copy of my book, The New Men of Power, which everyone thinks is a handsome book.[18] Write me in detail how you like it, especially the first chapter and the last two chapters, which contain a radical program for America today.

I'm sorry I didn't write during the summer but was on the road all that time and didn't write anyone but a letter or so to Pamela. Too busy fixing tires and mending broken springs and all the rest of it.

Your son, Charlie Wright

In the next letter Mills refers to the presidential election of 1948, in which he voted for Norman Thomas, the Socialist Party's candidate, as he had in the election of 1940.[19]Debates about Norman Thomas and Henry Wallace, the Progressive Party's candidate, have continued throughout the years following the election of 1948.[20]

Mills also mentions Lewis A. Coser, the German émigré he had met through his involvement with politics. Several years later Coser received his Ph.D. in sociology from Columbia.

To Hans Gerth, from New York City, dated Sunday, September 26 (1948)
Dear Gerth:

I am delighted that you've built a house; it must be quite a good feeling, especially after the hell involved in getting it up! I don't quite remember where Sunset Point is; is it where we used to go swimming?


The point of land out from the university going towards where you used to live—I mean in that direction? I hope you will ask me over some weekend next spring.

I don't envy you the Mannheim job if it's more like his later books than his former. But I'm naturally very interested in just what it is. If you like, I'd certainly be glad, and grateful, for the chance to look it over in manuscript.

Thanks for using my book on labor in your course! Reaction to it here in left circles is so far pretty good. As for the department, Merton has gone into it with me at lunch in great detail and is gushy over it, especially its form (integration of tables and text, typologies etc.). I halfway believe him. But no other member of the department has said a word! So who knows. Anyway, it's done and over.

(Incidentally there is a wonderful fellow named Lewis Coser (Clair) who is teaching at Chicago this fall and next spring[21] … if you're in Chicago contact him and his wife Rose, daughter of Laub. I know you'll get along and enjoy each other.)

About the "Manifesto":[22]

I have to be honest with you and say I can't make heads or tails out of your reaction, except that you are completely pessimistic (so am I) and that you support Wallace (which I don't can't won't). Most of your comment is fine: detailed points about the situation and the stupidity of US policy. Well, that's more or less agreed. But what do you want to do, even by way of writing?

Do you think that now one should not advance any "programs," not even articulate some idea, even if they can't and won't be realized so far as one can see? Of course we should debunk, debunk, debunk. But is that all we should do? What do you say if Sol Barkin of [the] textile union comes to you and says, help me write a speech for a union leader? What do you say if Norman Thomas does likewise for a speech that will get into pretty wide circulation? I mean are we really at the point where we can't say a damn thing so far as "what to do" is concerned? In short: are you saying that one (by which I mean you and me and 500 other people in the United States who are politically alert and have the leisure to write and think about politics),

that we can only 1) give good journalist accounts and analysis of what the setup is, [and] 2) debunk the offcial politics of various powers that be.… Isn't it possible at all to state "programs," even when we don't have any going movement or power which might carry them out? (Have you seen David Riesman's article in [the] recent issue of Yale Law Review?)

Your idea that we are oriented too much to Detroit and NY is, I think, the reverse of the point that you are too oriented to building trade unions! There is now no doubt that Reuther is coming out this fall for a new party.[23] There is, moreover, no doubt but that John Green of shipbuilders and textile workers will string along. It may be—at least it is not foolish to think—that Reuther and Co. will get hold of the CIO minus the CPs in the next few years.[24] I cannot but believe that such an organization will or may well amount to something. And those people are madly looking for ideas. You can't build a movement on journalist gossip and debunking. The very pull of Wallace, especially at first, several months ago, indicates the possibility in such a real labor outfit.


I can't remember whether I sent you a copy of the syllabus on labor unions? If you don't get it in a few days, please let me know and I'll get one off to you. Only one meeting so far but the kids seem enthusiastic about it. I'm using the same outline in an undergraduate course and in the graduate seminar, so I've about 45 people all told working on it.

You have some enemies (I suppose via Shils) in Bruce Smith and his wife. Saw them the other day here (they go to Chicago for some bibliographic job). I gather you saw them in Berlin or at least Germany. I was amazed at the way they dislike the Krauts … yes they actually use the term … of course their talk is full of all sorts of "culturally determined" explanations, but in all they are just plain nationalistically anti-German. Dan Bell is here now with Fortune; I've

seen him only once and don't look forward to meeting him again. He's full of gossip about how he met Luce for lunch and what Luce said … […].[25]

See you soon.
Best wishes.

Mills's friendly relationship with Daniel Bell had ended in 1945, after Mills and Freya separated and Mills moved out of the apartment building on 11th Street. Later, in the fifties, Mills and Bell became political opponents as their ideological differences grew in scope and intensity.

In the following letter to Hazel Erskine in Reno, Nevada, Mills refers to reviews of The New Men of Power.

To Hazel Gaudet Erskine, from New York City, dated Saturday, October 23, 1948
Dear Haze:

Thanks for your note; yes the reviews are OK so far, some even enthusiastic. Labor Action came thru nicely; we have yet to see [what the] academic boys do, but who the hell cares.

Tell your mother hello hello.

About comics: do it either way you want … hunks or all at once. I'd think to wait and see it whole done would be best from your standpoint. I figure we've got to show manuscript in about a month from now. […] I'm reserving Nov.-Dec.-;Jan. as the general area of working on it. So the pace seems to be OK. Nothing drastic by way of rush-rush, but only soon as conveniently possible.

Sorry to say I've had a bad fall so far; just hecticity and no quiet munching work possible. White Collar is on about chapter 8 (out of 15 chapters). Getting first four or five typed soon with carbons. But think of Nevada, California, Temagami: open spaces all [the] time.


SEND ME A BIG BUNCH OF SAGE IN CELLOPHANE SO IT WILL SMELL HERE. MAIL TO: 611 Hamilton, Broadway and 116th, Columbia Univ., because am there most of time and want to keep it there.


To Hans Gerth, from New York City, dated Wednesday (probably November 1948)
Dear Gerth:

I. Weber and Oxford

The sales on Weber have been slow but steady; the Parsons volume has almost exactly the same performance curve as our volume.[26] Oxford is therefore worried, but feels it necessary to keep it in print. This is probably their picture, which makes them not want to take on more Weber, but to keep what they have available. They can't, I gather, make new plates; they'd like if possible to reprint with no changes at all. So the chance of including anything on Judaism is nil; the chance of the bibliography is also low. After I get your textual corrections, if any, I'll ask explicitly but I think they'll say no. (They can do as they please given the copyright thing as it is.) You'd be wiser therefore to go ahead and let Social Research do it, get 200 reprints made and ship them around, or at least so I think. They don't like, I gather, to deliberately kill secondhand market, at least not when it's obvious! I've only seen Vaudrin once, and that time last week mainly about white collar book.[27] I just told him he could wait and like it; that I wasn't going to throw it together now in 2 months; he seemed to understand and it's due now early next summer, which is possible. About half is in fair draft and the rest well filed and ready for penultimate writing. Please get textual corrections to me soon as possible, and only those you feel must be made.


II. The text [Character and Social Structure]

I had intended to take up the old text we had planned with you this spring, and we must certainly talk about it. Now that you bring it up, let me say that of course I'm still interested; we've both invested a good deal of time on it and it would be [a] shame not to go thru with it. My own schedule is such that by June White Collar is done and I am not going to do any more big empirical jobs at the Bureau. I just won't do it. It drives me crazy in terms of money, responsibility, and budgets and all the rest of it; and besides it just isn't the kind of work I feel good doing. This has been an argument going on here for some time (they want me to take on more responsibilities in connection with [the] Bureau, or rather did up to last year when I got firm about it) and [it] has hurt me career-wise, but God I can't go on with such trash. Anyway this means that I will be free to start up a longer piece of writing, and I should personally very much like it to be the text with you.

Two things now. 1) First can you get a written cancellation of the Heath contract? I don't want and I don't think you want to do it with that firm. If so, and if you and I can get together on it, 2) there will be no trouble at all in getting a good contract with either Oxford or Harcourt Brace. I can do that by mail next spring. We ought to get at least $1,000 advance and a full year and a half to do it in for typing at least two drafts of whole [manuscript] and for some library checking work for which we'll need some sort of assistant, so as to be sure and include or at least know about a lot of the materials the "experimental" people have done (for one thing).

Anyway I will bring my complete file on the book with me to Chicago and we'll have some full talks about how it looks to us. OK?

Confidential: If Chicago makes me an offer in the college there, I don't know what the hell I'll do. Columbia department has put me in for a boost in rank this year but it could easily be killed by budget committee, which under Eisenhower is really rough I'm told. My withdrawing from Bureau work means my income is cut $2,500. So I'm back to $5,000 with two families to support! Which again means that I'm all tied up in ghostwriting! How to get out of this? Well, I'll certainly consider Chicago carefully if it's a good offer and if there is time free for writing.

It is getting so the image of the old fashioned professor is almost

impossible to achieve, at least here in New York and especially at Columbia. They expect you to supplement your income with "entrepreneurial activities" of one sort or another and this, in line with my last summer's decision of which I wrote you, is exactly what I am not going to continue after this year.

If we had if I had any guts, what I'd do is quit this and go up to Temagami and build a snug house and go live on [the] $600 a year you could get from writing what you want to. So you see, I envy you greatly your house and dog! Maybe state universities are the best bet and in smaller cities. What do you think the chances are, if any, for me at Wisconsin? Maybe I remember it nostalgically now but it seems from here awfully good stuff. The other day [Richard] Hofstadter figured how much time a week he spent on nonessentials like parking a car, etc., things due to the big city as such, and it came to an unconscionable amount. Then the frustration of it …

Well, ignore this free association if you will, but it adds up to this: where I'd like to go is Berkeley, more than anywhere else, but there's no sociology there; "business is good" here, but I think now seriously of a big state university, or maybe Chicago, as being a happier situation.

Happy Thanksgiving!
[unsigned copy]

[P.S.] For front piece to White Collar:

"No one could suspect that times were coming … when the man who did not gamble would lose all the time, even more surely than he who gambled."

Charles Peguy

Good! For the book, Introduction: The New Little Man.

In the presidential election of 1948, Harry Truman defeated Thomas Dewey in what was probably the most surprising political outcome in American history. Hazel Erskine had written a series of articles about opinion polls on political issues and the election, which were published in Labor and Nation. Mills was a contributing editor of that periodical; Erskine's columns, under the heading of "What the People Think," carried the following credit: "By Hazel G. Erskine. Edited by Professor C. Wright Mills."


The next letter was written in the wake of Truman's electoral victory.

To Hazel Gaudet Erskine, from New York City, undated (probably November 1948)
Dear Haze:

Enclosed is syllabus, which has been mimeographed, so you can keep or destroy this copy. So far we've worked out swell index of oligarchy and crossed it with size (very positive) and with CP [Communist Party] control (very positive in CIO!). We've about 23 columns of information and probably I won't punch more as it takes so much of my time.

I think L and N stuff stood up very well; it would have been better had we stuck by the June July piece, which ends saying that Truman has a good chance.[28] Anyway I'm trying to get base figures on Gallop and Roper in order to see if this couldn't be enough to explain the upset:

Analyzing the dk: which was 8% I think in Gallop … he threw it out, but probably ¾ of them were lower ses and ed and Roosevelt voters; if the dk is allocated according to that, would it have been OK? If so, the polls are OK, but the pollsters are inept and what with you out of town, messed it all up.[29]

If this doesn't work, then samples were just off, although I can't believe that all the polls would have the same thing. Everyone here I talk with very puzzled. Come on, explain it for me.

NAM has reviewed book [The New Men of Power]: elegantly nonsensical … says I made it all up on a bench in Morningside Heights![30]

Editorship of politics still in doubt. We meet again this Thursday nite.


O how right you are about cities … but how wrong that I'll always be frenetic. I've just got to stop or I'll go mad.

I think only of Temagami, and have some swell little huts planned; really little screened squares with aluminum roofs having big overhang. Trouble is, because of snow in winter, the roofs have to slant pretty sharp, which makes them look funny. What can you do about that? I'll use a lot of one-by-fours laid flat or horizontal between widely spaced 2-by-4 studding and tack screen onto that framework.


To Dwight Macdonald, from New York City, November 20, 1948 Saturday

Was sick all last week; please take that as an excuse for not writing this sooner. The point is I don't think I'd better take on the editorial job we've been discussing. Here's why:

  1. As you know, for four years I've been heavily involved in collective research work which has taken up most of not only my worktime but my life. Now, just when I began to crawl out from under it as a semifree man, it seems foolish to take on more responsibilities which, again, "interfere" with my own book-writing program, which means my very own work.

  2. The white collar man, for instance, is two years overdue, and I'm getting slightly ill of it. It has got to be done by mid-spring. But more important than such specific projects is the fact that when you're involved in a job of writing, to do it well you have to live it: the notes you take on books you read, the meanings you are aware of in events, even how the street scene looks to you … they have to be involved in what you're engaged in. Selfishly, I want to be free to garner such materials and get them into my own freely chosen line of work, rather than force them into monthly comments.

  3. 129
  4. I feel this point all the more keenly because I am not now clear on so many issues. Certainly I have no "line" worked out that prods me to forceful, quick assertion. All last week I tried to formulate about 1,000 words on liberalism and the election (you'll get this if I can finish it). […] Now, first, [one] can't produce that slowly and hold up [one's] end, even by giving one whole week a month. Second, it seems to me to indicate that such a person shouldn't be a miserable editor but a miserable contributor.

  5. As I've got to be in Chicago until July, and after that Temagami, I couldn't really take any role in actually editing the magazine until next Oct.

  6. If you decide to set up a Contributing Editor group, or something like that, with no definite expectations of monthly work, I would of course be glad to be included. In so far as you personally are involved in the magazine, it has and doubtless will represent the publication closest to my own confusions.

  7. Finally, if the magazine is going and you don't ask me again in the middle of next fall, I will undoubtedly ask you for some role in its production. In the meantime I get on my feet.

Write me a note telling me you understand and that you're not mad.

Yours, CharlieCharlie Mills

In early 1949 Mills and Ruth went to Chicago, where Mills was a visiting professor for a semester at the University of Chicago. Lewis A. Coser was teaching at the University of Chicago at the time, and the Cosers and the Millses shared David Riesman's house that semester while Riesman was away.

Mills described the setting in the following letter to Leo Lowenthal, a German sociologist Mills had met in 1944, when Lowenthal was working for the U.S. State Department as well as the Bureau of Applied Social Research.

To Leo Lowenthal, from Chicago, Illinois, undated (probably January or February 1949)


Dear Leo:

This winter we are in Chicago in a big house along fraternity row across from the gym and all around us it is grey, drab, grubby: rain on Gothic. Most all universities are the same, except some are more closely administered than others, further along the bureaucratic path. This one is quite far along that path. Yet I am not part of it really; I am visiting. I am a wonderful visitor; I wish I could visit everywhere I am for all time. I've really no feeling of need for anything to the contrary. To be a permanent visitor everywhere.

After getting here, we rested for a week, and have decided to rest this week too. Just live: eat, sleep, fornicate, drive around a little, meet four hours of classes each week and two hours of staff meeting. Next week we'll start on manuscript again. (Which reminds me, for God's sake prod Rose to send me chapter 9; it's the last of Puerto Rico in her hands this go round. Got to have it, holding everything up.) Haven't turned on the radio since leaving NY, haven't read a newspaper. A state of mild shock, holding us in suspended withdrawal, coasting on past drives, not building any up from new bases: do you know what I mean? Guess last fall, all in all, was more tiring than I thought. Exhausted, really. [Everett] Hughes had us to tea: nice and pleasant.[31] [William] Ogburn had me to lunch: nice and pleasant.[32] The Singers had us over one evening: nice and pleasant.[33] I don't talk much: just ask them what they're doing and sit still, listening. They talk and talk and sell and sell. It's easier this way.

Bought two mountain tents and two air mattresses in a big Army store here. Wonderful, light nylon stuff; and very comfortable and neat. Am all ready to go, anytime. Also bought a pair of 8″ boots, moccasin type to wear around here in all this wet slop and crap I have to wade thru. Gothic in the rain.

Yours as ever, CharlieCharlie Wright Mills


To Robert K. Merton, from Chicago, Illinois, undated (probably February 1949) Saturday noon
Dear Bob:

  1. In a few days, I'll be sending a letter to James Reid about the book Gerth and I talk of doing;[34] you will receive a copy of it. I hope the project goes thru, because I really think we can produce quite a book if we're given the financial opportunity of being together for a four or six months stretch.

  2. Chicago is amazing; I'll tell you all about it when next we meet. I don't think I've learned as much about "the field" as something to work in in the last five years, as I have in the last five weeks here. Well, I guess it takes time to learn what one is about and what one should be about; and I, of course, learn the hardest way. Am writing a memo on the academic man and his career, which is as much for my own edification as anything else; although, in a different form, some of it will get into White Collar, in chapter on salaried professions. When it's done, I'll let you see it, if you want.

  3. I hear that two of our colleagues landed De Latour a fat job at Illinois, which, from other sources, I hear was the job they were discussing for me. But all that is rumor; I don't know. Anyway.

  4. [.…] The manuscript on Puerto Rico is all done but one chapter and the notes. I'm holding it for two or three weeks before hitting it once more editorially. You'll get a complete draft … I'd say in about three or four weeks.

How about parts II (Srole) and III (Rossi) on Decatur?[35] I was supposed to get drafts of these Feb. 1; it would help me a lot and also provide a prod to finish my parts of the thing if you'd get copies of these to me soon. How about it?


White Collar, as usual, goes slowly. I think I'm investing too much in it, trying to do too much within a framework that just won't hold it. Then, as always, one always says, finish this and that and then, then you'll really get the chance to get on White Collar. It's getting to be an institution with me. Yet it does move slowly.

Let me know how it is with you and what is going on in the world.

Yours, Wright

To William and Virginia Miller, from Chicago, Illinois, undated (probably winter 1949)
Dear Miller and Buckner:

Notes on the bureaucratic situation at Chicago will be forwarded to you sometime during the next three weeks, in the form of "Chicago Memo No. One: Problems of the College Staff." This will cover the situation in detail and is what Chicago has paid for, whether they know it or not or like it or not. My stake here is most slim, so don't care. Thought I would therefore let them have it on the nose. Will want your criticism before submitting it to deans involved.

I suppose everywhere one gets depressed and bored, that is everywhere in academic places. It is hard to work here. Feel like I am in the field studying stuff. No books. No files that amount to anything. So just take notes and don't write so well. I just can't take these people seriously. They have their own problems—generally those of administrators and teachers and graduate student-like people, not those of research people or writers or people trying to find out how to live. I'm afraid my attitude shows thru and so I've ceased to behave. I just yawn when I want to and attack whoever talks foolishness. Well, hell, what do I care. Guess I can go on living on nothing in New York and ghosting and all that and put off the house in the battery another four or five years. Right now plenty money and can pay off all of car and carry summer too, and if trailer sells can do OK next year too. Ever see a check every month after taxes for $875? Seems natural to me, but first time it's come like that. Will try of

course to get thru to Hutchins but it seems hard so far. Got to get to him or not much chance. Scare the others as usual.

And try as I will try on the memo, it will come out the same way: harsh and mean and biting and for god's sake why don't you do it this way, no not that way.

You son of a bitch: of course why don't you write on the industrial paper just for two hours for a friend and send it to me quick. Got to get it off. Been waiting for you to send it; you know I can't publish anything 'til you've gone over it and said maybe well OK.

I like the letter all right but you should have sent it to me before the editor, because it suffers with the weight of a big point put into such small space. Should have been elaborated at a couple of points rather than just baldly stated. That's why it has a little tone of griping even tho of course it's solid. Also I have a diary kept by a Washington journalist who was at Harvard on that fellowship thing they have for big journalists who want a year of rest, and I would have made it available to you. He is as intelligent as all hell and gives the lowdown. Anyway you didn't hurt yourself but god damn it why go off like that when I'm out here in the woods and fog and dirty grey dead end of a shit heeling town. Communicate with me.

yours as ever, MillsMills and Mills

[P.S.] Please phone Rose Kohn at the Bureau right away and tell her you and I had to talk long distance on some business and I asked you to call her and ask her, for god's sake, to have Mary Woods, the typist, send the three chapters on Puerto Rico I mailed her for typing,[36] and for her, Rose, to send me the last chapter on aspirations, for god's sake. Lay it on thick and sob some about it (for me out here in the wilderness and depending on her, for god's sake, to send me the stuff).


To William Miller, from Chicago, Illinois, dated April 7, 1949
Dear Bill,

Thanks for your letter, and news. Be glad to go over the stuff you mention, soon as you send it. Sorry about gug and drag on steel[37] but what the hell: you are, like the cowboy and detectives in the movies, an autonomous man. You don't need that stuff.

Here'show it is with me. First workwise:

  1. Puerto Rico all done but small fry stuff, being machine checked at bureau and another copy gone over finally by Bodie. Decided not to bother you with it until galley, which should be summer or fall

  2. Have about ⅞ of opinion leader in rough draft; will be typed enough for you to see in about 10 days or two weeks at most. It runs to 150 or 200 pages. This I really want you to go over, because it is not just another piece of writing but the counter of a fight that ought to be just right in every way before I give it in to them. So you'll be hearing about this. [38]

  3. Ruth was on PR [The Puerto Rican Journey],[39] now slowly gets into White Collar as I do, outlining small areas mainly so far, but middle of next week I start on it hard; the big spurt.

  4. Signed contracts with Harcourt Brace, so did Gerth; so that is all settled.[40]

And that is all, as I'm not the sort of person who does too much at one time. So there.

How it is otherwise:

1. Have made out bill for lumber needed on house and mailed it

today for bids. Magnificent. Am reading at night a little more on carpentry etc. to refresh self. It's a cinch. Will be a wonderful house.

2. Next Saturday we shop for fishing outfits (we found out in Temagami just what's needed). Tools: a whole set of clean, well chosen oiled tools.

3. We have sailed once in the folding kayak and it works just fine. It goes along like hell. A little hysterically in gusts but a good deal. Lake Mich. is a big thing so we stay mainly in the lagoon that's nearby.

So our life focuses upon work, commodities involved in work; and now in my fourth decade, slowly nonwork, noncommodities edge into the picture. No movies now. Play the guitar an hour or so at night. Read more and more and more on movies. My god what a thing they are. We must make them: they've got everything that appeal to me in this damn society and moreover the chance to damn everything else in it. Will write one this summer. See you soon. Send stuff. The title of the movie to be written is: "Enthusiasm."

Yours, Mills

To William Miller, from Chicago, undated (1949)
Dear Bill:

Thank you, as Ruth says, so much for the trouble on the other side of this sheet. But to hell with it. Anybody wanting $20 for adv. is running a racket or buying in wholesale lots, in either case not for us. The damn trailer will sell come spring and if not we'll just set it up on bricks on the island as a sort of expensive fetish to our travelous youth.[41] Thanks anyway.

Well, my friend, as I hang around here I get into it all deeper and who knows […how it] will end. I interviewed the staff and sorta scared them in doing it. Got my memo on career lines of academics in shape tho. You'll get copy in due course. Been in big depression, which blesses us all from time to time I gather, so no real work.


First I thought it was this atmosphere, but hell it happens everywhere; it's inside you and you carry it. The perils of the act of thought. Nevertheless there is something awfully bleak and bad and grey about this atmosphere. Maybe it's not having you around to spill my guts to from time to time but anyway—just between us and God damn it tell no one—I am coming back to Columbia on their damn lousy $5,000 and [will] sit it out regardless of what they do here or don't do. Manhattan, it's in my blood. You are happier being unhappy there. And you know you're at the center. Here everyone feels in their bones that they are on the rim.

I am disillusioned about White Collar again. I can't write it right. I can't get what I want to say about America in it. What I want to say is what you say to intimate friends when you are discouraged about how it all is. All of it at once: to create a little spotlighted focus where the alienation, and apathy and dry rot and immensity and razzle dazzle and bullshit and wonderfulness and how lonesome it is, really, how terribly lonesome and rich and vulgar and god I don't know. Maybe that mood, which I take now to be reality for me, is merely confusion which of course might be so and still worthwhile if one could only articulate it properly.

I can write an ordered statement of this and that; I can go lyric for a paragraph or two, I can moan well and feel sad sometimes without showing sentiment too cornily; but I cannot get them all into each sentence or even each chapter. I think, I really do, that my medium is not studies of White Collar people etc. but that I ought to launch out in some new medium that is not so restricting, but I don't have the guts to do that because my skill, my tested talent, is in handling the facts and contour according to my own brand of "social science." It is all too god damn much to try to do. The problem is the old problem of creation. How many minutes in a lifetime do we ever get that are creative in any sense?

next morning Saturday goodbye, Mills

In May of 1949 an informant furnished the FBI with its first piece of information on Mills's political activities: a copy of the letterhead of the Kutcher Civil Rights Committee, which listed members of the National Committee, including C. Wright

Mills. At the time, James Kutcher was a thirty-six-year-old veteran who had been awarded the Purple Heart after losing both legs in World War II. After his return from the war, he was fired from his clerical job at the Veterans' Administration because he was a member of the Socialist Workers' Party. The Kutcher Civil Rights Committee was formed to aid in his appeals of his dismissal, which challenged the constitutionality of Truman's Loyalty Program.[42](Eight years after being fired, Kutcher was reinstated by the U.S. Court of Appeals.)

The FBI file also noted that in 1949 Mills and Lewis A. Coser sponsored a May Day meeting in their home for the Politics Club at the University of Chicago, and the featured speaker was from the Independent Socialist League. Mills was unaware of the FBI report when he wrote the following letter.

To William Miller, from Chicago, Illinois, dated May 30, 1949 Monday Night
Dear Bill:

As it comes to every man, so to me: the shakes. I look over the damn manuscript on White Collar and on every page see the judgments and the possibility for ignorance and error and it overwhelms me. You have your little visions and you pile together statistics, a little pile out of a possible mountain; you read a few books and use some of them, and then in your thirties you have the gall to tell anybody who will pick it up off a shelf how it is today with millions of people. It is absolutely silly. But it would be the same in your forties and in your fifties. Only maybe worse because energy as such carries you thru a lot of it and later that will decline. It is like I say of the new entrepreneur: he has no set standards of accomplishment, no models for his life, no tradition to trust: out there alone. Maybe we ought to quit, except it is too late for that. Like Bogart or Garfield says in a movie ("Force of Evil" … excellent): "You make a living, you take a risk." Well, making a living is more than making a livelihood; and when you try to make it, you take a risk. The only thing is there are so many

ways you know to look at it and all of them are forms you picked up some place and there isn't any content, so you get dependent upon others' judgments more than you should, you think, but you don't know anybody to depend on really. So you're back again on your own.

And write a lot of crap to your friend.

Anyway, got the shakes and am scared. Too much work. Too much scope to it. Can't stop. Can't go on. And look how I run to avoid whatever it is I'm talking about. For two summers driving in automobiles and trailers all over the continent. Now into Canada to build a house, to fish. Read two books on muskie fishing last week. Buy equipment that will make you autonomous, or rather dependent on it for a week at a time. Up your skill in fishing, hunting, building, metalworking. (I know how to build a sink out of aluminum strips, how to lay a camp out so bugs won't get into it.) In short, up the delicate mind, made delicate and kept delicate by ten years of work sharpening it: to set up an 1850 homestead and operate it comfortably. Madness! Madness!

And then you worry that everything you write about "the new little man" isn't about anybody at all but your own God damn self: an elaborate projection draped in semiacceptable models of proof. And it is precisely what you sometimes think good and unique and a new perspective that comes under this category, and the rest is dull, [ … or] probably so. There really isn't any out. Except a kind of animal enthusiasm and egotism and willfulness (the infant wiggles on its own: it is not a mechanical thing but an organism) that keep you going except when you think about why you do it instead of keeping your eye on the object—or think you're keeping it there—which you're probably not.

This damn book is so rough. It is a total damnation of everything in this setup. If it is so, then one has to ask how and why the damn setup continues at all. It can't be so; and yet it seems to be just so to me. (This is reconciliation … the two feelings, only on the ground that I have a vision of it and nobody else has just this vision, so penetrating. That is where the egotism and willfulness, which I don't have so much of as often appears, comes in.) To write it you have to whip yourself up tight and unwind for four pages; then depression for a month, then whip yourself up and unwind. Repeat. Repeat. And all

this makes it sound as if it might really be good, but really you know it isn't so good. A lot of it is a lot of crap. Or so I suppose.

Write me a letter. We leave next Sunday.


The next letter mentions correspondence with D. C. Heath, the publisher whose 1941 contract for Character and Social Structure Mills and Gerth were seeking to cancel. Heath had paid no advance, and the assigned editor for the book was Howard P. Becker, who had been Mills's thesis advisor at the University of Wisconsin. In 1944, Mills had had this to say about Becker: "You know, Gerth, I've wasted time and emotion over this little man. I don't really hate him. If I could judge sentimentally rather than consequentially I could even pity him. He is not really a threat to anybody anymore. Really he isn't. His kind hang themselves, even before fools, they hang themselves. I can forget him now, and I wish him the kind of luck he wants, whatever foolish thing it may be" (Mills to Gerth, dated October 1944).

To Hans Gerth, from Goddard's Garage Hotel, Temagami, Ontario, undated (probably June or July 1949)
Dear Gerth:

Ruth and I just came in from a week in the bush, as they say up here, and got your note and the letter from Heath. It has been one of the happiest weeks of our lives. In one sentence, every bit of it exceeds our wildest expectations, and both of us are pretty damn wild expectators. During the week, we got the foundation down solid on the rock backbone of the island and the platform of the whole house up. It commands a magnificent view of 5 miles of open lake and down by the side is a little channel that can be fenced off safely for wading and bathing purposes, between the two islands. Our layout is bigger than we had remembered, for we first saw it after the great western scenery. There is in fact enough layout for complete privacy etc. for at least 3 large cabins if wanted. The way things go now, being dependent only on ourselves, we should have the house all done in about 20 days from now. 2 grad students are due latter part of next week to help raise the

roof. I tell you I worked this week: lifting telephone sized poles for the foundation and chopping them while still wet and soaked from the water; setting up the 2 by 8 sill structure and laying in the subflooring. Anyway more of it all later when I have a place to write from, my corner of the big room. In meantime, Ruth is positively blooming with enthusiasm and euphoria and has in the week despite hard work gained weight! Photographs in due course, of course, and I'll soon correspond with you about your place across that little channel.

Now about Heath: I've no carbon here, so will compose letter here and make copy of it and mail to them. (See below.) You see I follow your lead and point completely for I think you are right. Here's what I'll write:

Dear Mr. Walden:

I've just come in from a fishing trip in the bush and received your letter, for which thanks. All this talk about a book that is now only an idea in Gerth's and my head seems very foolish to me. You ask for the "circumstances leading up to my request for a cancellation." They are very simple and I had supposed you were fully aware of them. You must be aware that Mr. Becker and I have not spoken to one another until this spring for 5 or 6 years. We are civilized about it but I doubt if there is any mutual intellectual respect between us, and certainly no comradely feeling such as might be expected to exist between academic editor and writer. Anyway I am, as I stated in my last letter to you, not inclined to do a book for the firm with which he is associated. This says nothing about your firm or necessarily about Mr. Becker. It is simply a fact about life. I regret having to write so plainly but you force me to do it.

Second, you must be aware that no member of your firm contacted me in any way during the life of the agreement; no interest was displayed in its maturation and I have no friends among people connected with you. In the meantime I have published two books and I do have some excellent and intellectually helpful contacts with these firms. Whatever I publish, with Hans Gerth or alone, will naturally be given to those who helped me along before I had published anything, giving me advances in three figures for research and advice etc. Surely, as a publisher, and I have no doubt a good one, you must know how such things work.


Third, Mr. Becker has himself, or so I understand, written you requesting a cancellation, last March 26th I believe.

These are the only circumstances of which I am aware which led up to the request, in which Mr. Gerth is in agreement with me, to cancel the old agreement. I repeat what I told you last time I wrote: if you do meet our request, you will gain at least one well wisher in me; if you don't, you will not gain a book, although you might kill off a book for the profession.

Therefore, I again join Mr. Gerth and Mr. Becker in requesting you to cancel the old agreement.

Sincerely, C. Wright Mills

[P.S.] Hereafter my address will be:

C. Wright Mills
Care of Ontario Northland Boatlines
Temagami, Ontario, Canada

I hope, Gerth, that that is OK. It is about all that we can do. […]

Well, going back in [to the bush] in the morning. Will write in about a week or so and let you know how it goes. Hey, why not drive up en famille during August for [a] long weekend and look it all over for next summer? All it would cost you is gasoline and couple nites' cabins on way. Rest is on me for a week or two. Really. How about it?

The D. C. Heath contract was eventually canceled formally in February 1950. The new contract for Character and Social Structure that Mills had obtained from Harcourt Brace, the publisher of The New Men of Power, included an advance, a payment for typing services, and work with an editor that Mills and Gerth found agreeable, James M. Reid.

To Hans and H I Gerth, from Temagami, Ontario, undated (probably August 1949)
Dear Gerths:

You will pardon my not writing in so long, knowing that the house has been long in the building. Well, now it is virtually done; all that

remains is a little more on the roof and some on one wall and painting the outside. We are immensely pleased with it and, looking at it now, wonder how we ever did it. For some weeks we've only worked on it in the afternoons, spending the mornings on dear old White Collar, which is as disordered and difficult as ever.

Here is the way we live: get up about 7:30 or 8 and eat, after plunge in lake. Pamela has been here about 5 weeks now and swims with a little cork jacket on. We then go to work at our desks until 12:30 or so. Pamela plays by herself for that time and is apparently very happy doing it. Then after lunch we work around on the house until we go swimming at about 4:30, when Pamela has her swimming lesson. After that we drift. Maybe I go in the kayak with Pamela to pick up lily pads; or maybe we take the motorboat six miles up the lake to Bear Island to get mail … about two or three times a week for that. Or we just sit and look at the house and make plans for next year's buildings. (A bridge across the small channel to the other island. A guest house there. Another dock up on the point.) Well that is about how it goes.

My mother and father were here for two weeks and picked up Pamela in NY on their way up. That was early July. Now they are safely home again. Pamela will probably stay the whole summer, although I had not anticipated it for she has no one to play with, but it is working out just fine.

A friend who's finishing up his Ph.D. and who teaches at Howard, in Wash. DC, is here; pitched his tent outside and we all eat together. He is from Germany and gets his degree at California. Fred Blum is his name. Irving Sanes, a young novelist, is coming up for a week later this month and Hofstadter and family probably although they don't know yet.

I set up a bunk for Pamela and she climbs up on top of it every two minutes. I really believe that only the bunk is necessary to amuse her for a summer. Also I'm building her a sailboat about 25′ long and next year we'll put together a real sailboat of such construction and size that children can run it in the big bay in front of the islands. I don't fish any but my neighbor of half a mile away, who is very proud of being such a good fisherman, a retired dairyman from Cleveland, brings us fresh fish about once a week, which is plenty.

So it is a pleasant unhurried sort of relaxing way to live, the first we've had.

Now I slowly gain back weight and Ruth does too and this is comforting because I really wouldn't want to go back to New York so muscularly. (My appointment for another three years at Columbia came thru … anyway I'm apparently safe 'til then, at present salary of course.)

Well, why don't you write me? What is happening? Have you heard from Heath etc. at all since I wrote? Advise me about it if anything is needed as I'm now out of the daze of work and escape of June and July, ready to face my sins and troubles.

Did I tell you that they've printed another set of The New Men of Power? That means that by the end of this year they'll have sold between 5,000 and 6,000; so I guess after all, it has gone pretty well.

Tell me how all your publications are coming: the Weber, the Mannheim. And what have you been doing over the summer?

Bob Merton writes that his wife will have another child in a few months. They finally responded to [the] Puerto Rico report sent several months ago, saying how glad they are to have it for the Bureau series of publications. But no response on the Decatur manuscript as yet; I don't expect any until [we] get back in fall. (We plan to leave here for NY about 5th Sept.) Let me know how it is and what is going on in the world.

Yours, M.Mills

Gerth replied with a long letter to Mills, dated August 24, 1949. On the subject of their collaboration, Gerth wrote that Heath knew about their contract with Harcourt Brace for Character and Social Structure and that Heath was prepared to let the project go.

To William Miller, from New York City, undated (late March or early April 1950)

Dear Bill,

What's the matter with you? Why don't you write? Are you sick? Is it your stomach?

Rub it with olive oil.

We are sitting around here in New York tonite thinking about station wagons, Leica cameras, eight-foot speedboats, one of which we intend to build this summer (Ruth hates all this commodity stuff—she says). I am reading all sorts of books on painting and aesthetics in general, and photography. We are also both very heavily at work on White Collar. This is where we stand:

Part I (after your suggestions, altho perhaps not so drastically) completely rewritten and ready for typing.

Part II completely in draft, and halfway thru drastic first revision, ready for typing in two weeks at most.

Part III on styles of life two-thirds in draft, making one more chapter which is neatly folderized to be written.

Part IV on ways of power a third finished, making two chapters, […] which are half blocked already.

In other words, a good fighting chance to have the whole thing in a fairly good draft by June one, if we continue for the next eight weeks as we've been going. Oxford will get a copy of this, but they are not going to set the book until August, which means I can fool with it and polish in the summer in a kind of desultory way, which I really think is the best way to do that last touch stuff.

I am collecting the $1,250 from Harcourt Brace in a week or two,[43] and will in all likelihood buy a 1947 or '48 Ford station wagon. Since both Ruth and I are extremely tired, we will probably take one long weekend run to the Cape and Boston, or if you would like, to Boston and the Cape. How far is it from Boston to the Cape by auto? Is there a convenient train connection back from the Cape to Boston? Couldn't we pick you all up in Boston and all go to the Cape for a day and a nite, and then drop you on the way back to New York, at a convenient point so that you could go back to Boston by train? I can always cut a Monday class which means we could have Sat Sun Mon and Tues away from NY. We are interested in doing this as soon as we

complete blocking out a draft of the whole book, which I would judge to be from three to five weeks from now. Let us know what you all think about it.

So: we smell summer and travel and, in anticipation, the feeling of work done. Here's hoping we can hold on with the one brief interlude mentioned until June one.

Yours, Mills

In May of 1950 Mills was promoted from assistant professor to associate professor of sociology, effective in July.

To William Miller, from New York City, dated June 8, 1950
Dear Bill:

Of course I take seriously your comments and criticism of part one of White Collar; and of course I am going to send you the other parts of it as they are done. Am waiting for Irv's comments on that part[44] and then will get down to it in a thorough revision. I consider criticism the high act of friendship and take it seriously altho not personally. You know that.

Glad you let Tom read the piece on method,[45] but what did he say? What did you say? I want to get it off this coming week if possible, before all the meeting-papers jam up the journal for years and years. So: do you think I should publish it? I had another 5 pages or so slanted against the Molecular stuff but left it out in reading because wanted a balance for once and besides no time to read more than this. If you will ask me the four or five key questions about the two methods or about the "correct" way as conceived here, I'll try to address myself to them. Let me know soon as you can, as I want to get rid of the thing.


(I don't really believe in papers on method … it is a kind of disease which interferes with work as much as it helps it.)


To Hans Gerth, from New York City, undated (early October 1950) Tuesday nite

  1. Here are your 1st runs of the pictures. Please:

    1. give Marshall his choice of them of his wife and self

    2. pick a few yourselves

    3. destroy the rest—they are only the 1st runs.

    […] Let me know the one you like, and send it back and I'll do what you want with it in a more careful print job. More will come to you. I sent none to H I.

  2. I've asked the council of research at Columbia U. for $2,000 for a secretary etc. this year. Chances seem good to get it. Will let you know soon. It is of course for C & SS [Character and Social Structure]

  3. Tomorrow!! white collar goes to press. My God, how we have worked—until 3 A.M. every day for 2 weeks now, up at 8. We're exhausted, but now it's done.


When White Collar was published, it included Mills's acknowledgment of Ruth's contribution: "Whenever in this book, I have written ‘we’ I mean my wife, Ruth Harper, and myself: during the last three years, her assistance in careful research and creative editing has often amounted to collaboration" (page 355). Similarly, five years later, when The Power Elite was published, Mills credited Ruth in the acknowledgment

pages of that work as "chief researcher and editorial adviser [who] has shaped much of the book" (page 364).

To William and Virginia Miller, from New York City, undated (probably late 1950) 6:30 A.M. Thursday morning: Hamilton Hall [Columbia University]
Bill, Bucky:

I guess I'm still crazy, or anyway given to strangely youthful things. Yesterday at noon I was going to write you and say [I] need a hundred to eat on; now less than 24 hours later, I've bought $345.00 worth of machine tools, worked all night long, from 11 P.M. to 5:30 A.M. on Character and Social Structure and the weekend study, and have food money for the month. Answer: a royalty check on the Weber came thru suddenly and decisively yesterday afternoon. God bless that boy.

I got going last night, rewriting, and since I have to push myself anyway on it now, I just stuck with it: eating and drinking coffee all night at home. It feels good, although I nearly wrecked the car driving up here (I'm killing time writing to you!) before going way downtown to shoot some pictures and look at more tools.

About the tools: we have definitely decided to buy anywhere from 15 to 100 acres, not more than 1 and [a] half hours out of New York, preferably with an old wreck of a house, salvageable for materials, or maybe just the land, and build a weekend place on it. Now that is damn near halfway to Boston. Does it suggest anything to you? Tools are going to get scarce as hell, good power tools, so right now I'm putting $500 or so into them. Will store them in Hamilton Hall, making out they are books in crates. What I got yesterday was a wonderful thing called a Shopsmith. It is a lathe, a disk sander, a table saw (8″ circular blade), a shaper and center,[46] a vertical and a horizontal drill press. Also a jigsaw. These are attachments which clamp onto two parallel bars. The whole thing is about

5 feet long and 2 feet wide and about 5 feet high when rigged. It is beautiful. With it I have what amounts to a miniature planing mill. Works on 110 volts. All I need to build a house is four-sided wood and sheets of glass, electrical wiring and sheet tin, and plumber's pipe, for I can make windows and doors and everything according to my own design. In fact, if wood isn't available I can cut timber and wait a year and build with that. I'm serious. Now I need a small cement mixer, which I'll make out of an oil drum and a good power handsaw, which I'll try to get today. The stuff is already scarce if you want the best type. (The royalty check wasn't all that big. I pay a third down!) Pick up rest on March first, when first $1,250 comes from weekend study.

Weekend study: that is what the TV study has become.[47] I'll call the book METROPOLITAN WEEKEND and I've already set up with MC RC for fieldwork.[48] So I've been running around fixing that up and working like mad on a questionnaire. First intensives on trial basis this Sunday by Jeanette Green and Ruth. It's [a] sorta nice study.

Am building a magnificent "space divider" (cabinet: 48″ by 16″ by 52″ high) out of ply (Philippine mahogany with aluminum angle for corner legs and plastic sides. Copied design from Eames via photographs).[49] Will try to get mahogany today. Already got aluminum for 12 bucks yesterday. Whole thing costs by Eames $108. Cost to build, $40. Magnificent thing.

Listen, you ought to come and see [the] apt: you wouldn't know it. Let me know a week ahead and come down for a weekend.

Sleepy tired.

Yours, Mills


To William and Virginia Miller, from New York, New York, undated (probably February 1951)
Dear Billy and Bucky:

I think we told you the deal on the five acres went thru: $5,500 for the five acres, old house and barn with dug well and electricity in the house.[50] Good contract mode of payment in next three years. Needs about 3,000 dollars in iceboxes, pumping systems, plumbing, new ceiling, etc. Got big room with beams 27 by 17 feet big; glass porch 25 feet long on one side and bedroom and dressing room and bath on other and nice big kitchen in rear. Now big woodstove; will install oil space heater or self contained floor grate. Well, you'll see it soon. Why not make it weekend after next: hell, it's only a three hour drive from Boston. Come down Sat. morning and go back Sunday afternoon. If OK, let us know and Ruth will give you directions and location.

Bill, I want you to do something about Joe Bensman. You know I don't recommend men lightly, but this boy is good. A real honest-to-god sociologist. I've hired him for some intensives[51] on the weekend study and he has the touch … the all around touch. Now let me know when you are coming so as to steer him; he wants to know about Harvard's deal. So do yourself some good and get authority or something from the boys to talk with him. Let me know so I can let him know.[52]

Now look: do you have any cots etc.? If so we need to borrow them, as our foam rubber bed from Macy's hasn't come yet and won't for three-four weeks. You'll need them when you come for weekend. (If you want, you can of course drive on in and have [our] New York apt.) Sissy. But it's warm and so much space. Ruth says to tell you she is doing the electrical wiring.


You'll get your dough the first of month.[53] Let us know YOUR PROGRAM.

Mills as ever

[P.S.…] White Collar galleys in middle, late Feb., so get ready my friend! Got to sleep now, let us know YOUR PROGRAM.

To William Miller, from New York City, undated (probably early 1951) Wednesday
Dear Bill:

Got first set of galleys [of White Collar] this morning when [I] came up here to office. What you are doing is just what it appears to need and what I can't do unaided. What I worry about is that you will do this for [the] first half of book and then slow down or get lazy or just bored on last half and not carry thru. God knows I can understand that, but for god's sake don't do it. I need your help [with] this kind of thing, badly, so keep plowing. And sooner the better. Drop all else. Devote your life for a week to it! And many thanks.

You ask for a copy of "an analysis" but by the nature of these first drafts, they do not endure. I have no copy of such a thing. All I can do is tell you how I usually set up such work. It always involves data, quantitative or qualitative, but more or less systematic. The prime aim of an assistant's first draft is to exhaust the data—to somehow get all the relevant quotes, for example, worked into it, even if it doesn't fit well yet. Or to get all the relevant figures into it even if they are repetitious and even bad. For the use of this draft is to keep you from going to the materials themselves, to create a bridge between you and the details. Of course you have to lay this on before they can do it. I usually have them 1) make their kind of outline; 2) go over this in big conferences of several hours and revise it, with my eye of course on

the first copy, which thus begins to form slowly, and with another eye on the instrument, the questionnaire or data; 3) they draft it out; and 4) I rework it drastically but not yet in detail; 5) they redo it at least once in accordance with my rework; 6) I get it and write it with scissors and paste and then, usually, fresh on a typewriter. You understand you are wasting their time in order to save yours. When the draft is in your hands, you still use them for getting three paragraphs on this or that, or let me see a table with this in it, etc.

I think also the method serves to get you over inhibitions about the first plow-thru draft; it makes you more a creative editor and of course an outliner and designer.

I don't know what else to tell you except that this sort of thing doesn't always work on all materials. Only on parts of White Collar, e.g., could I do this: the chapter on unions, the sections with figures in parts of chapters.

In the end,

you got to

do it yourself.

I believe also that using a wire recorder is much the same thing, at least in some ways. Just to spill your guts with little thought of continuity, with no thought of anything but getting the data into it on paper. Then you edit or you leave gaps and have an assistant fill them in, after the scissors and paste of the wire stuff.

House goes all right but hard work by god and can't think of it with White Collar in such shape and I keep thinking it is no damn good, which is probably so.

Yours, M.

[P.S.] […]

To Frances and Charles Grover Mills, from New York City, undated (probably March 1951)
Dear Mother and Dad:

Forgive my not writing to you sooner but you have no idea how busy it is. I don't like debts, you know, and so I'm doing some extra stuff

on top of extra stuff for money so as to clean up the whole country house deal in 18 months.

This morning (it's now 7:00 in the morning when I usually get to office), this morning at 9, a writer from the American magazine is coming here to interview me and write a piece with me on White Collar, for which I get $500.00, which will buy more lumber.

The galleys are here on White Collar. Galleys are the first mock up of a book; you have to correct them; in short, rewrite little stuff here and there to make it fit the page right. The house is coming along fine. Kitchen should be all done in about 10 days. I'm using power tools so it goes fast during the two days (Saturday and Sunday) we are out there. I put in new windows (steel casement) in kitchen and completed one whole wall over the sink (stainless steel, no less) last week. I use masonite for walls in kitchen, which take paint well, and between the walls all around I pack thick rock wool blankets and tack them snug with a staple machine. Will leave the wide boards on the ceiling with the beams, but may have to paint them white in order to get good light, but white painted boards are nice between light wood beams just rubbed down with linseed oil and a little creosote.[54]

Well I have to prepare for this interview. By the way the big job that is paying for all the house practically is in the field now and out of my hands for about 4 weeks. Then that frenzy starts again.

You ask can we keep [the] New York apt next fall: No. Budget is too tight. But the house will be done for sure and damn good too by midsummer. I haven't developed any pictures yet, but have some which will send you in due course, about [a] month or so.

Got to go now, your son, M.Charlie Wright Mills

[P.S.] Bought a small, red concrete mixer—with ½ h.p. electric motor!

To Charles Grover Mills, from Pomona, New York, postmarked July 12, 1951


Dear Dad:

Thanks for your letter. Glad you like the book jacket [for White Collar]: photo by Mills! The book won't be published until Sept. 6th after which date we ought to get some reviews.

You don't seem to understand about the house here: it is no summer place but a year round residence, and now our permanent and only residence. We have put in steam heat thruout with neat slim radiators,[55] and a 570 gal boiler in the basement, a new electrical wiring system thruout, a new wing to the building, which I'm just finishing (27 by 18 feet) as a workshop and photographic darkroom. We've given up the apt in New York. We don't need it. It is about one hour to Columbia from here and next year the new thruway will be finished, which will mean that I can get in there in about 30 minutes. I only have to go in three afternoons a week, as that is all I teach now. The rest of the time I'll work here, writing and building furniture.

Temagami and the boats are up for sale, although I hardly think they will sell fast. Anyway, we'll go up there for [a] week soon in order to pick up a few things.

I've paid for the house and five and half acres completely except for a small mortgage ($5,000 for ten years) but I am flat broke and the car is not very good. So I can't travel very far, or at least am afraid to, but maybe I can get some money somewhere and trade the car, which I'd like to do; then we might be able to meet for a few days in New Mexico sometime late in August. Will let you know.

I aim to farm this place in the next two or three years, and make it pay for itself.[56] Next fall I'll plow it and put in winter rye, then next year clover and timothy. I'm getting an old tractor with a Ford engine in it for 50.00 (fifty) bucks! But it will take all this next academic year to get the inside of the house fixed up with built-in cabinets and furniture I've got to make.

In the early fall, I'll send lots of snapshots of the place entire, but no darkroom facilities yet.

Your son, love to all. Charlie


Mills wrote the following letter soon after the publication of White Collar by Oxford University Press. Knopf was interested in the possibility of signing up Mills's next book.

To Philip Vaudrin, editor at Knopf, from Pomona, New York, received September 17, 1951
Dear Phil:

I: Yours of 12th received. I don't answer letters, or rather haven't been lately, because after my day is over, my fingers and shoulders hurt from plain fatigue. Fact. But anyway, I went out to Reno and Frisco on business during August; apart from that I've been at it here everyday and by now, it is, as we carpenters say, closed in: tight and heatable.

In addition, I've completed a 30 ft. wall of bookshelves, two 12 ft storage walls for clothing, with little cubicles and things made to size for all items, completed the additional wing, 30 by 18, for darkroom and workshop. All heating and plumbing in. Now all that is needed to make it OK until spring is new electrical system, which I'll put in next week (with dozens of plugs everywhere),[57] and a little more cabinet work in kitchen and bath. So the end of next week will see it OK; painting will go on in bits and pieces thru the fall, but Ruth has to do that with spray gun.

II: No, I've seen no reviews [of White Collar]! Have been tied here and clipping bureau hasn't sent stuff yet. I did see the good big ad in Tribune last Sunday, but why wasn't it in the Times? Where was Kallen's stuff? I assume New Leader? I'll try to get Brogan's in SRL when next I go into town. Anyway from those names apparently "names" are getting it. But what the hell, Phil, I really don't care. It's the best I can do with that topic at this time in this country; a dozen people I trust tell me it is OK so I don't give a damn what the literary asses say or don't say.

About your question of how to get decent writing out of sociologists. It doesn't look good. I think for two reasons: First, there

is no real writing tradition in sociology, as there is, for example, in history. It just doesn't exist. Second, the field is now split into statistical stuff and heavy duty theoretical bullshit. In both cases, there's no writing but only turgid pollysyllabic (sp?) slabs of stuff. So, because that is now the field, no men get trained, have models to look up to; there is no aspiration to write well.

So there is only one way to get it: for you and me to edit good stuff; go out and get it and edit it and train some people up. But that takes a five or ten year program, betting on a dozen guys and bringing them along, and that takes the kind of money publishers just won't put out, if indeed, they are financially able to.

P.S. Just made a decision the other day. After I finish Character and Social Structure, which Gerth and I have been on since God knows when (Weber, I guess) Harcourt has it; and [after I finish] the Metropolitan Weekend (no contract), I am going to do a book called The Rich or The Upper Class or something like that.[58] This will complete my trilogy: The New Men of Power (lower classes), White Collar (middle class), then upper stuff. Before that or after it, I've got to get to Europe for a year, and maybe I'll do something reportorial (with depth) on that. I'm not sure but I think my sabbatical is year after next or two years more of teaching.

I'll contact you when I start going in three times a week, about 24th of Sept., for lunch or drink, or maybe even both.

Yours, as ever,

Mills had enlisted Hazel to do some statistical work—from her home in Reno, Nevada—on the study of the role of the media (theTVor weekend study as he called it). The client for this study was the client he mentions at the beginning of the following letter.

In this letter Mills also refers to the mid-1940s when, living alone in his apartment on West 14th Street, he had an affair with Hazel. The early summer he refers to was in 1946. At the time he was almost thirty years old and Hazel was thirtyseven.


To Hazel Gaudet Erskine, from Pomona, New York, dated September 1951 Tuesday afternoon
Dear Hazel:

The stuff went well with the client. It was a lunch and a couple of hours afterwards, talk. I managed not to give them any manuscript, but only to talk. Your stuff hit the spot right near its center. I rearranged it about like this:

  1. TV ownership

    1. city size etc.

    2. characteristics of; and

  2. Impact of TV on exposure to other media

    1. what they say

    2. what they do

    3. reconciliation

  3. Impact of TV on time spent with other media

  4. Two reasons why Sunday news is largely excerpts from media supplementation

Timing of exposures over weekend.

So it went well; I'll write later on timing, and they are not exact [as] to the day as yet. Thanks for sending it so hurriedly, and sorry it had to be that you were rushed like hell.

Coming back uptown I had the driver swing over by 14th Street; I had him stop by the curb there for a minute and look[ed] the place over, and I remembered what it had meant to me. I had wanted to tell you that this summer but somehow there was no chance. In a life which had practically no memory in it, I find I have very sharp images of 14th St. and the middle forties: I remember wild rice and French fried onions and all the strawberries you could eat; lacquer on the hair and thousands of bobby pins and the smell of well-kept offices at noon; the quick noon-time and the night times; and all the letters. I remember the ferryboats and the picture shows on the east side, and

upper New York State in the early summer. With cinematic detail I remember the unexpectedness of it and the hard work of it, and the growing up in it. So I said to the cabbie, "That's where I grew up. It was sorta hard." And he said, "Yeah, it's always hard." And there is a worry about it. After all, 14th Street in the middle forties produced White Collar, along with so many other things, and the way you live sets a sort of pace of how and what you write. And now when all that is either dead or impossible, which amounts to the same thing, I wonder what I'll write and how I'll write it. As I always did, I fear anchorage.

Reviews of White Collar are excellent. It doesn't matter that the Times review was snide at the end. It was beautifully placed and on the whole a selling review. The San Francisco Chronicle did well by it. In fact all over, the newspaper stuff is very good. New Republic excellent, and [Irving] Howe will do it for Nation. The reception is all that could possibly be expected and I'm quite happy about it.

Probably you missed the item in Times of 14 Sept. about how the Russians censored my article, done for State Dept. magazine, Amerika, circulated in Russia.[59] It was the first article they have censored as a whole! Reason: no bourgeois pieties in it but, stated in their kind of language, it hit home. It's too bad some of those guys sitting in the Russian bureaucracy open to doubt (and I know there must be some like that, and seeing no way out, even as we see no way out) couldn't have known that there are people here who feel that way and managed to get it past all the barriers and curtains. But what the hell, too much to expect I guess. Too late to expect it.

Please destroy this note.[60]

Yours as ever, Charlie


To William and Virginia Miller, from Pomona, New York, undated (probably late November 1951) Saturday after Thanksgiving
Dear Bill and Bucky:

I've yours of19th Nov.[…] Here are the answers to your questions:

The Oxford press finally turned down BF club for good, or at least for good now. They argue that it would be just like giving it to Harlum Book Company … a straight remainder kind of deal, except by mail. They anticipate 6,000 sales by Feb. next. Anyway I can do nothing and have forgotten about it. As least 'til next spring or so, when 6 months statement comes. In meantime they are always out of print or out of stock and all, but what the hell.

I've seen galleys on Parsons review and got my 40 bucks for it so I suppose it will be out soon, maybe tomorrow. I understand P has said to a small group up there [about] my stuff in White Collar, "Well, the man can write some, but it is all impressionistic stuff." Won't he be surprised! I like my review on final rewrite.[61]

Why not come down and see us next weekend?

I've followed up on the study idea and have fixed little cubbyholes on one wall and shelves on the other and bought a box of acoustical tile (12′ squares with little holes in them) to cover ceiling and walls. You can mount photos in the tile, with little ⅛-inch plugs in the holes. Also made 8 ft slab desk and it is the nuts.

Worked like hell yesterday etc. and finished hearth and mounted Franklin stove, which now works. It really looks wonderful; finished the wall behind it on one side also, with moderately low sideboard effect and big built-in wood box between hearth and boxed-in radiator.

Darkroom is also all fixed up except for ceiling and is in working order with low bench for enlarger and excellent wet bench setup. Have developed 6 or 7 rolls of summer film and printed perfunctorily.

I've not been able to do any work at all intellectually, although

have excellent excuse: TV study coming due and have [been] handling final ms, half of which is now being finally typed. Ruth and Hazel feed me stuff and I edit for final. Maybe two more weeks will see it all done. Big speech for client due early December. Ugh.

But what is really in my mind all the time is the book I will certainly have to write [as] soon as Character [and Social Structure] is done next summer. It will be (maybe) called THE HIGH AND MIGHTY: The American Upper Classes. And I already jot down phrases and first paragraphs of this and that. It fills my head in a disjointed sort of way all the time and keeps me from work.

I'm applying for a Guggenheim renewal in order to take all next year off to work on it. Will spend summer here and in Madison on Character; then in fall, if Character [is] done (it bores me now), will begin slowly and leisurely on High and Mighty, that is if you approve that title. You see it has to have both money and power and status in it. "The rich and powerful" isn't good. It also has not to prejudge the problem of how much power the rich and how much dough the powerful. There'll be chapters on entertainment people at top and executives somewhat and I think Washington top level as well as socialites and … laid out something like White Collar, with an introductory part and then the shank describing neatly all the types etc. that go to make up "the top" all over the country, and then topical questions which fill it in as Part Three. I can definitely "locate" Veblen's stuff, which is not, I think, "the theory of the leisure class" but "a theory of the late 19th century nouveau riche." Will have chapter on all families G Meyers picked up in progressive era and follow-up: what happened to them and how are they now?

Do you still go to bookstores? Listen if you find a complete set of Balzac, by chance, for not more than 25 dollars, buy it for me will you? Make sure it is complete and small volumes and a decent translation. I have only half a set or so of the 1901 Macmillan edition by Glen Marriage. It is the right size and all but I don't have them all and want to read everything he wrote from the beginning of the sequence. In three or four years want to give a course: Balzac as sociologist. Well, if you happen to run into a good-looking buy, go ahead. (I never see bookstores, living out here. If you found a complete set of the edition I mentioned above I'd like it.)

Why not drive down next Friday and go back Sunday afternoon. Sit before fireplace. Get drunk. Moody broody. Be jumped on by dog.

Observe delicious colors of hills and fields and rocks and everything this time of year. The time of death. The era of lead colors.

See you then next Friday.

Yours, Mills

To Frances and Charles Grover Mills, from Pomona, New York, undated (probably December 1951)
Dear Mother and Dad:

Everything seems to be going ok around here. So as work goes, we have just about finished the study of TV and its impact on the other media of communication, and after two speeches, one here and one in Chicago sometime this month, that will be all done, thank god. Then I go to work on the book Gerth and I do together: a technical book on social psychology. Around next summer however I begin on my next major book. I think I will call it THE HIGH AND MIGHTY and it will be on the upper classes of the US. In the meantime White Collar gets good reviews and is altogether a success. Unfortunately it does not make any money because they paid me $2,000 in advance several years ago so it will be a year at least until it earns me more.

The house is a great joy. My darkroom is all fixed now except the new ceiling I'll put in later, and my study is fixed really wonderfully. I used the 12″ squares of acoustical tile, with little holes in it, for three walls and the ceiling. So it is soundproofed! I've a built-in flat file with 30 cubbyholes by one end of the 8 foot desk slab of plywood (also built in) and at other end, shelving for all sorts of camera equipment and books. But so much remains: the entire flooring must be plywooded and then tiled. We've decided to do the thing thruout in a good slate grey kentile; unifies the house and is neutral so doesn't bias for any other color schemes. Interior painting of course and exterior painting. And all sorts of cabinets must be made, especially for kitchen. The fact is however that we have no money at all, literally exist from month to month now and can't even buy $25.00 worth of cabinet wood anymore. But it is livable and we'll do it gradually. By the way, Christmas is out this year. We just are not doing a thing, please don't embarrass

us by sending gifts! Next summer or so, my head will be out from under I hope but in meantime we'll do well to continue to eat.

Living out in the country's fine, especially since I don't have to go into the city except M, W and F. Next spring I'm trying to arrange a schedule for Monday and Friday only! The only trouble with a setup like this is that what with the darkroom and the workshop and the things to be done (all these places heated just like the house and comfortable), I don't know whether I can get anything done by way of intellectual work! Too many temptations. But it has cut down wandering tendencies. God it is all here and why go anyplace? Later, Europe, yes but not right away. Next year as you know, is my sabbatical year. So I get half pay for full year, with no teaching. We'll stay right here. I've applied for another Guggenheim fellowship, which will just make up the half salary. If I don't get that, I'll have to teach during the spring and will [be] off only in winter term. But either way, it is going to be fine. Will really finish the house and get well under way with The High and Mighty.

Let us know how it all goes with you both.

Your son, M.Charlie Wright Mills

To David Riesman, from Pomona, New York, dated January 8, 1952
Dear Dave:

  1. Enclosed is a copy of the article, for which you ask.[62] I don't think it's adequate any more—and I've rewritten it as a chapter in the book Gerth and I now bring to a finish: Character and Social Structure. The Warner review—alas, I've no more copies, not even one for myself. I do think it's still adequate.

  2. I'm glad you're doing the AJS [American Journal of Sociology] piece on White Collar, and look forward to seeing it. Would you send me a carbon? The book goes very well indeed, and it's the best I can do on that topic at this time. But to be honest with you, nobody,

    except a few friends, seems to get hold of what I really intended to do with this book. Mr. Hughes, in Commentary, I really don't understand, although I don't mind. He seems to feel it's written too well for its potential importance! That with the same facts others might well write a differently oriented book! (But of course.) That I should write poetry and monographs … but keep them rigidly segregated. (But why must they be segregated? My aim is to work out something as solid as a monograph—while hiding the workshop rather than cheaply parading it—but at the same time as well implicated as at least second rate poetry.) O well.

  3. You ask what I do now. Well, for one thing, plant 3,000 Scotch fir and Norwegian spruce seedlings on my 5 acres. For another, I've begun to write a book, called The High and Mighty, about the US upper classes, which I hope will sort of round out a trilogy on US stratification.

Be seeing you. W.Wright Mills

In January 1952, the Partisan Review published Dwight Macdonald's review of White Collar, a brutal attack entitled "Abstractio Ad Absurdum." Macdonald denounced Mills's writing style and wrote that, even as propaganda, "the book was no good" because the author was confused and indifferent. Macdonald had written that Mills might have provided a good description along the lines of the Lynds' Middletown, or an aesthetic and moral assessment following Veblen's example, or a new historical interpretation, incorporating description and evaluation, as Marx had done in the first volume of Capital. In Macdonald's opinion, White Collar had failed in all of these areas, revealing Mills's weaknesses as a writer, as a thinker, and as an advocate. Macdonald complained that Mills interrupted himself in the book before he could say anything "or rather before he can give away the fact he hasn't anything to say."[63]

Mills responded to the review by seeking the advice or support of several friends and colleagues, including Hans Gerth, Dick Hofstadter, Bob Merton, Bill Miller, Harvey Swados, and Lionel Trilling.[64]His letter to Miller follows.


To William Miller, from Pomona, New York, undated (January 1952)
Dear Bill:

Yesterday I read Dwight Macdonald's review of White Collar in Partisan Review. As you probably have seen, it is a complete thumbs down. Of course I know Dwight is an irresponsible reviewer, but I can't conceal that it hurts, for if he is half right, the best thing for me to do is close up shop. Doubtless I'll get over it, but the thing temporarily incapacitates me. There's only one kind of question that seems important to me, and I'd be very grateful if you'd answer it:

Can I learn anything from this review? What does he say that I ought to take seriously, and what should I do about taking it seriously? I know as my best friend and editor, that you will know I don't seek commiseration but no-punches-pulled assertion.[65]

Yours, M.Mills

Bill Miller responded by drafting a heated letter to the editor to defend his friend's book, but he had some doubts about the value of submitting it, and in the end he did not mail it.

Harvey Swados was the friend who publicly defended White Collar in a letter to the editor of the Partisan Review; he pointed out that Macdonald's review was amusing but uninformative concerning Mills's work, and went on to say that "regardless of stylistic barbarisms," White Collar "is worthy of the most thoughtful consideration as a landmark in American social thought."[66]

Hans Gerth responded to Mills's note by writing him a supportive letter. Dick Hofstadter wrote asking, among other things, why Mills did not show more warmth for white-collar workers. Lionel Trilling responded by meeting with Mills over lunch to talk about the book's writing style, and Bob Merton must have responded in person or over the phone. (We do not have a record of his response.)

After Macdonald's review was published, Macdonald wrote a letter to Mills with

the opening line "Are you very sore at me?" He discussed his decision to review the book, suggested they meet, and signed off as "Your Old Pal." At the time, Mills had this to say about Macdonald: "He is merely irresponsible. He wrote me a note and is coming out for lunch sometime soon. Boyish stuff. He just gets carried away by his own rhetoric and line. You can't stay angry with him."[67]

Mills's reply to Macdonald's note follows.

To Dwight Macdonald, from Columbia University, New York, dated January 17, 1952
Dear Old Pal:

Of course you should have accepted the book for review and did right to review it in strict accordance with your judgment. I know that there's nothing "personal" in it (but only fast, irresponsible reading), and so I'm not "replying" to it publicly. But—I hope somebody does, because naturally I disagree strongly (otherwise I wouldn't have published the book), and I think it's "unfair" in two ways: First, a reader who hasn't read the book doesn't know what the effort is all about. In a review that long you should have told them, and perhaps at least acknowledged the many new facts which I spent seven years working like a dog to dig up. And it really hurt me that you don't mention and so I guess don't like my photographic jacket and the "prose poems" because I did them just for you. Second, I don't mind criticism if I can learn from it, but I find it hard to learn from your piece. The only thing you left me to do is: close up shop. You have all the relevant points of comparison and block me off from each of them.

To show you how anxious I am to learn, I've written notes to five friends—who happen to like the book—and asked them to help me learn anything I might learn from your piece. Not time yet to hear from them, but I'll let you know. In the meantime, you owe me this: think out concretely what I should avoid and how I might learn to do so. Anyway, do let's get together: I've something I've created to show you.

Be constructive. Be practical. I'm a very willing learner in this writing stuff. And don't tell me whatever the hell you have in mind isn't at least communicable if not teachable.

Do you now have a car? If so, come out for lunch, with family

of course, Saturday or Sunday, the 2 or 3 of February. Give me a ring that you're coming one or two days before. It's about 40 miles out; here's how to get here:

Go across George Washington Bridge and then north on 9W to Haverstraw. […][68]

Address: Camp Hill Road

Pomona, New York

Phone (20 cent toll): Spring Valley 6–1247R1

If you've no car now, let me know that and I'll tell you a bus route (about one hour and twenty minutes from midtown) to Spring Valley, and we'll pick you up there.

You'll enjoy the country air, you ignorant, irresponsible bastard, so plan to leave New York about 9:30, returning about 4 or 5 from Camp Hill.

As ever, Charlie

Macdonald declined the invitation to visit, citing transportation and schedule problems. Mills was more forthcoming when he declined an opportunity to speak in public with Macdonald two months later. Norman Thomas invited them both to a meeting to discuss the possibility of starting a socialist educational association. Mills declined that invitation on the basis that there was no area of understanding between him and Macdonald; Mills wrote that he wanted to discuss social problems in public only with people with whom he shared "at least the possibility of communication."[69]He sent Macdonald a copy of his letter to Thomas with a handwritten note at the top: "Dwight: So to hell with guys like you!—Wright."

Macdonald's biographer, Michael Wreszin, wrote that the falling out with Mills over White Collar "was part of the stress Macdonald was undergoing" as he distanced himself from his wife, Nancy, and the political past that they had shared. Macdonald was then spending time with a lover and a new, relatively apolitical group of people; he was not seeing or communicating with his old Leftist friends and colleagues.[70]


In the next letter, Mills responded to David Riesman's review of White Collar for the American Journal of Sociology. Although Riesman disagreed with many of Mills's pessimistic conclusions, he presented Mills's points carefully and treated the book with respect. In fact, he stated that few writers wrote with as much energy as Mills and that certain aspects of the book were "admirable" or "brilliant." Riesman ended his review with the following sentence: "Mills is grappling resourcefully with the big questions of our day, and even if this reviewer is inclined to give somewhat less portentous answers to some of them, he agrees that the questions are central, the research methods fundamentally sound."[71]

To David Riesman, from Columbia University, New York, dated January 31, 1952
Dear David Riesman:

Dick Hofstadter has given me the proofs of your review, and I have examined them with great appreciation and benefit. I want to let you know that I am really grateful to you for taking the time to give my work such close and careful attention—and for the generosity of your response to it. The negative points you make seem to me well made, and I appreciate them no less than the positive comment.

Above all, it's just plain good to know that at least one man understands what one is about, especially that you like my photography![72]. Next time you're in New York, you must come out and see my house (handmade by me) and darkroom facilities!

Sincerely yours, Wright Mills

To Hans Gerth, from Pomona, New York, dated "Sat. Nite" (probably early February 1952)


Dear Gerth:

You'll have to forgive any incoherence you find in this letter, because I'm drunk on cheap sherry because I worked so hard all day burning my five acres in preparation for spring plowing and also put down 400 sq. feet on ⅝-inch plywood on the living room floor in preparation for rubber tile.

This morning I got your utterly charming and perfectly delightful letter about the Macdonald review and the European venture:[73] God, you are a propagandist! […] Well, listen now, I think you play the Frankfurt thing wrong; you are too quick to jump when they whistle. Either they are really interested in you or they want you for a fill in. If the first, they will compromise on the timing; if the second, why should you get excited and go? My idea in a nutshell is this: you bargain around with them if they come thru with [the] proposition and tell them you can come in Sept. and stay thru December. IF YOU FIX IT THAT WAY, RUTH AND I CAN JOIN YOU AND WE WILL HAVE OUR BOOK[Character and Social Structure]IN PRESS AND BE REALLY FREE TO ENJOY OURSELVES AND BRANCH OUT. I will have the money to do that. Next year is my sabbatical year you know. […] You and I got to do this:

  1. both work like hell between this week and June 1st;

  2. spend at least 6 weeks together in early summer here and in Madison.

Now don't let these guys whistle and then run: let them know you are a busy man, and that it takes time to arrange things. I don't know these particular guys, except of course thru Leo Lowenthal, and I've met Horkheimer. But don't be so damn easy with them. Tell them Sept. first. That way we are really set up all around.

Now Gerth, I know how much you want to go, and so I say really sincerely that if this timing can't be arranged, you go ahead and go, if you can go only in June. Work as hard as you can on our book until then. I will stay here and finish it and get it into the press. Then in Sept. I'll join you, but I will not leave this country until the book is done. I just can't so it wouldn't be any good if I went ahead. That is the kind of compulsive guy I am on contracts.


You see, I make one-half of my income from publishers and on contracts. So I've got to deliver, living the way I do. I'm known as a fellow who delivers! That is why I walked into Oxford the other day and got a contract set up on my next solo book (The American Elite. Or The High and Mighty. On the upper classes). Anyway they gave me without blinking an eye 5,000 dollars advance: three on signing next week, another one whenever I want it, and the final one on delivery of ms. They also gave me three full years to deliver it, and a clause extending that time on request. […] The simple fact is that White Collar, now selling, six months after publication, about 1,000 copies a month is doing quite well and they didn't want Knopf to "steal me." Knopf; offered $3,000 flat advance but only two years to finish in. Now the three thousand I get next week will finish this house fully: it can then be maintained for about $80 or $90 per month, including mortgage payment and upkeep. So it gives me the second thousand to play around with: Europe I hope in Sept. if you should go and Ruth and I could join you all. Now the reason I can get that kind of money is because I deliver. So: for Harcourt Brace, we (you and I) have got to deliver. Why? To keep up that kind of reputation in American publishing circles. […]

This Frankfurt bunch are not going to let me (and I doubt you) into their inner circle: i.e. give us enough money to do what we want to do: shuttle between here and there and write what we want about both places. Our best bet is to hook-up with publishers. The only way for guys like us to get what we want is to write our way there. At least for me, nobody is going to love me much. But I still believe that with good books, such as we can write, especially if we shuttle between US and Europe, we can make it: you know Gerth, all you need is one hit to insure yourself this kind of life.

But to follow thru on this vision, we've got to be "dependable," "reliable" and always deliver. That is the rationale for my own compulsions about finishing Character and turning it in before I leave the US. Once I got over there, I couldn't and wouldn't work on it. So think hard upon this.

[…] Lionel Trilling and his wife Diana Trilling are […] coming out next weekend or so. He was very nice about White Collar in galley: read it closely and liked it and will now tell me what he thinks I can learn from the reviews for the next job and as a writer in general. After

all he is the number two critic in US (after Edmund Wilson) and altho quite precious, a very able fellow, and capable of handling an idea.

A French firm and a Scandinavian one have both asked for translation rights on White Collar. Bargaining now with Oxford's London office, which is deciding on an English edition.

Gerth, what is the "Deutche Kommentare" and tell me about a guy named Charles Carle who was at Mannheim's seminar with you. He's now in NY running something called "TransAtlantic Press" … tied in with "Illustriere Reportagen" as well as French stuff;. Anyway he and his wife went pretty nuts about the book, and he came to see me, to get biography stuff for a review he does for D.K. Charming fellow, but is he a fascist? Something he said put me on my guard, but I may be quite wrong. Anyway, let me know. His wife is an expert guitarist, teaches it, and imports good German instruments; maybe I'll take fifteen lessons from her. Anyway his big question to me was what with all the "conformism," "how had an American written this particular book," which was naturally very gratifying, and to which my answer was that I wasn't really a regular American, but a Texan. He was very puzzled and said that meant cows and oil. And I said, of course, but also outlanders who came late in life to big cities and "discover them." So he was happy and maybe he will do well by me and! Listen, if you know of a good German publisher who might be interested in the book, tell me names and drop a note to them, because French edition and Scandinavian edition are fine, but what I would really like is a German translation.

Here is where we stand on Character and Social Structure:[74] the total is now 16 chapters. You have copies of 1 thru 6. My typist now is doing chapters 7 thru 13. These are rough still but they contain everything we have talked about and everything in my files at the moment and they do each form a continuity. So I suppose we could say they are decent first drafts of stuff that needs three drafts, the second being yours after you get these. The last three chapters are:

14 A Survey of Social Structures

15 Master Trends of Modern Society

16 US and USSR


Chapter 14 may be re-entitled: "The Range of Institutional Orders" because that is the idea of it. I am beginning this week to draft these three chapters, but our notes are scanty on these, especially on Russia and US. Will you interrupt yourself, while waiting the two weeks it will take to get to you 7 thru 13, and write me ideas for these three last chapters, also sending what you find in your own files that might be helpful? Then, when you get 7 thru 13, please don't write me about them, but rewrite them. Of course you don't have to slow yourself down and worry about orderly presentation at this time, but do what you can as fast as you can. I assume in two or three weeks, I'll get from you the first six chapters rewritten like that? If you want, hold them until you get and read 7 thru 13. But if you get to me by April 1 all thirteen rewritten, I can then have all of April and May to go over them in one final draft. And in meantime, I'll have 14 thru 16 in at least first draft and you can go over them April and May. What I am aiming at is to have a draft we've both fooled with in shape before we meet, if we do meet this summer (for the first half of it) so we can then relax with the stuff and really polish and refine and tighten up. And this schedule is all the more important if you must go to Europe June first.

  1. So expect from me within two weeks chapters 7 thru 13.

  2. I'll expect from you, soon as possible (meaning one week or so) random stuff on 14 thru 16, and by April 1, a rewrite on 1 thru 13.


Ruth and I wish you all were here. We've finished eating now and have a big log fire going in the living room and it's cold as hell outside with a wind. You can hear it enter the valley at the top of the hill and come across the upper field. You can hear it come around the house. And we are very glad it can't get in.

Yours as ever, MillsWright Mills

When Mills first began to work at the Bureau of Applied Social Research, he had expressed admiration and ambivalence about the empirical methodology represented

by the Bureau's founder and director, Paul F. Lazarsfeld. Referring to work on the study of influence and mass communication based on interviews in Decatur, Illinois, Mills wrote: "Lazarsfeld I find a wonderful man to work with; he gives me absolute freedom to do what the hell I want in all respects on the study and gives me ingenious technical advice when I ask for it. The fellow has got me to see the inside of statistical manipulation in such a way that I see the quantity-quality shuttle operation so as to work with it for first time. There are all sorts of disadvantages also which I see now for first time. I wouldn't think of doing only this kind of research. In other words, it is a hell of a fine experience to do one big job statistically, but a guy ought not to go hog wild about it!"[75]

As the years passed Mills's working relationship with Lazarsfeld became increasingly troubled until a fairly public split occurred. As Mills later noted in a letter to Tovarich, his tensions with the prevailing philosophy at the Bureau and his eventual departure represented an important turning point in his career.[76]

Mills's growing preference for critical analysis within a broad vision was at odds with Lazarsfeld's steadfast focus on quantitative thinking and statistics. The two sociologists also had a basic disagreement over the interpretation of their data. Lazarsfeld thought that influence from people of equal status was more important than a top-down flow of influence through social strata.[77]In 1946, Mills submitted a discussion draft consisting of several hundred pages of summary and interpretation of the Decatur data; Mills acknowledged some evidence for the horizontal influence described by Lazarsfeld, but also argued that vertical, or top-down, influence was important, especially in politics. Mills's discussion of the controversial concept of ideology and his rebellion against some of the tenets of Lazarsfeld's empirical approach made the draft heretical, despite its inclusion of vast quantities of empirical information.[78]There may have been other differences of opinion as well. In any case, Lazarsfeld relieved Mills of the job of directing the Decatur study sometime after receiving his discussion draft in 1946. Although Mills was put in charge of the Bureau's study of Puerto Rican immigrants in New York, he remained involved in the Decatur study, preparing a draft of several chapters in 1949 and reviewing drafts prepared by others. This tense situation finally led to the incident Mills described in the following letter.


To Hans Gerth, from Pomona, New York, dated February 15, 1952
Dear Gerth:

Thanks for your comments on the PR piece;[79] I take your advice somewhat, cutting out the more "personal" stuff. I put it in because they asked their questions that way, but you are probably right.

It's now between classes on Friday. I wanted to tell you about the thing that happened day before yesterday between Paul Lazarsfeld and me. It is just about a complete break. You remember that for six years now I've been writing and rewriting "The Decatur" ms., with him advising and etc. Well he gave me the latest draft again last week and we met Wednesday morning, and he asked me to do a complete rewrite of about 130 pages of it. As nicely as I could I told him no. The time had come either to publish it or if he doesn't like it still, to rewrite it himself. I offered to sit with him for one full day a week and revise together but [said] that I felt utterly unable to listen to him for an hour and then spend six weeks trying to get into it what he had said. He went and got Merton (to act as a kind of "judge and witness" I suppose). Bob was OK but said why didn't I try it again. I stuck to my guns and said I was utterly unable to do it again. Bob had to go to class. Paul and I sat for 6 minutes (that's a long time) and neither said a word. My God how creepy. Then we chatted for 30 minutes very pleasantly and I left with a "See you soon, Paul." Thank God, I feel secure enough to resist this silly domination and manipulation of his. I suppose I'm his first "defeat" in all this kind of madness he wants to pursue. But now we wait and see what happens. I've worked on that crap more than on any other book with which I have been associated and of course he will now take it away, but I do not care. In fact, I'd rather not be associated with it. To hell with professional acclaim I lose. Nothing is worth the continual feeling that you're not your own man.[80]

Will write more and mail later when something important to tell you.


Friday at office:

Yesterday I made the big speech for my client about tv to all the agency people in the city at the Stork Club. It was a big success, and Bill Hearst himself offered me a job! He'll give me a guarantee of $30,000 per year plus bonus stuff if I'll troubleshoot for him and handle a "few big accounts on space selling." Of course I laughed at him and insulted him, which is what he liked about my speech, but he was apparently serious. Afterwards, I tried to get him to send me a tractor but he wouldn't do it. Kept coming back to "the proposition." Said he hadn't seen a real salesman around since 1925 and didn't I know that it was all horseshit except a salesman: he could write his own ticket, etc. I told him to read my book [White Collar], and buy 1,000 copies for his organization, and he picked up the phone and ordered fifty copies; cheapskate bastard. Anyway it was all a lot of fun and also somehow embarrassing because every time I see such guys perform it's just like I say in White Collar, although sometimes more so, like in the stereotyped movies and novels.

About 5 or 6 of us hung around the Stork Club until 5 P.M. and bulled. I was interviewing of course for the elite book and by god I've now some real contacts for its researching. They got pretty drunk I guess and mainly for the last hour or so we all boasted about raspberry patches and how many acres of land we had [and] lake, etc. all about "our" places. God help us.

Listen, I'm mad at you. Why in god's name don't you send my stuff back? Jimmie Reid was in here a few days ago and I had to promise him faithfully he'd get the whole thing by August 15, and half of it in early July. We have got to do that. After all, they were nice to us and we spent their dough. Now we have to deliver. […]

Come on now: it's the last big push on a worthwhile job, so let's move it.

Yours, Mills

Mills and Gerth hand delivered the completed manuscript for Character and Social Structure to Jim Reid at Harcourt Brace on August 4, 1952, and the book was published in September 1953.


To William Miller, from Pomona, New York, 1952 (probably in the first half of the year)

Congratulations on the job [at Knopf ]; I know why you write so sadly about it, and I think I understand your ambivalence, but what the hell it is a good job and you're a big boy and ought to know you and I and people like us are not going to get to run anything of importance. The criteria by which we should judge good or bad on jobs and such is how much of my life energy does it take, and what can I learn from it, if anything … and I think this Knopf thing ranks pretty well on those criteria. Certainly I'm glad you didn't go to Washington. I didn't want to say that while it pended but now that this is more or less set, I'll say it. This is better.[81]

But you'll be here soon and contact us and then We'll know more about it all. In meantime, I'll do one thing for you: make one trip to Cambridge in the jeep and help you move stuff. You set it up as to timing; also you can store stuff here for several months if you want. Now don't throw away books and things; I'll store them for you until you get over the idea, but you were probably kidding anyway. But don't throw away stuff.

You ask for what one should be keyed up? My god, for long weekends in the country, and snow and the feel of an idea and New York streets early in the morning and late at night and the camera eye always working whether you want or not and yes by god how the earth feels when it's been plowed deep and the new chartreuse wall in the study and wine before dinner and if you can afford it Irish whiskey afterwards and sawdust in your pants cuff and sometimes at evening the dusky pink sky to the northwest, and the books to read never touched and all that stuff the Greeks wrote and have you ever read Macaulay's speeches to hear the English language? And to revise your mode of talk and what you talk about and yes by god the world of music which we just now discover and there's still hot jazz and getting a car out of the mud when nobody else can.[82] That's what the hell to get keyed up about.

The trouble with you and what used to be the trouble with me

is that you don't use your goddamned senses; too much society crap and too much mentality and not enough tactile and color and sound stuff going on. So now if you're like I was a year ago, you've got to coax the sight and sound back, carefully tease it to life again and it will fill you up.

It's only an hour out from here, why not think about it; my offer to build with you on that five acres to the north and east of my place still goes. All you need at first is three big cinder block rooms. You think about it.

See you soon and even though you'll be anxious and hurried, plan on a weekend out here. I want to see Bucky anyway. It makes me feel good to see such a fine woman.

Yours, Mills

Mills was a visiting professor at Brandeis during the spring of 1953.

To Robert K. Merton, from Brandeis University, Waltham, Massachusetts, postcard dated February 16, 1953 Monday
Dear Bob:

This note is just to acknowledge that you seem to have been correct in your prediction about WC. Today I have received word that it is being taken by Book Find Club, is being translated into French and Japanese, and that by next fall some 35,000 copies will have been printed in English. My god.

How did you like the review of Parsons' in current ASR:[83] do tell me. (I thought it a masterful and accurate piece of work, given its source.)


Am staying up here secluded in small room for six weeks, getting a good deal written on the elite. Will commute last six weeks.

Yours, MillsBrandeis, Waltham, Mass.

[P.S.] Do you write a foreword to Harcourt Brace for Character and Social Structure? (Manuscript is in their hands.) If so, do let me see a copy, will you?


A foreword by Merton was included in Character and Social Structure.

Mills was never glad to give up summer freedom when classes resumed in the fall; but his reaction against returning to academic life was more emphatic than usual in the autumn of 1953.

To Hans Gerth, from Pomona, New York, dated September 1953
Dear Gerth,

1st day of school, for God's sake. Isn't it all horrible? Why don't we just quit and go out to California and get honest jobs in a big factory?

Received copies of C & SS a few days ago. Don't much care for their binding and blurbs, but who the hell cares anyway? At least we can say "Well we've done a text—look at the binding and format." Do you use it in a course? I do, in small group of 15 or so students. Write me what you think of it all—now it's done, out, finished.


We have a new Dalmatian puppy. Quite an animal. In general tho', things are flat and all gray with me and I feel exhausted and I'm flat broke and no prospects of extra money this year and no intellectual or emotional or human energy left.

So write me a newsy uplifting letter!

Yours as ever, Mills


To Hans Gerth, from Pomona, New York, dated November 29, 1953
Dear Gerth:


  1. Ruth and I just went up to Brandeis and they have renewed their offer to me. I have decided that I will not go and am writing that this is final to them this next week. I am further recommending fully that you be offered the position. I figure, what the hell, we don't know about Columbia,[84] and besides Cambridge has many advantages and the more the merrier so far as offers go, even if you use them at Wisconsin. But for god's sake think of yourself, regardless of present income, as $9,000 minimum.

  2. Happy to hear that you get a jeep wagon. They are a fine little car, very tough and durable.

  3. Also happy that you get good comments on Character and Social Structure. I have heard nothing whatsoever, except Coser and Rieff[85]—both of whom like both of us as much, I suppose, as anyone—do not seem to like it. I do not press them for reasons, thinking it better among friends in this case to let it lie. But no one else has peeped a word. It is as if we had laid a large white egg.…

  4. I have read the two Mannheim volumes Kecskemeti edited and find both of them excellent, and certainly the conservative thing is very solid.[86] I do not feel that it is very helpful or "transferable" to the kind of thing I tried to write for the new magazine Coser and Howe get out (Dissent) on the conservative mood in the US. At least I couldn't seem to make any bridges and so use the stuff he has. Anyway they are both fine books of essays.

  5. By the way you are wrong about me and Burckhardt: I continually read his renaissance book and the one translated as Force

    and Freedom.[87] It was the Constantine book I didn't take to much.[88] No focus in it that I could find. But the others are the real McCoy. Sorry you didn't like the Herald Tribune speech on leisure;[89] your paraphrase of it makes it seem really horrid, which I don't think it is. Well, anyway, you seem to like the Veblen essay so maybe my batting average is still fair to average.[90]

  6. Latest disappointment, although not final yet, has to do with going this summer to lecture at the Free University of Berlin. Some kind of exchange stuff which pays all expenses and enough besides to pay for Ruth's trip and living while there. Neumann, Franz … in charge more or less. I wrote him a note telling him I'd love it and he said he'd be glad to recommend me, but that another guy in the Dept., Si Goode, who teaches in extension service, had applied so Dept. had to decide. I wrote Merton who said in reply: "You two talk it out." What is there to talk about? So now I don't know what to do. To hell with it.


I am not at all "in a hurry" as you suggest. I am simply relaxed and meeting the demands of the day and reading novels and having a minor crisis once or twice a week meeting some lecture and feeling miserable in general, this being my spiritual menopause of some queer sort. All this is old stuff with me and with damn near everybody I know at one time or another. The difference with me this time is that I have simply stopped trying to write during this period. In short, I am genuinely trying to learn "to relax" and I am halfway at least succeeding.

Of course one tries to pick up a target, the meeting of which would, in one's mind, relieve all burdens. For both Ruth and me that target is unfortunately impossible; we should so love to take a real trip,

for a year, to Europe without having any project while there other than to experience the damn place. But that just isn't possible on private money, and it doesn't seem like they'll—any of the thousands of fellowships etc.—give me a hand. I don't really blame them. Why should they?

But enough. Thanks again. Write me. See you in a few months.

As ever, Mills

To David Riesman, from Pomona, New York, undated (probably fall 1953)
Dear David:

Thanks for your kind words about the little Veblen essay. It is a section from a chapter of The American Elite book on which I am still at work, and which—to tell you the truth—I find more and more troublesome. First draft is completed—last spring at Brandeis in fact, but somehow I can't command the attention and love needed to complete the blanks still in it and tighten it into shape. O well.

When next you're in town, let me know in advance. I'm generally in Mon. Wed. Fri.

Cordially, Wright Mills

In the next letter Mills responded to Gerth's queries related to translating White Collar into German. As it turned out, Gerth's translation of his friend's book was never published; however, an English translation of Gerth's introductory essay for the book was published decades later as "The Development of Social Thought in the United States and Germany: Critical Observations on the Occasion of the Publication of C. Wright Mills' White Collar."[91](A German translation of White Collar was published by Bund-Verlag GMBH in 1955; Bernt Engelmann, who was a translator before becoming a political columnist, provided the translation for that edition.)


To Hans Gerth, from Pomona, New York, undated (received December 26, 1953)
Dear Gerth:

"The man who has risen" is not a book or a story by Howells; it is merely a phrase which he used to describe the age of the businessman. Likewise with Whitman's phrase, "Man in the open air," which is quoted by F. O. Matthiessen in his American Renaissance, page 626. I stuck the two phrases into one sentence, appearing on page 21 of White Collar, in order to catch in brief way the rise of business in contrast with rural frontier stuff. If I may suggest: it might be better merely to put quote marks around the two phrases without capitalizing them. The whole book, White Collar, is of course chuck full of such allusive stuff, which I don't see how our German readers will really follow, but it really isn't necessary. I am sorry, my friend, that I do not—like Nietzsche says one should—write with an eye on translations! Please know again that I know how lucky I am in having you for Germany! Think what the poor Japanese will read!

I am of course much less optimistic than you about my chances to get to Berlin, as all looks yellow to the jaundiced eye, and both of mine are canary yellow these days. The other day I wrote you a long sorrowful letter, but you will be glad to know I tore it up without mailing it. The purpose was perhaps served in the mere stupid act of composing it. Let us be brave and stand up like little Indians, straight and tall, and all that hog shit. Anyway I'm very grateful for your letters to friends in Berlin. We just have to wait and see how the little pebbles of chance slip under whose feet, and whether the baleful glare of all our enemies in the paranoid universe penetrates or not.

Very glad to hear that H I and children go on to Germany rather than trying to get settled for so short a time at Brandeis. That would be very foolish and uncomfortable. […]

I am beginning slowly to read a bit now for the elite book, and even at times to believe that somehow, sometime, it will start to get produced again. It has the makings of a good loud blast at the bastards, one they can't ignore maybe. If I was ambivalent here and there about the White Collar elements, and the labor leaders, by god I am not at all ambivalent at the elite: they are not my kind of people. As Burckhardt said of great men, we can say of the elite: "they are

everything we are not," to which we ought to add, for which, thank god.

Yours, M.Mills

To William Miller, from Pomona, New York, dated January 25, 1954
Dear Bill:

Kind of you to ask about the "Explorations." Yes I did get it and many thanks. Looks so so interesting, although not too relevant to Elite because of period.[92]

Slowly I have gotten back to writing and reading on the topic. It seems now that my fall downfall, the old Untergang, well I slowly get up from it and walk away.[93] This spring I hope to do some work. Got a little windfall for March 20th: trip to California via plane to talk before mental health society: all expenses and a little dough.

The big upset right now came three days ago: H I Gerth, Gerth's wife, died. […] Gerth is on his way, driving with 2 children to Camp Hill for one week.[94] Children will be taken for several months to Germany by woman friend of family; H I was scheduled to take them this spring. (Gerth teaches at Brandeis this spring and is scheduled for summer school at Columbia.)

It's not terribly likely but he may want in the several days that he will stay here to run around and see people, even if he doesn't know them very well; if so we may drop by your place; and if so do not mention your knowledge of his wife's death. If he wants to talk he will. Hard to tell how any man reacts, certainly hard to know how he will: he was so god damned dependent upon her and they appeared to be so very happy. Life, my friend, is very arbitrary. You have to live to around forty to have known enough people to realize just how arbitrary it really is. […]


By all means see current issue of Partisan Review: Howe's piece, "The Age of Conformity," brings up to date, if I may say so, my old piece on the powerless people[95] and the chapter "Brains" in White Collar. It's a very good job and I'm happy he does it now.

Hope to see you and Bucky soon Bill; Ruth sends her love.

As ever, Mills

The following letter was written after a visit to Mills's parents at their home in San Antonio, Texas. In the summer of 1954, Mills and Ruth were resident fellows at the Huntington Hartford Foundation of Pacific Palisades, California, while working on The Power Elite.

To Frances and Charles Grover Mills, from Pacific Palisades, California, not dated (summer 1954)
Dear Mother and Dad:

Our trip from San Antonio to Los Angeles was easy going, and now after one night at the Foundation we are quite well settled. The people here are rather mixed: there are three composers, several painters, four fiction writers, and ourselves. The little house they have given us is really the nuts; were we to build a house in the California hills, this would be close to what we would build. It has a living room and bedroom and bath and refrigerator and electric stove and sink for odd snacks and coffee making. And a huge studio with a big north skylight. Also a little sun patio. There is a lovely pool below us and the "mess hall" is one minute away, down a steep little road.

When we arrived I found two invitations to speak this summer and have accepted them both. One for about August 10 is a conference set up by the University of Toronto and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. I'll speak there, in Toronto, on a national hookup for Canada, flying there and back of course: all expenses [ paid] and $350, which will buy me a decent suit!


Then on August 25 the US Air Force will fly me to Montgomery, Alabama, to speak to about 200 colonels at a school they run there for future generals. I'm to speak on modern military forces and the organization of the modern state. And I mean to tell them just how it is. They don't pay anything but fancy expenses, but I want to look the future generals in the eye. So you see it really isn't likely that if the FBI were crouched ready to move in on me, the Air Force would go to the trouble to have me tell off their elite corps.

In the meantime I must get right to work and write a stern rough mean prophetical book, damning them all and all that they have made and are making out of this silly lovely horrible delightful obscene stupid and magnificent world.

See you around. Little Charlie

Mills was right in thinking that the FBI was not actively investigating him in 1954. The FBI's active and prolific investigation of Mills was yet to come.

The University of Toronto–Canadian Broadcasting Corporation speech Mills mentioned in the previous letter was originally entitled "Are We Losing Our Sense of Belonging?" Mills inserted a copy into the Tovarich notebook, edited in his handwriting—including the new title we have used here—with a note near the title saying, "Excellent! Use in book." The speech follows.



You and I are among those who are asking serious questions and by that very fact I know that there is something to which you and I do belong. We belong to that minority that has carried on the big discourse of the rational mind; to the big discourse that has been going on—or off; and on—since the Western society began some two thousand years ago in the small communities of Athens and Jerusalem. Maybe you think that is a pretty vague thing to which to belong; if you do think that, you are mistaken. It is quite a thing to belong to the big discourse—even if as lesser participants—and, as I hope presently to make clear, it is the beginning of any "sense of belonging"

that is worthwhile. It is the key to the only kind of belonging that free people in our time might have. And I think that to belong to it requires that we try to live up to what it demands of us.

What it demands of us, first of all, is that we maintain our sense of it. And, just now, at this point in human history, that is quite difficult. For we belong not only to the big discourse of the rational mind; we also belong—although we do not always feel that we do—to our own epoch; accordingly, since we are live people and not detached minds, we are trying to live in and with a certain set of feelings: the feelings of political people trying to be rational in an epoch of enormous irrationality.


What is the dominant mood of people like us, who try to think up questions and answer them for ourselves? What is the tang and feel of our experience as we examine the world about us today? It is clear that these feelings are shaping the way we ask and the way we answer all the questions of this conference: it is also clear—let us admit it—that our mood is not buoyant, not calm, not steady, and not sure. It is true that we do not panic, but it is also true that we possess the crisis mentality, and none of us can be up to the demands of our time unless we share something of this kind of mind, for it is rooted in an adequate sense of history and of our place in history.

We are often stunned and we are often distracted, and we are bewildered almost all of the time. And the only weapon we have—as individuals and as a scatter of grouplets—is the delicate brain now so perilously balanced in the struggle for public sanity. We feel that common political sense is no longer a sound basis of judgment, for the common sense of the twentieth century is based largely upon an eighteenth and a nineteenth-century experience, which is outmoded by new facts of public life with which we have had little to do, except as victims. The more we understand what is happening in the world, the more frustrated we often become, for our knowledge leads to feelings of powerlessness.

We feel that we are living in a world in which the citizen has become a mere spectator or a forced actor, and that our personal experience is politically useless and our political will a minor illusion. Very often the fear of total, permanent war paralyzes the kind of

morally oriented politics which might engage our interests and our passions. We sense the cultural mediocrity around us—and in us—and we know that ours is a time when, within and between all the nations of the world, the levels of public sensibility have sunk below sight; atrocity on a mass scale has become impersonal and official; moral indignation as a public fact has become extinct or made trivial.

We feel that distrust has become nearly universal among men of affairs, and that the spread of public anxiety is poisoning human relations and drying up the roots of private freedom. We see that the people at the top often identify rational dissent with political mutiny, loyalty with blind conformity, and freedom of judgment with treason.

We feel that irresponsibility has become organized in high places and that clearly those in charge of the historic decisions of our time are not up to them. But what is more damaging to us is that we feel that those on the bottom—the forced actors who take the consequences—are also without leaders, without ideas of opposition, and that they make no real demands upon those in power.


We do not, of course, feel all of this all of the time, but we often feel some of it, and in the dark of the night, when we are really alone and really awake, we suspect that this might very well be an honest articulation of our deepest political feelings. And if we are justified—even in half of these feelings—then we have at hand a second answer to the question of whether we are losing our sense of belonging. Our first answer, you will remember, was a general Yes, except in the sense that we belong to the big discourse. Our second answer reflects our feelings about the sort of world we are living in, and may be put in this way: I don't know whether or not you are losing your political sense of belonging, but I should certainly hope so.

The point is that we are among those who cannot get their mouths around all the little Yeses that add up to tacit acceptance of a world run by crackpot realists and subject to blind drift. And that, you see, is something to which we do belong; we belong to those who are still capable of personally rejecting. Our minds are not yet captive. I believe that, just now, in the kind of political world we are in, rejection is more important than acceptance. For, in such a world, to accept

freely requires, first of all, the personal capacity and the social chance to reject the official myths and the unofficial distractions. […][96]


I hope I have made it clear that the question of losing our sense of political belonging cannot be answered with moral sensibility unless we also ask: To what is it that we ought to belong? Mere loyalty alone is less a virtue than an escape from freely thought-out choices among the many values that now compete for our loyalties.

My own answer to this question, which may well be different from yours, can be put very simply: If we are human, what we ought to belong to first of all is ourselves. We ought to belong to ourselves as individuals. Once upon a time that answer would have seemed clear, for it used to be called "the appeal to conscience," but we now know that this is much too simple an answer, for we now know that there are people whose conscience is perfectly clear and perfectly sincere—and perfectly corrupt in its consequences for themselves and for others.

So we must add to this answer one further point: to the extent that we are truly human, we should try seriously to participate in that rational discourse of which I have spoken. And to the extent that we do so, our sensibilities will have been shaped by the high points of mankind's heritage of conduct and character and thought. Accordingly, we shall belong, and we ought to belong, to mankind, and it is to mankind that we ought most freely to give our loyalties.

All other loyalties, it seems to me, ought to be qualified by these two: loyalty to ourselves and loyalty to the cultural heritage of mankind that we allow to shape us as individuals. This answer is more a beginning than an end; we ought to use it to judge all principles and organizations that demand our loyalties. No corporation, no church, no nation, no labor union, no political party—no organization or creed—is worthy of our loyalties if it does not facilitate the growth of loyalties to ourselves and to the heritage that mankind has produced in its best moments.

Moreover, we ought not to be committed absolutely to any organization. Our loyalty is conditional. Otherwise, it is not loyalty. It is

not the belonging of free people; it is a compelled obedience. Let us not confuse the loyalties of free people with mere obedience to authority. When organizations or nations sell out the values of free people, free people withdraw their loyalties. Not with a "Yes, But" or a "Maybe Yes, Maybe No" but with a big, plain, flat "No."


The positive question for us is not so much whether we are losing our sense of belonging as whether we can help build something that is worth belonging to. Perhaps that has always been the major social question for men and women shaped by the big discourse. For just as freedom that has not been fought for is lightly cast off, so belonging that does not require the building and the maintaining of organizations worth belonging to is often merely a yearning for a new bondage.

To really belong, we have got, first, to get it clear with ourselves that we do not belong and do not want to belong to an unfree world. As free men and women we have got to reject much of it and to know why we are rejecting it.

We have got, second, to get it clear within ourselves that we can only truly belong to organizations which we have a real part in building and maintaining, directly and openly and all of the time.

And we have got, third, to realize that it is only in the struggle for what we really believe, as individuals and as members of economic, political, and social groups, that the sense of belonging befitting a free person in an unfree world can exist. In such a world, only the comradeship of such a struggle is worth our loyalty; and only to such truly human associations as we might create do we, as rational people, wish to belong.

To William and Virginia Miller, from Palisades, California, undated (July 1954)
Dear Bill and Bucky:

I know I should have written but many things have happened and have not yet added up to much. The trip out was a Porsche trip, which means very fast and very limousinish. You cruise at 85 to 100

mph and it is as if you are going 50 or so: the Krauts have built a car. The place is very good; nothing disturbs you and you are served meals and you are absolutely free to set your own pattern apart from meal hours at 8–9 A.M. and 6 P.M. People here are OK, and one or two really worth knowing. And we are both personally content with the everyday routine and all of that.

The book, the book: it comes slowly I suppose but it does come. Ruth is pretty well sticking to one chapter after the next right thru and I am leaping around a bit but steadying down now to the general sequence. It would do no good for either of us were I to attempt to let you know in [a] letter the shifts and strategies we are coming to, but it may be enough to say that the book will show a much more unified upper class and power elite than even I had at first thought possible. And there is one thing I do want to tell you, although [I] won't try to explain it too fully. In brief it is this: for the very rich and for the executives, the terms entrepreneur and bureaucrat just won't do. Those are middle class words and retain too much middle class imagery and perspective. They are all right for middle class levels of economic life; they make no sense and are misleading when used for the very top guys. I know we have all used them, and coded stuff into them. But you know what made it clear to me that they were no damn good: reading carefully the notes I took on the write up of your data that this Keller girl did.[97] Her analysis is a good careful statistical analysis: no one could do much more with that data from a statistical point of view. But it just isn't so. It just doesn't give you how and why those guys got where they were, and it gives a very false image of what they actually do when they are there. When you wrote those words in several articles you did,[98] which I come to admire more and more, you could get away with those words because they were embedded in knowledge and cases about what the hell went on, but she doesn't know. So in the chapter on the very rich, I am trying

to destroy the word entrepreneur and in the chapter on the executives I am going to destroy the word bureaucrat. I won't make a big production about it, just two or three pages as to why I won't use them. But, God damn it, I can't get good slogan-like terms yet to replace them. What has been called bureaucratic career for top businessmen I refer to as moving within and between the corporate hierarchy and stuff like that. And entrepreneur: merging smaller firms and promoting and etc. If you think of terms phrases etc., let me know.

Did you see in last Sunday's Times Book Review the piece by Ed Saveth? God, how disgusting. You are mentioned OK though.[99]

Read Hofstadter's mimeo chapters, all but front and tail, which he hasn't sent yet. Please don't tell him I said so, for what good is it, but my god it is thin stuff: nothing beyond Walling and Josephson and Griswold on farming and, if I may say so, a good bit of old Mills on status and all, but no acknowledgment but, hell, who cares.

Will try to drop a little A-bomb on them all with Elite but hell they will all ignore it, except maybe five or six hundred people who will love me for it. And that is enough. Who wants to be loved by masses, or by mass-like minds?

Let me know how it goes, Bill.

Yours as ever, Who else? [unsigned copy]

When The Power Elite was published in April 1956, its description of interlocking power relationships between the economic, political, and military elites in the United States was far from accepted knowledge; Dwight D. Eisenhower did not make his famous speech about the dangers of the growing military-industrial complex until he left office in January 1961.


To Leo Lowenthal, from Pomona, New York, dated May 20, 1955 Friday nite
Dear Leo:

How in the world can you know anything about promotions and all, and yet you always know the quote interhuman unquote realities of everywhere. But the budget is all in already. And I got a letter saying for your wonderful contribution we give you this little raise and you are still associate professor and it is signed by Kirk. So what the hell goes? Could Leo be wrong? Of course he could be wrong, on this at least. Anyway we don't think or talk about nasty things like money anymore. We are above that, or rather below that.

Today I sent you book rate a dittoed copy of "The Power Elite." I waited at first and worried about sending it to you because you are way out there among so many enemies[100] and I do not want this copy read by anyone but friends or talked about because I am still very much changing it, maybe drastically, and I do not want guys who have read it talking bad about the poor little thing to other guys who haven't had a chance to read it and can't yet go down to the bookstore and put up their 5 bucks in my defense. This copy is for your eyes only. How can I finish it until you have told me what I must next do? So, tell me.

One thing you must know: on my master copy I have now:

  1. begun the book with what is now chapter two.

  2. taken what is now chapter one and added to it the first five or six pages of what is now chapter 15. Made this new chapter, called "Of Ideologies and Moods," go between what are now chapters 14 and 15.

    The idea is that these silly boys I talk about there in chapter one are too unimportant to start with; neither the elite nor the mass public pays any attention to them, so why should I feature them so?

    Another thing: there are 100 pages of footnotes that will go in the back of the book with numbers on the text pages. I didn't print that in White Collar and think I should in this one.

    As soon as you get the manuscript, lock yourself up in a quiet

    room and let it flood your mind for 48 hours; then after the first wonder of it, begin to read it slowly for about a week, marking it and tearing it up and writing copious criticisms and compliments and debunkings. Then send it all back to me.

    Everything here is as much as it could be without your being here. At night the women cry and in the daylight the men are confused and once a week they all come together and wail and they are sick and full of spleen, here in the East, without Leo.

Yours as ever, Mills

In the following letter, Mills responded to a reader's report on a draft of the manuscript of The Power Elite. The reader, who had been commissioned by Oxford University Press, stopped reviewing the manuscript after the second chapter, writing in exasperation that Mills's draft contained "the sort of sterile verbalism that does real harm to the cause of genuine learning."[101]

To Lee Grove at Oxford University Press, from Pomona, New York, dated June 10, 1955 Friday noon
Dear Mr. Grove:

Thanks for sending me the criticism. Of course, I'll wait until all of it is in, and taken account of, before getting together with you. But I do now want to say that I hope you're no more upset by this sort of carping about the surface than I am. I've never written anything about which, at some stage or another of the draft, someone hasn't said this sort of thing. And I've never turned out a book about which any reviewer said it.

These comments have to do with old chapter One—which, as you know from the three later drafts you've received, is now rewritten

as new chapter 14. None of the particular sentences quoted is, at the present stage of my master copy, in the chapter.

Things go well. I've now three really well marked up copies: one from Harvey Swados (novelist), one from John Blair (FTC economist) and one from William Miller (formerly Fortune writer, formerly Knopf editor, now freelance). So I'm at the manuscript hard. Please send along criticism just as soon as you get it. As the manuscript gets stronger I get weaker, so the sooner the better.

Sincerely, C. Wright Mills

In the summer of 1955, Mills asked Oxford University Press for an advance of $5,000 for a book on American intellectuals; this was equal to the advance he had received from Oxford for The Power Elite. However, believing that a book on intellectuals would not be as popular as The Power Elite, the press offered an advance of only $2,500, just $500 more than Oxford's advance for White Collar many years before. According to an internal memo, dated August 9, 1955, Mr. Grove expected a negative reaction from Mills but believed that the project could not sustain an advance higher than what was offered. This is the letter Mills sent via special delivery in response to the offer from Oxford.

To Lee Grove, editor, Trade Department, Oxford University Press, from Pomona, New York, dated August 18, 1955[102]

Dear Mr. Grove:

Thank you for your letter of 17 August 1955.

The terms which you propose for The American Intellectual are disappointing, but acceptable to me. They even make sense from the horrible standpoint of reality.

Please go ahead and draw up the contract today; I'll get it back to you by return mail.

C. Wright Mills


To Leo Lowenthal, from Columbia University, New York City, dated August 29, 1955

Dear Leo:

Since The Power Elite is now in press, I've begun a book on "The Intellectuals." Although it is primarily about the Americans, I hope to make it comparative; so I'm applying for a research Fulbright for England for 1956–57. Would you help me by laying something as thick as you can on the enclosed? They are due by 1 October 1955. (You're the only sociologist I'm giving: my other references are Dean Chamberlain, Clara Thompson and [William] Oman of Oxford Press.)

I fear the images of the American scene I've printed are against me; but don't you think I'd be a good little ambassador? I've applied for England as first choice, but I'll go anywhere that requests me.

Buvez Coca Cola,
C. Wright Mills

Leo Lowenthal, who had known Mills professionally and socially for twelve years, took Mills's request to heart and did indeed "lay it on thick." On the topic of being a good ambassador, he wrote the following about Mills:

I feel on particularly safe grounds in answering your question whether he would be an "effective representative of American academic and cultural life." Having served for nearly six years as Director of the Evaluation Staff of the Voice of America with the US Department of State and later with the US Information Agency, I have become thoroughly familiar with the facts as well as the purposes of US public policy in international cultural relations. From the standpoint of my knowledge of this policy, I would not hesitate to recommend Mr. Mills as a representative of the best in this country's cultural and intellectual life. He is both deeply rooted in regional heritage and dedicated to practical and realistic progress and at the same time productively sensitized to the burning issues of the Free World as a whole. His outgoing, buoyant and kind personality cannot help but make many friends for the United States here and abroad.

The following April, Mills was granted the Fulbright award to lecture at the University of Copenhagen for the 1956–57 academic year.


Mills, who began to ride a motorcycle out of frustration over the difficulty of finding a parking space for a car near Columbia College, soon became interested in motorcycling as a sport. In the spring of 1955 Mills drove his motorcycle from New York to Massachusetts to visit Lewis A. Coser and Irving Howe and their families. He described the trip to Harvey Swados:

The other day I rode up to the Cosers and Howes, spent the night, then rode around the Cape, returning that night to Harvard, where Ken Stampp teaches this year. Then back here, about 800 miles plus, very high speed averages, very low gasoline consumptions. It utterly exhausted me. My hands were half numb for several days and my left eyeball twitched. But it is the only thing I know that gets away from it all on a goanywhere machine. Concentration is such that it completely empties you for a good stretch of all the little stuff, and the roundness of the old earth flows under the wheels. It's like a horse; it's like a sports car; it's like controlling motion itself in [a] pure form of speed. And if you want, you can walk with it, down to a slow crawl in bottom gear for miles and miles and you see everything: more than if you were walking and much much more than in any automobile.[103]

To the Motorcycle (London, England), from Pomona, New York, dated October 14, 1955

Apart from riding itself, whatever I have learned about riding a motorcycle with skill and safety I learned last year from your reprinted pamphlet "The Methods of the Experts." In contrast with other sports, there is so little of this how-to-do-it literature for the motorcyclist. Do you know of any other such writing? (I've read all the books you advertise, including "Cavalcade.") I, for one, would very much like to read a series on the technique of the trials rider, another on scrambling, and most of all—because it is more closely related to my own practice of fast touring—a series on road racing.

In order to encourage you to carry on with "The Methods" series, I herewith submit some questions having to do with cornering. Perhaps you might find it worthwhile to submit them, along with other such questions which you might devise, for other features of riding, to road racers or trial riders:


Question: You are on dry, clean concrete or asphalt, entering a flat 90 degree corner, mounted on a 500 twin with dual seat. You've misjudged it a little. You're into it too fast. There's no straight-out escape. You can't straighten up in order to brake. Good visibility and no traffic permit you to use the full width, but even so you feel that you may skid. What should you do? (Please don't reply: "It depends on conditions." If I've failed to mention any relevant conditions, specify them as you like.)


Even if you're not interested in doing more advanced articles along the lines of "The Methods" series, I'd be ever so much obliged … and would feel safer … if you'd send me an answer. Maybe there is a simple obvious one which I, having been riding only about one year and not being in close contact with other riders, just don't know.

Sincerely yours,
BMW R69[105]

To Lewis A. Coser, from Pomona, New York, undated (probably late 1955 or early 1956)

Dear Lou:

Thanks so much for your letter. I've oiled the machine several times and prepared it for a long fast run up to Wellesley,[106] but each time the weather has been impossible. I'm coming up as soon as I can now and I'll let you know a week ahead if at all possible. Feel very depressed these days. [Until] April everything is in balance, or so I foolishly feel.[107] You see, the point is that it doesn't really matter to me whether the PE is acclaimed or debunked: oh, it matters of

course but not as much (or perhaps too much) as it ought to. Maybe I mean, and need to say to you, that the success of such a book would in a way be a failure. But that is not to say that failure is not also a trap. If anybody is an expert on this success stuff as social phenomena, surely I am; but being an expert does not enable you to avoid it in your guts even though you are contemptuous of it. Heads I win, tail you lose. Sub specie fuckus.

Anyway, I'm glad you talked with Dennis [Wrong].[108] His reaction as you tell it is part of the Star system (either smash hit or nothing), which I hate so much in American culture. Isn't there room for just plain solid stuff; workmanlike stuff by an artisan stratum? That's my ideal kind of production and reception.

By the way, if Bernie [Rosenberg] likes it, please tell him for me that it makes me very glad.[109] I've come to like his stuff and am very happy he likes mine since he is one of the dozen at most people about whose appraisal I really give a damn.

Do tell me any gossip, good or bad, you come across because as you know I do not see many people and don't know what goes on … I mean about the book.

I've not yet rec'd copy from Free Press of your book.[110] I can't ask for it for review from Times or Saturday Review: they frown on that, at least the two times I've done it, but I shall certainly put in a word. […]

No word on Fulbright. No word on promotion, which after 12 years and three really good offers over the last several years might be due by now.[111] No work under way on intellectuals except busy work. And not much spirit.

Let us know when you're all coming down.



A few years before Mills's first trip to Europe he had tried to arrange a visiting professorship in Europe for 1954–55, to no avail. In 1952 he described his reasons for wanting to live and work in Europe this way: "I have all my life lived in a country that is only some six or seven generations old, and the longer I work here and the older I get, the more provincial and limited I feel. I want to live in Europe for a while, to put it positively, in order to establish points of comparisons."[112]

To Leo and Marjorie Lowenthal, from Pomona, New York, dated January 7 (1956)
Dear Leo and Marjorie:

  1. [I.] It's about 3:30 in the morning Sat. Jan. 7. I fell asleep early last night and now have waked up and eaten. Over the last month or so I've done this pretty frequently; it's not a bad pattern. You don't accomplish much by way of thinking or writing but you believe, for two or three hours, that you are probably putting the world on a string—or in a bottle, except that just now there is no bourbon in the house. Maybe it's because on the 21st of this month, by Dutch airline, Mills enters Europe for the first time. I go, as I quite properly should, as an amateur mechanic of sports cars and motorcycles. Here's the deal: the importer for BMW and NSU here in New York is a good friend of mine, a fine old Austrian gentleman. He is chartering a plane to take the mechanics of his dealers to the factories for a short service training course, on the care and feeding of little BMWs. He's letting me go along. The whole trip, including round trip air, all meals, all hotels … everything … will cost me $380. About two weeks in all. First week in Neckersulm, just above Stuttgart; second week in Munich. I suppose I'll be pretty busy at the factories because honest to God I'd rather hear the roar of an R-69 being bench-tested by a man who knows his motors than see the finest cathedral in the world. It is very proper, I feel, that no intellectual group or agency should send me to Europe but that I should smell it for the first time as an amateur mechanic. Do let me know if anything occurs to you, that I ought to see or do without fail in Munich.

  2. 198
  3. The other day I got a letter from the Fulbright people. They say that the University of Copenhagen has asked for me to lecture in social psychology. So they shifted me from England in research to Denmark in lecturing. I told them OK. Hell anything is OK, as long as I get there. Of course this is not final, but it does mean that I slipped thru the academic committees and now have only to be cleared by State Dept. Still several sorts of mechanical catches could stall the deal, but it does look very good. […]

  4. The family is fine. Ruth is very happy, as am I, with the child. Katie is a monstrous girl, weighing at 5 and half months some 20 pounds, all muscle of course with very alert and knowing blue eyes and full of idiotic chuckles and euphoria.

[Unsigned copy]

To Leo and Marjorie Lowenthal, from Pomona, New York, dated February 16, 1956
Dear Leo and Marj:

If by one's hometown is meant the town to which one wants to return, then Munich is now one of my favorite hometowns, ranking with San Francisco. You will realize that, being there only two weeks, I was of course only on the surface. But how good for once to be on the surface without any of the tensions of thought involved in digging beneath it! I met some magnificent people, mainly technicians and engineers with whom I ran around in the evening and worked on motors during the day. (I now have a factory diploma as a first class mechanic on BMW motors.) I also found out that you do not need much language. They don't know English. I don't know German but we talked all the time and understood enough. The trick is to mispronounce English in a German direction; there must be many cognates between the two languages; and of course to develop a subtlety of gesture. Anyway, seriously, in six weeks there alone I could get the language fine. One night in a wine stubba (phonetically spelled) alone, with no other English speaking person, is better than 15 lessons in German. They help you with it wonderfully. If you just try it, strangers will spend an hour teaching you and buy you wine as well. So: why not migrate over there? Haven't I finished around here?


Now I wait until April to know about Copenhagen and the Fulbright for next year. In the meantime the trip revived me enough to do a little writing on the intellectual book. Oxford is going to throw a little party for book reviewers and such on Elite book next month (but it won't do any good … even my best friend won't comment on galleys of the damn thing). Ruth and Katie are well. What is going on with you? Hear from Oxford yet? I go to university seminar, at least for a few times; Paul [Lazarsfeld] runs professional training in social science, with all the big shots there. I ride [the motorcycle] whenever the weather permits. I wait for Copenhagen, and for letters from you.


To William Miller, from Pomona, New York, dated February 25, 1956
Dear Bill:

I have your confused and disgusting letter about Miller in Europe. I guess everyone finds a different Europe and some keep themselves insulated and isolated in those little Americanized circles, such as Salzburg must be,[113] and don't find any Europe. You ask what I mean by my jaunt to Munich being a "huge" success. Well, seriously, it was just that. By which I mean above all that I discovered people again. People worth talking to half the night, people with histories so different from mine, and as full of individuality as I ever hope to be. Language is no diffculty. I got a Berlitz phrase book, which is excellent on phonetically spelled German. And then when I didn't know a word I used the English word, mispronouncing it in the German direction. Everyone laughed but I was understood and then they taught me. Strangers spent hours teaching me words and pronunciation, and also bought me wine.[114] You have got to plunge right in you know. During the day I was mostly out at the plant, BMW, and there met technicians and minor managers, with whom at night I often went around. But I was on my own in Munich for four days

before the bunch arrived. And that was when I learned the most German. Of course all of this was on the surface, but how good for once to be on the surface and not to get into the tension of analysis!

I can't wait to make my big European tour by BMW this summer. No definite word yet on the Fulbright. […] In the meantime, why don't you make Salzburg get me for the summer?[115] Would be very helpful moneywise, as I'm, as usual, in trouble with all that.

By all means try to run over to Munich. It is cheap, at least in Germany, to rent a VW for a couple of days and not much trouble at all.

Bill, do let me know right away your schedule: when do you leave there and when do you get back here? I want to know so as to know whether or not to send you there a copy of my book [The Power Elite]. Physical copies any day now. And did you or did you not finish up yours? And what are you actually doing in Salzburg? Give me two typical days time budget. And what the hell are you teaching? Lecturing or seminar stuff? God damn it don't philosophize so much. REPORT. EXPERIENCE. RELAX INTO IT.


To Hans Gerth, from Pomona, New York, undated (probably April 1956)
Dear Gerth:

I was so glad to get your letter. Quite frankly, I was worried when you did not write for so long, worried that for some reason you had become angry with me, or that you thought the book [The Power Elite] lousy and did not want to say so. Well, you've got to remember that I too am alone intellectually and the crushing burden of some reviews is hard to take from such hired shit-heels as write them. So although I don't suppose I can be panicked at my advanced age, still they can worry me.[116] I only hope I worry them a little bit too.

The brightest thing anyone has said about the publication of

the book was said the other day by a "World Telegram" journalist who did a personal interview thing on me. He said: "Everyone smart enough to understand it is either for it or against it." I think that is real cute. The fellow likes me, you see.

Anyway to hell with them all and with the book too now. It is done. The idea is to keep thinking of the next one. As long as there is "the next one" you are alive and if you believe in the next one you are really living. That, my dear friend, is what you have got somehow to do: get started on the next one and come to believe in it. There is a lot of work to be done, work that transcends any personal problems. We have to learn to use personal problems for intellectual purposes. That is our sacrilege.[117] It's a sacrilege we must make else our very grief will become within us mere ritual and at the same time our only reality. In the decade and a half we've known one another, that is the most serious and important thing I've ever said to you.


My promotion came through.[118] I owe it to my dean, not my department, although they did not get in the way. It doesn't mean much to me, except the money. That's the trouble with such an egoist. He's already there, so when he really is there, it's all anticlimax. I'm glad too because it makes it more difficult "to get at me" and makes me feel freer to write with less anxiety than before. This letter is getting too damn psychiatric!

Well, here's some unambiguously good news: On the 29th of May, Ruth, Katie and I fly to Copenhagen for 16 months. Yes the Fulbright came through two days ago. I plan to fly on to Munich and pick up a motorcycle at the factory there. [We're] selling the VW and motorcycle here. Also [we're] selling the house here. It's built up now and so I'm more or less through with it, and so is Ruth. When we come back we'll build again a little closer to New York—a different kind of house since we'll be different people. One lives on the expectation that no matter what goes on now, next year, next week, next decade, everything will be different. Not necessarily better, but surely different.

[…] I have to work in Copenhagen; I have a rather heavy

schedule of lectures, damn it. But maybe it will get me going again. I've not written since last fall, with all these decisions being delayed so. Just no energy and morose.

Do write me once more before we leave, telling me anything that I must not fail to do in Europe. If there is any business of yours over there you want done, let me know.

Yours as ever, Mills

A portrait of Mills appeared on the cover of The Saturday Review (April 28, 1956), which included a mixed review of The Power Elite with a biographical insert referring to Mills as a sociologist on a motorcycle, a Renaissance man, and a successor to Thorstein Veblen.

To Hans Gerth, from Pomona, New York, undated (probably May 28, 1956)
Dear Gerth:

It was so good of you to write at once in reply to my notes. It is now Monday nite and we leave in the morning. Linguanti is driving us to Idlewild at 10 in the morning.[119] Everything is packed in Harvey's basement, or freighted to Copenhagen or piled up for plane luggage (exactly 88 lbs of that). I've paid my bills or most of them, sold the house, gave the new owner my dog. So a little epoch which began five years ago with $500 in cash, a crowbar and a typewriter, has come to an end.

Before I leave I want quickly to tell you why I am so disappointed by the kind of reviews the Power Elite is getting. Put very simply, it is this: NOBODY REALLY TAKES IT SERIOUSLY. I didn't expect many to do so, but nobody does so in public. And the reasons they don't take it seriously are so trivial. Lynd because of semantic silliness, or whatever. I have now before me, just rec'd, a review in the Reporter, 31 May '56 issue. The guy summarized White Collar and then

Elite in terms of some of my little portraits and gossip I put in for sauce and IGNORES THE WHOLE THESIS. Then he concludes: but isn't it all merely a caricature? That's all—nothing else. In the very same issue of the Reporter there is an article entitled "The Complicated Process of Reaching a Stalemate" which is my major theme on the Congress, etc. They trivialize my stuff horribly, then they don't argue; they just say it's no good. You're right about Lynd of course: I couldn't "answer Him." There is nothing he says that I can debate. There's no discussion. Of course one says to hell with them all, but my God, I worked pretty hard on all this and then it goes into this vacuum. I can only hope that somehow enough people get it into their hands to read it. […] (It does seem to sell: five thousand the first four weeks after publication. 25,000 will be printed in June by the Book Find Club.) So maybe I can say to hell with them but it's just that one would like for twenty minutes or so every three or four years to feel that one were not in this intellectual vacuum. Enough of all that tho.

You ask why Copenhagen? Well, they asked for me; nobody else did. Second, I like the idea of going to this little country. This first summer, I think I told you, I'll tour out of there by motorcycle; then in fall and winter I'll lecture on social psychology at the University. Then the second summer Katie and Ruth and I will spend one month in Austria, one in Spain (the two cheapest places), one in France, one in England. Thanks for the names you sent me. Certainly I'll look them up. Henning Friis (apparently the son of your friend) was very important in getting me over there: he is the social science advisor to the government from the university.

Got to sleep now. Will write after we're settled.



C. Wright Mills's maternal grandparents: Braxton Bragg Wright, a cattle rancher whose family had been in America for several generations, and his wife, Elizabeth Gallagher Wright (Biggy), the daughter of immigrants from Leitrim County, Ireland. Circa 1900. (Photo by Bolton and Mitchell, Laredo, Texas.)

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Mills's parents, Charles Grover Mills and Frances Ursula Wright, married in April 1912 when C. G. was twenty-two years old and Frances was eighteen. C. G. worked at a soda fountain before starting his career in the insurance business. Frances was a homemaker. (Mills family photo.)

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Mills at age eighteen (with the crooked cap, third from the left in the middle row) with fellow cadets at the Texas Agricultural and Mechanical College, 1934–35, before he transferred to the University of Texas at Austin. (Detail: Texas A & M class photo.)

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Dorothy Helen Smith (Freya) at age eighteen, in Anadarko, Oklahoma, 1931, about five years before she met Mills, whom she would marry in Austin, Texas, in 1937. (Photo courtesy of Freya James.)

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C. G. and Frances Mills in San Antonio, Texas, on June 1, 1940, when Mills was studying at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. (Mills family photo.)

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Hans Gerth, a German sociologist at the University of Wisconsin who had studied philosophy and social science at the University of Frankfurt. Gerth became Mills's collaborator on From Max Weber: Essays in Sociology(1946) and Character and Social Structure (1953). (Photo by C. Wright Mills.)

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Freya and Mills in Madison, Wisconsin, in March 1941, when they remarried. (Photo courtesy Freya James.)

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Mills and Pam in Greenbelt, Maryland, in 1944, when Mills was an associate professor of sociology at the University of Maryland. (Mills family photo.)

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Mills at age twenty-eight in a photo he submitted with his application for a Guggenheim Foundation grant in late 1944. (Photo by Brooke Studio, Maryland.)

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Ruth Harper at age twenty-four, in a photo she gave Mills several months before their marriage in July 1947. They met when Mills used some of his Guggenheim funding to hire her to do research for White Collar. (Photo by Blackstone Studios, New York, New York.)

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A gathering at the Millses' apartment in New York City in the late 1940s. From left to right: Dwight Macdonald, Leo Lowenthal, and Mills. (Photo by Ruth Mills.)

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Richard Hofstadter at the Millses' apartment in the late 1940s. (Photo by C. Wright Mills.)

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Mills and Pam in the summer of 1949 at Lake Temagami, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Ruth Mills.)

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Mills at thirty-three or thirty-four years of age, as shown on the jacket of White Collar.(Photo by Ruth Mills.)

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Ruth in the old farmhouse in Pomona, New York, that she and Mills were in the process of rebuilding in 1951. (Photo by C. Wright Mills.)

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In 1952 Mills tried his hand at growing vegetables, including lettuce and corn. (Photo by Ruth Mills.)

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Mills, at the head of the table, teaching a seminar at Columbia College, where he taught from 1947 to 1962. (Only male students attended during that period.)

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Harvey and Bette Beller Swados in the 1950s, on the porch of their home in Valley Cottage, Rockland County, New York, where Mills was a frequent visitor. Mills sought editorial advice on nearly all his books from Swados, who was a novelist, short-story writer, and essayist. (Swados family photo.)

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William Miller, a writer and historian, in the summer of 1958. Like Swados, Miller was a friend whose editorial help Mills repeatedly acknowledged. (Photo by C. Wright Mills.)

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Mills and Katie in Copenhagen, Denmark, where Mills was a visiting professor at the University of Copenhagen. (Photo by Ruth Mills.)

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Dan Wakefield in New York City in 1958. Mills took this photo for the jacket of Wakefield's first book, Island in the City: The World of Spanish Harlem (1959).

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Yaroslava Surmach with her oil painting of Mills entitled The Survivor (circa 1958). (Photo by C. Wright Mills.)

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Mills with Yaroslava's wool-and-canvas wall hanging The Fey Tiger (1958). In a letter written in 1958, Mills said he wanted to write a play or novel entitled "Unmailed Letters to a Fey Tiger." (Photo by Yaroslava Mills.)

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Ralph Miliband, at home in Hampstead, London, 1958 or 1959. In a letter to Miliband, Mills wrote, "I refuse to have any more of those pictures of you made up; I am a semiprofessional photographer, not a snap shooter; when next we meet I'll take a roll (36 shots). […] In the meantime you ought not to joke about your graven image." (Photo by C. Wright Mills.)

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Mills on the construction site of his home in New York, spring 1959. From left to right: Charlie Linguanti, a construction contractor who was Mills's friend and former neighbor, William (Chappy) Diederich, the architect who carried out the Millses' basic design for the house, and Mills. (Photo by Yaroslava Mills.)

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Yaroslava and Mills on their wedding day in June 1959. (Photo courtesy of Yaroslava Mills.)

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C. Wright Mills at home, circa fall 1959. (Photo by Yaroslava Mills.)

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Mills commuted to Columbia College on his motorcycle, which he assembled himself in the BMW factory in Germany. (Photo by Yaroslava Mills.)

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Mills in his study at home, circa 1959. (Photo by Yaroslava Mills.s)

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Mills in Cuernavaca, Mexico, in early 1960, when he taught a seminar at the University of Mexico. (Photo by Yaroslava Mills.)

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Mills and Katie in Warsaw, Poland, summer of 1961. (Photo by Yaroslava Mills.)

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Yaroslava, Niki, Katie, and Mills at Niki's first birthday in June 1961 at a chalet in the Swiss Alps called La Violette. Here Mills worked on an update to Listen, Yankee (1960), as well as the manuscript for The Marxists (1962). (Photo courtesy of Yaroslava Mills.)

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Yaroslava and Wright Mills (in front) with Ralph and Marion Miliband in London, fall 1961. (Time-release photo set up by Yaroslava Mills.)

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Mills's children, Kate, Pam, and Nik, in New York, the week of Mills's funeral, late March 1962. (Photo by Yaroslava Mills.)

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