Introduction to United States Sociology

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    • 00:01

      SPEAKER 1: Today, what I'm going to dois look at the work of C Wright Mills.I'm going to tell you a bit about him, about his life,and also really focus on the book that'sthe subject of the cause-- or part of the cause-- whichis White Collar.

    • 00:24

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: C Wright Mills appears in history about a generationafter in the last sociologists that welooked at-- Nels Anderson.He basically is probably the most prominentAmerican sociologist to have an influence on the current, older

    • 00:45

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: generation of sociologists.So for example, when I went to study for my Ph.D.At the University of California in the 1980s,many of the professors that were thereknew C Wright Mills-- even though he died in 1962.They knew him and had associated with him.So he's not that sort of far back in history.

    • 01:07

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: And I would say that he's someone whose work reallyhas a continuing relevance to American society-- but not justAmerican society, to a whole kind of global thinkingabout the global world political order and economic order,

    • 01:29

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: and even to thinking about developments in Europe,including this country.And some of the things I'm going to say about his work todaymight even have some resonance with your own experience.Now, before I talk about his main--the book that we're looking at here, White Collar, which

    • 01:52

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: was published in 1951-- I'll just tell youabout some of his other works.He was basically somebody who wrote books.He came of age when scholarship was about writing books.After the '60s and '70s, the focus in academiamoved to writing articles.

    • 02:13

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: But he wrote books, which I think stillhave a very powerful and lasting influence on us.In 1956, he published a book called The Power Elite.And this book, like his other books,are known for their bold arguments

    • 02:36

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: about the nature and character of society--or American society.In that book, he argued that contraryto the dominant narratives about the United States,that the United States is not actually a democracy.Or to be more precise, democracy does not really

    • 02:56

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: define American government.But rather American government iscomposed of an oligarchy of vested interestswho control all branches of the government and the US military.And basically what he was saying isthat there are interlocking-- he called them interlocking

    • 03:17

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: directorates or interlocking partnerships--of people in politics, in business, in the military.And these are tied together by shared economic and socialinterest.They intermarry with each other.They hold the same stocks and shares.

    • 03:40

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: They cultivate the same tastes.They go to the same country clubs, that sort of thing.The same dinner parties.They all believe in power.They all believe in power for its own stake.And he even went so far at the end of the bookto say that they enlist the power of the mass media

    • 04:02

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: to perpetuate their own grip on American politics.So they produce images, TV shows,advertising that make people more acquiescent to the ideathat the US is ruled by a power elite.

    • 04:24

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: And that thesis has been a very important onein American sociology and even in American political science.Many works came after that, whichlooked at the detail, the fine-grained detail of howthese interlocking families and individuals control

    • 04:46

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: various kinds of institutions in American society.So this has been a very powerful challenge, really,to the dominant narrative of America.And then in 1959, three years before he died,he published this book, which was actually

    • 05:07

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: one of the first books I read as an undergraduate studentat the University of Arizona in Tucson, Arizona.In fact, it still has my name in there,and it was December 1979 when I read this book,The Sociological Imagination.And, basically, in that book, he turned his attention

    • 05:29

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: to sociology and what sociology should actually be all about.And he argues that sociology is really a humanistic enterprise.It's not a scientific enterprises,and that what sociologists should be doingis that they should be connecting private grievances

    • 05:50

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: with public issues.So you link the private with the public.You examine real social problems.You identify what a real social problem is.And so in that book, he gives youa few examples of what a social problem isand what should be under the purview of sociology.So he says, for instance, in a town,

    • 06:12

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: say 100,000, maybe the size of Colchester,if there are 10 people who are unemployed,then we look to the psychology of the individual.We look to their conduct, their behavior.We look at them as individuals to find out

    • 06:33

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: why they haven't got a job, because it'ssuch a small number.But if in 100,000 people, 20% of them-- or 10%, 20% of them--are unemployed, we can't see that as a psychological issue.That is a sociological issue, and it callsfor a sociological analysis.So we have to look at the structure of society.

    • 06:58

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: He also, in that book, argues that the hallmarkof very good sociology is historical perspective.So you can never look at anything in abstraction.You cannot look at any issue without taking on boardhistory.We have to know how did things get this way,

    • 07:18

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: and that's a given.You can't just take a snapshot.And that would be a criticism of some other kinds of sociology,which maybe engage in a study at a particular pointin a particular time.That's just a snapshot.It doesn't help us explain how things got that way.Another hallmark of C Wright Mills' work

    • 07:42

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: is basically an attempt to craft his writing.So he ensures that his sentences flow,that he avoids jargon, unlike many other social scientists.He uses humor.And as we'll see as I go along with this presentation,he uses parody, he uses satire.

    • 08:05

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: He even parodies other sociologists.He tries to sort of translate what they're saying.And he takes quotes from one sociologistcalled Talcott Parsons, who is a famous American sociologistat the time, who wrote in a very turgid, dense, heavy style.And he would take a paragraph of Parson's writings

    • 08:29

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: and translate that into one sentence.So it's stripped of all the verbiage.What some of these social theorists in particularare saying doesn't really amount to very much.So he was trying to be a more literary kind of sociologist.He tells us in letters and diaries

    • 08:49

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: that he left that he tries not to rely on others.He's not constantly name checking other authorities,other sociologists.He's trying to rely on his own observations, his own insights,his own imagination.So what kind of a life did he have?

    • 09:10

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: Well, unfortunately, he had a fairly short life.Much of his academic life was the life of an outsider.So he was from Waco, Texas.And he got a position as an assistant professor

    • 09:30

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: at Columbia University in New York.But for various reasons-- partly because hewas seen to be on the outside, he wasbut he was seen to be a nonconformist-- he was neverpromoted at Columbia University.So despite the fact that he wrote booksthat people are still talking about today,

    • 09:52

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: and we're talking about it in that day,he was never promoted.And some people think that this waspart of his grievance against academia,against the university, that the universities werevery conservative.They didn't value the imagination.And they didn't value the people that drove to work sometimeson motorbikes.And his being from Texas, he sometimes wore a 10-gallon hat.

    • 10:16

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: He would wear a cowboy hat around the halls of Columbia.Today, we might call him a public intellectual.There's a whole category of peoplethat were called public intellectuals in the UnitedStates.He was cosmopolitan.He was very well traveled.

    • 10:37

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: He came to Europe a lot.He went to Cuba.He went to South America.He participated in the social movements of the day.He was one of the founders of the free speech movement, whichbasically expressed itself on university campuses,especially the one I went to, University of Californiaat Berkeley.

    • 10:58

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: And in his short life, he also packed in three marriages.The other thing that's quite notable about him--at least from our perspective-- is that he was actuallyfriends with Ralph Miliband.Ralph Miliband is the father of Ed and David Miliband.

    • 11:19

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: David Miliband-- does anyone knowDavid Miliband's middle name, not that you should?His middle name is Wright.So David Miliband was named after C Wright Mills.And here's a picture of Ralph Miliband, who himself[Ralph and Marion Miliband with Yaroslavaand C. Wright Mills, London] was a sociologist, a verygood sociologist, at the London School of Economics.

    • 11:39

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: And he wrote a book called The Statein Capitalist Society, which was a classic at the time.And Marian, who I think is still alive, the mother,and there is C Wright Mills and one of his wives, Yaroslava.His concern, then, in this book, White Collar,

    • 12:02

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: is with bureaucracy.And in White Collar, he tries to presenta picture of social change in American society.He's trying to show you how American society has changed,and basically how it's changed through realignment of power

    • 12:23

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: brought about by the growth of large organizationsin the private sector and in the public sector,and how he believes that these large organizations--these large corporations-- were redefiningthe American character.They were redefining American society.They were creating different kinds

    • 12:44

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: of personalities in the US.They were redefining what success is and what failure is.So he was concerned with the growth of this bureaucracy.And he believed that bureaucracy washaving a powerful determinant on people's life experiencesand that bureaucracies were increasingly shaping society

    • 13:09

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: as a whole.You can see in this work and in other worksthe influence of the German sociologist whodied in 1920, Max Weber.If any of you had taken the first year sociologygeneral course, you will be familiar with Weber.And he was a great admirer and actually

    • 13:29

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: translator of Weber's work.And Weber famously wrote about bureaucraciesas the defining feature of the 20th century.So he thought that this was what wasgoing to actually characterize society for some time to come.

    • 13:50

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: And Weber believed, for instance,that the expansion of industrialismand the expansion of capitalism required vast organizations--vast bureaucracies-- to administer the demands that

    • 14:11

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: were placed on the economy.So with the growth of capitalism and industrialization,you get a refinement of the division of labor.So decision-making then becomes a functionof fixed rules and regulations.The bureaucracy is a rational organization.It has a large number of employees.

    • 14:34

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: It has a production process.It has chains of authority.It has hierarchies.The employees obey the rules-- notas they did in the past, because out of allegiance to the boss,or to the owner of the farm, or whatever-- but out

    • 14:55

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: of allegiance to the person who holds a position-- your manageror your CEO, etc.And that they carry the power of compulsion.So it's impersonal.The rules in a bureaucracy are impersonal.They're codified.They're a set of codified rules as to how

    • 15:19

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: business should be carried out.So this is Weber's analysis, and it's also Mill's analysisthat these big bureaucracies are increasingly shaping society.These bureaucracies are needed by the capitalist economy.

    • 15:43

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: The capitalist economy, therefore,requires a capitalist society.So this economy could not operatewithout people and the activitiesthat people do being shaped to fit that economy.And a person who kind of articulated this sometime

    • 16:04

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: before-- and this is a fantastic book, by the way,and as you can see, it's rather old and tattered on thisimage-- called Karl Polanyi, The Great Transformation.['Such an institutional pattern could not function unlesssociety was somehow subordinated to its requirements.A market economy can only exist in a market society.' KarlPolanyi, (1944), The Great Transformation--The Political and Economic Origins of Our Time, Boston;Beacon Books, 71.]And this, again, is a big book-- it'sa big sweep of time-- the politicaland economic origins of our time that he looked at.And he says."Such an institutional pattern" --meaning bureaucracies--

    • 16:26

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: "could not function unless society was somehowsubordinated to its requirements.A market economy can only exist in a market society."So the whole society has to be turned into a market-- not justthe economy, the whole society.So what happens then in the 20th century and 20th century

    • 16:48

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: America is that you have the advent of the white collarworld.The white collar world comes into existence.Millions of Americans come to be bland and unheralded people

    • 17:12

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: working 9:00 to 5:00.They start to become more visible in the 20th century.At the outset of the book, Mills points outhow these kind of 9:00 to 5:00 workers-- these blandkinds of people-- start to turn upin American literature, film, plays.

    • 17:34

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: The classic, of course, is Death of a Salesman.Has anyone ever seen that, read it?You've seen that.Did you see it here, in Colchester?

    • 17:45

      SPEAKER 2: No.

    • 17:47

      SPEAKER 1: It was on in Colchester recently.It's the story of Willy Loman, someonewho tries to be-- against all the odds--a great success as a salesman but becomesa huge failure at life.[The Office and Business World appears in American Literatureand Art-- 'Death of a Salesman' by Arthur Miller (1949)and Edward Hopper's 'Office at Night' (1940)]So it's something that's kind of dissecting

    • 18:07

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: this whole world of sales and what it is to be sales.Sure, even in American art, Edward Hopperis one of the most famous 20th century American painters.And he's known for a number of these kinds of-- I would callthem vignettes of American life, and this one is justcalled The Office At Night.

    • 18:28

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: More and more people are ending up like that,doing that kind of thing.But that picture is quite ambiguous as well.What's the gender relation here?What's going on here?But really this is not a heroic scene.This is not a heroic painting.There's a kind of ennui in that painting.

    • 18:50

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: So the white collar world becomes a placewhere both great dreams are hatched,aspirations are raised, but also they'redashed at the same time.And excitement quickly turns to boredom.

    • 19:11

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: And so this is what's starting to show up in American culture.People are starting to comment on this,that more and more people are spendingtheir lives as a salesman, or in offices, or filing,or typing, doing that sort of work.

    • 19:31

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: And one of the interesting elements of C Wright Mill'swork is he shows how the inner life of the personis affected by this kind of outer life.A later sociologist called Arlie Hochschild--H-O-C-H-S-C-H-I-L-D-- would call this emotional labor,

    • 19:54

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: that whenever you labor, you have to put emotions into it.So you're not just selling your labor,you're also selling part of yourself.There's some emotions that-- likeI'm emitting at the moment-- thatare going into what I'm doing.So all labor is also kind of emotional,has an emotional element to it.

    • 20:16

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: So what Mills says is that the growth of the white collarworker runs in tandem with the declineof the independent mind, the autonomous individual,the free individual.The mass of workers, he says-- only he uses this term cheerful

    • 20:36

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: robots-- they become cheerful robots.They're stripped of all independence of thought.They simply follow and internalize rules.And you might ask then, OK, well,if he's got a historical dimension, howdoes he explain it?How did this come to be?Well, he says that there used to bein the 19th century an old middle class,

    • 20:58

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: an old American middle class, and the American societywas predominately rural until very recently.So in the 19th century, 75% of peoplewere farmers who worked on farms.By 1950, it was 10%.So within a fairly short compass,you've got this exodus out of the rural life,

    • 21:20

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: out of rural occupations, into urban work places.Many of these people are decanted into offices.They start to work in offices, and hehas all sorts of phrases that he uses for this world.

    • 21:44

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: He calls it the great sales room, the enormous file.He talks about a new universe of management and manipulation.And for him, the word management and manipulationare almost the same.They're almost synonymous with each other.So this is what's replacing the American dream.

    • 22:07

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: So in the past, one could be a self-made person.You could be a self-made entrepreneur.You could stand or fall on your own wit.And a majority of people in the UnitedStates in the 19th century were able to sort of fashionsome sort of life doing that.

    • 22:30

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: But the era of the self-made man, he says,which was a prototype of the American dream, is dead.And consequently, in to a certain extent,the American dream has disappearedunder the boot of the corporation,that it's corporations that really control America.

    • 22:50

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: And so he even challenges the ideathat Americs-- in this book as well-- is a democracy.He says, in the past, there was some linkbetween free enterprise, and private property,and American democracy, and that small entrepreneurscould make a living.

    • 23:10

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: They could compete in the democratic society.And he says they're now broken behind the big moneyof the corporations, who centralize productionand consumption.He tells us fairly near the beginning of the book,"Classic democracy no longer exists in America."

    • 23:30

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: There's no democracy anymore, because we don't havea liberal democratic society.We have a managed corporate society,where there's less and less room for individual independence.So the flair and individuality of the past,the flair and individuality that was expressed,

    • 23:51

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: say, in the craftsmanship of the individual entrepreneur,is replaced by the standardized productsof the factories, the standardized approach of WillyLoman, of the corporate salesman selling.What are they selling?

    • 24:11

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: They're not selling things they made.They're selling mass produced goodsthat are made in factories.And today they're made in factoriesthat we don't even know where they're made, as the horse meatscandal demonstrates.So basically what he's saying there'sa diminution of variety.

    • 24:31

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: There's a diminution of variability.It's a supermarket model, which decreasesthe range and variety of goods thatare on sale, by standardizing.So the number of apples, say, for instance in Britain,56 years ago was far more than you would have today on sale.

    • 24:52

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: There's been a diminution.We want just shiny, red, waxy apples.And that's a kind of metaphor for the whole society.He says it's becoming shined, waxy apples,is what we're producing.There's also little democracy, hesays, because the American economy doesn't work according

    • 25:16

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: to free market principles.It might have in the 19th century,where there was a minimum of state intervention.People bought and sold from farmsand from small entrepreneurs.They bargained.They haggled.They bartered.They traded, etc.But in the era of the big corporation,

    • 25:37

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: it's not a free market.It's a rigged market.So big businesses fix the prices.They fix the prices between themselves.Sometimes they bring in the trade union.Sometimes they bring in agribusiness or big farmers.But the idea is that the price isset-- not by market, that is an illusion-- it

    • 25:58

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: is set by corporations that operate in tandem.So it's starting to disintegrate, here,a number of cherished ideas about American society.OK, so who are these people, now?Who are these bland, heralded, faceless people?Who are these people?

    • 26:19

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: Well, he calls them the new middle class.They're managers, they're salaried professionals,they're salespeople, they're office workers,they're even university professors,and I'll get back to that later.And these comprise an increasing part of the US workforce.

    • 26:41

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: So in the past, he says, the 19th century craftsman,the 19th century entrepreneur wouldwork on the total product.You would work on the whole thing from beginning to end.Increasingly, this has disappeared.And you have more people that actually spend their time not

    • 27:02

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: working on one product, but planning, coordinating,administering new routines for other people,administering new tasks for other people.These individuals spend their dayscompiling records, making records, managing,coordinating, obeying the bureaucratic hierarchies

    • 27:26

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: and chains of command.And you can see this in the private sector,in the corporations, but also in the public sector,in the government, in the hospitals, in the schools,in the police forces, in the courts, in the universities,as well.So one of the things I think is quite interesting about Mills

    • 27:46

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: is that he put universities in the picture.So many sociologists do not.They airbrush it out, but he sees the universityas part of the trends that he's analyzing.And since he has a lot of experience in universities,he knows what he's talking about.He observes from the inside what'sgoing on in the universities.

    • 28:08

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: And I'll come back to that a bit later.So who do you have?Who are these new middle class?OK, one category are managers.Managers are responsible for these kinds of tasksthat I've just been describing coordinating,planning, administrating.Most organizations have a pyramid shape,

    • 28:31

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: and there's different kinds of managers.There's lower managers, middle managers, top managers.There's sales managers.There's different sorts of managers taskedwith different sorts of things.And one of the things that he actually comments on is--and this is where we get to a little bit of parody--

    • 28:53

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: is the culture of management.What is the culture of management?And here we have him saying here--I can see it from here too-- [Mills' parody of managementstyle--]"Seen from close to the top, managementis the ethos of the higher circle."And then he sort of parodies it. "Concentrate power,

    • 29:13

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: but enlarge your staff.Down the line make them feel part of what you are a part.Set up a school for managers, and manage what managers learn;open a channel of two way communication,commands go down, information goes up.Keep a firm grip, but don't boss them, boss their experience."

    • 29:37

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: I like this, "don't let them learn what you don't tell them.Be calm, judicious, rational.Groom your personality, and control your appearance.Make business a profession.Develop yourself.Write a memo.Hold a conference with men like you.And in all of this, be yourself, and be human.Nod gravely to the girls in the office.

    • 29:59

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: Say hello to the men.And always listen carefully to the ones above you.Over last weekend, I gave much thoughtto the information you kindly tendered me on Friday,especially--" Blah, blah, blah.[C. Wright Mills, (2002), [1951], White Collar, TheAmerican Middle Classes.New York, Oxford University Press, 81.]This is the culture of management.This is what management becomes.

    • 30:19

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: And so the work of the manager is about change.It's about decisions.You have to be a decision maker to be a manager.You have to be a decision maker.You constantly review and alter your policies.You're constantly making these kinds of decisions.

    • 30:43

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: As someone pointed out-- a playwright-- activityin management equals achievement.You're constantly changing things.That's how you can show that you've actuallybeen working, that that's how you've been doing things.So you have to be skilled at decision making and managing--or what I should say is manipulation.

    • 31:04

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: You have to be skilled at manipulating people.But it's not all a meritocracy in these organizations.As Mills points out, there are inbuilt systemsof nepotism and favoritism that favors a particular kindof personality.

    • 31:26

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: So there's a reward structure in the bureaucracies thatencourages people to be constantly climbing,constantly thinking about the next reward,the next promotion.And to do this, you have to be very dedicated to the company.

    • 31:46

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: And this does to shape your personality.This, of course-- as we will discuss in two weeks' time,when we look at Betty Friedan-- is highly gendered,because there's far more opportunitiesfor men to become company men.Even the phrase a company man, to be a company man,means you're a man who identifies

    • 32:08

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: very strongly with the company.There isn't a word-- or there wasn't a wordat that time-- a company woman.So another difference between these managersand the old middle class of the 19th centuryis the enormous increase in compensation,

    • 32:30

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: in executive compensation.Again, this is something that has been in the newshere in Britain over the last few years,since the banking crisis in 2006.The amount paid to top managers arefar above the rewards that accrued previouslyto the small entrepreneurs.

    • 32:52

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: And Mills believes that bureaucracy inculcatesa kind of craving for money, and money to do,what money to buy material possessions, whichbasically defines the white collar employeeand defines the person.So success is determined by position,

    • 33:14

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: but position, then with it, comes money.With money, becomes material possessions.And the material possessions definewho you are as a human being.How much you earn becomes the real benchmark of your status.

    • 33:34

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: But he thinks this is a kind of endless pursuit of money,because he says the more one makes, the more one needs.And if one did not continue to make money,one would experience failure.So you have to keep chasing money.Otherwise, you'll define yourself as a failure.

    • 33:58

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: So managers is one group.A second group are professionals.And he says that prior to the rise of the bureaucracy,professionals were people involved in arts and sciences.That's what a professional was, a scientist, a photographer,an artist, a geologist, whatever.

    • 34:21

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: These people were the professionals.Increasingly, the definition of professionalwas expanded to include managers.So a manager becomes a profession,becomes a professional.So this fusion of bureaucracy and commercialization

    • 34:42

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: becomes a new-- and perhaps the most powerful--professional class over a very short span of time.So in the past, you have also scientists, for example.Scientists were independent.They were supposed to be creatively minded.

    • 35:04

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: They were supposed to seek out new formulas, new discoveriesin the natural world.What he says is that science is increasinglybent to the economy, that sciencebecomes applied to commercial life.

    • 35:24

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: And it becomes applied to commercial lifethrough technology, so the task of the scientistis no longer to have a discovery or a breakthrough about howto explain our world.It's to produce a technology that is useful in the largereconomg-- something that you can actually sell,something that is in service to this capitalist economy.

    • 35:49

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: So knowledge becomes narrowed and becomes closely alliedwith the commercial.One example of that today, for example, is medical research.So who funds medical research?Government?

    • 36:05

      SPEAKER 3: Donation?

    • 36:07

      SPEAKER 1: Some donation.Yeah, and that might be wealthy people.So if they donate money, then they want particular results.Anyone else there?The pharmaceutical industry.So the pharmaceutical industry actuallypays for lots of medical research.So you have this kind of fusion of a commercial interestand science.

    • 36:27

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: And he says that this kind of perverts it and skews it.Along with all this comes changes in education.So he extends his analysis to college professors, whoincreasingly, he says, do not teach independence of mind,

    • 36:47

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: but knowledge that is functional to the capitalist economyand to commercial ends.And colleges themselves are startingto vocationalize education.We have added to university business schools.Well, not so long ago, it would have been a joketo consider that business was an academic subject,

    • 37:09

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: but that's not the case at all anymore.So he doesn't call it education.He calls it the training, and he makes a distinctionbetween education.The training of managers becomes the provinceof a business school.You have now a very prestigious MBAsthat you can get all around the world.

    • 37:33

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: So that's another trend, the kindof subservience of knowledge to business and to commercial end.And this knowledge itself also becomesmore and more fragmented.So in the past, a professor wouldhave had a very broad knowledge of the world,

    • 37:55

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: would have had familiarity with different kindsof academic disciplines.And he says, today-- and he's talking 50 years ago,but I think this still applies today-- the professor hasa very specialized knowledge.And they're not able to connect their knowledgewith other broader currents of knowledge.

    • 38:17

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: You get the segmentation of different academicdisciplines-- anthropology, sociology, psychology,economics.The field of economics, the discipline of economics,emerges as a profession simply devotedto producing knowledge that is usefulto commercial enterprises.

    • 38:39

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: So you have a whole academic discipline, economics,that's producing this knowledge that'sin the service of one economic model.So he says, what's happens to these professors?Well, these professors in the universities, their livesbecome more bureaucratic.

    • 38:59

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: They're involved in more administrative work.Sometimes he points out of his own field, sociology,he says often a journalist is moresociological than a sociologist--and often knows more.And he talks about the cult of objectivity in sociologyand measurement in academia.

    • 39:20

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: There's a kind of emphasis on systematizing knowledge,bureaucratizing knowledge, and pushing outcreativity and originality.He then goes even further and says,it's not just in the university.It's not just the professors.

    • 39:41

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: It's in the arts.We have now a culture industry.This culture industry-- in the past, artists,photographers, writers were bohemians.They were subversive.They were people like Arthur Miller, who were actuallyproducing social commentaries or producing

    • 40:02

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: new visions of the world.Not anymore.We have a culture industry of popular literature, magazines,radio dramas, TV scripts that arein the service of either pacifying peopleor producing commodities for mass consumption.

    • 40:23

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: And you have the whole field of advertising.So and you can get a degree now in advertising.So you have this whole area calledadvertising, which is basically devoted to sellingcompany products.And he thinks that it entails a kind of Faustian pact

    • 40:43

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: to be an advertiser, because advertising-- in his view--is basically lying.You're just lying.So but he says what does that effect does that have,[Mills on advertising] "When a man sells the lies of others,he is also selling himself.To sell himself is to turn himself into a commodity."

    • 41:04

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: So this is Willy Loman.This is the world of the salesman."A commodity does not control the market.Its nominal worth is determined by what the market will offer."[C. Wright Mills, (2002), [1951], White Collar,The American Middle Classes, New York.Oxford University Press, 153.] You become a commodity.When you start to sell lies, you startto believe what these companies tell you about their products.

    • 41:26

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: And then, finally, , we have salesmanship.The most important figure in many bureaucraciesare the salesmen or the salespeople.The sales person, the person that'spromoting the company, promoting the company's products,

    • 41:46

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: is really key.It's imperative to the organization.As he tells us, the salesman's worldhas become everybody's world.The whole world is starting to become suffused with selling.And again you get a sort of slight parodyhere of salesmanship.

    • 42:07

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: [Mills on salesmanship--] Here we go."The salesman's world has now become everybody's world.And in some part, everybody has become a salesman.The enlarged market has become at once more impersonaland more intimate.What is there that does not pass through the market?Everything passes through the market-- love, science, virtue,

    • 42:29

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: conscience, friendliness, carefully nurturedskills, animosities.This is a time of venality.The market now reaches into every institutionand every relation.The bargaining manner, the huckstering animus,the memorized theology of pep."You always want to be upbeat about what you're selling.

    • 42:53

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: "The commercialized evaluation of personal traits."You look at someone.Is he going to sell?Is he is a seller?Is he a winner or is he a loser?You want to sort of develop traits that are commercial."They are all around us.In public and private, there is a tang and the feelof salesmanship." [C. Wright Mills, (2002), [1951],

    • 43:14

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: White Collar, The American Middle Classes, New York.Oxford University Press, 161.] That's the world that Americais going into.So he continues, and he says a lotabout this world of selling.And what explains this emphasis on sellingis that companies constantly have to sell things.And one of the features of the production process that he

    • 43:36

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: makes reference to is built-in obsolescence,built-in obsolescence.So to ensure continued demand for a product,you cannot make things to last.If you made things to last, then youwould be destroy your continuing sales.

    • 43:56

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: So he says that companies deliberatelymake things-- or build things-- thatwon't last very long in order to continue a supply.And he talks about the concept of fashionis designed to feed this continuingconsumption and continuing demand to sell things, OK.

    • 44:17

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: So, near finally, got about 10 minutes, 5 minutes left.What kind of world again are these people living in?Well, they're living in the world of the office, parodiedrecently by Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant,

    • 44:37

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: and also that program aired in the US with Steve Carell,was the Brent character in that.It's a ripe environment for social observation and parody.So you have these offices, you have these officesthat people are working in.

    • 44:60

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: Increasingly they have less and less autonomy.They have less and less control over what they do.Their work is centralized.Their work is controlled.There are machines-- he calls them machines at the time,but what we might call them computers today.We have computers that make the work measurable, that

    • 45:23

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: create continuous surveillance of what people do at work.He says that the offices increasinglylook like factories.So you have open plan offices wherepeople are kind of working on different partsof administrative tasks, much like a kindof conveyor belt in a factory.

    • 45:44

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: The women in the office he observesare doing most of the routine office work,and that this is almost monopolized by women.And the routine office work, he says in the 1950s America,becomes the place where women's aspirationsare realized and dashed.

    • 46:04

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: It becomes a place for social climbing.But also becomes a place of frustration, boredom,and despair.And because there are so few slots in the organization thatrequire the kind of fairly unskilled work at the bottom,there's very little chance of promotion.

    • 46:25

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: So this is this kind of office, business, bureaucratic world,and then he looks at success and failure.So what constitutes success?So success in the past was a self-made man.The person who could make something.The person who could do something.The person who could grow something

    • 46:45

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: from beginning to end.That was the person who was memorialized, even,in the American dream.So it's no longer about what you do, what you can make.It's about being a good employee,

    • 47:06

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: being employee of the month in a large organization.It's managing the staff.It's seeking promotions.It's getting a pay rise.It's about continuous-- and to do this, he says,you have to engage in risk taking, chancing,and continuous self-promotion.

    • 47:27

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: You always want to be self-promoting.You've got to dazzle.You've got to stand out.You've got to continually sell yourself.If you're not selling yourself, youain't going to get very far.That's what he's saying.So this is one thing.So another dimension of this is education.

    • 47:48

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: So education is one means for peopleto get elevated in companies.But in the past, he said, people went to university or schoolfor education, and education means expanding your mind,learning different kinds of knowledge,meeting other people.

    • 48:09

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: It's striving for some kind of enlightenment.And I would hope that some of youhere to expand your horizons, to learn different perspectiveson the world.But he says that's been reduced.Those aims have been reduced, and education nowis a ticket to a job.

    • 48:29

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: And the content of education has narrowedto fit the needs of big corporations and government.And he says here-- and this is 50 years ago on universitystudents-- [Mills on University Students--] "The aimof the college men," and remember it was mostly men,"today, especially in elite colleges,is a forward-looking job in a large corporation.

    • 48:53

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: Such a job involves training, not only in vocational skills,but also in social mannerisms."You come to university also to train yourself.How will you sell yourself?How are you going to get that job in that corporationor in a government bureaucracy or in an enormous file?But he says, there's a huge disparity between aspiration

    • 49:16

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: and achievement, right, because not everyonecan get to university.And he makes this point, which I thinkis probably still valid to a certain extent today,that "the father's income, rather than the boy's brains,determines who shall be college trained." [C. WrightMills, (2002), [1951], White Collar, The American MiddleClasses.New York, Oxford University Press, 267, 268.] Right,so not everyone can do this, and he realizes that.

    • 49:40

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: So he talks about then that this is success,and how you get success, and how you get promotions,and how you have to groom your personality,groom your appearance.But it's quite pessimistic.Not many people can do it, can get upto the top of an organization, because it's

    • 50:01

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: a pyramid structure.And there are not many slots at the top.So for those people that can't dazzle,that can't sell themselves, what happens with them?And he says, well, there's a whole group of peoplethat are failures, that this system producesmany people that are failures.

    • 50:23

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: How does the system deal with that?Now, one of his answers is the system deals with itthrough inspirational literature,emphasizing relaxation, peace of mind,yoga, retreat from external ambitions, redirect failure,alleviate the self-doubt, and the guilt from lack of success.

    • 50:48

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: Get into these kinds of pursuits,and it's a way of cooling out your discontent.So he says that our society has alsodeveloped all sorts of mechanismsfor cooling out discontent.Just finally, so how do I sum up this book in Mills?

    • 51:08

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: I think, he's trying to characterizethe American way of life, what has happenedto the American way of life over time,how it's changed from people being autonomous, independent,creative, making things on their own,doing things, educating themselvesfor the sake of education to being channeled narrowly

    • 51:32

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: towards commercial and bureaucratic end,and that this bureaucracy, he says,is starting to dictate American social structureand American personality.OK, I'll leave it like that.

Introduction to United States Sociology

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Abstract

A conference presenter gives an introduction to United States sociology and the work of C. Wright Mills. C. Wright Mills is an influential American sociologist who wrote several books, including White Collar. The presenter also discusses bureaucracy, the free market, and the new middle class.

Introduction to United States Sociology

A conference presenter gives an introduction to United States sociology and the work of C. Wright Mills. C. Wright Mills is an influential American sociologist who wrote several books, including White Collar. The presenter also discusses bureaucracy, the free market, and the new middle class.

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