Government and Politics

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power elite. At the bottom of society are the unorganized, exploited masses. This power elite model is, in many respects, similar to the work of Karl Marx.

The most striking difference is that Mills felt that the economically powerful coordinate their maneuvers with the military and political establishments in order to serve their mutual interests. Yet, reminiscent of Marx. Mills argued that the corporate rich were perhaps the most powerful element of the power elite (first among "equals").

And, of course, there is a further dramatic parallel between the work of these conflict theorists The powerless masses at the bottom of Mills’s power elite model certainly bring to mind Marx’s portrait of the oppressed workers of the world, who have "nothing to lose but their chains". Mills failed to provide detailed case studies which would substantiate the interrelationship among members of the power elite. Instead, he suggested that such foreign policy decisions as America’s entry into the Korean war reflected a determination by business and military leaders that each could benefit from such armed conflict.

In Mills s view, such a sharing of perspectives was facilitated by the frequent interchange of commanding roles among the elite. For example, a banker might become the leader of a federal regulatory commission overseeing financial institutions, and a retired general might move to an executive position with a major defense contracting firm. A fundamental element in Mills’s thesis is that the power elite not only has relatively few members but also operates as a self-conscious, cohesive unit.

Although not necessarily diabolical or ruthless, the elite comprises similar types of people who regularly interact with one another and have essentially the same political and economic interests.

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