C. Wright Mills


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“Marks an important contribution to our understanding of the provocative work of eminent sociologist Mills. The editors’ descriptions of the contexts of many letters, a chronology of Mills’s life, and notes on correspondents enrich this volume.”–Library Journal”This collection…reminds us of the writer’s scrupulous and generous mind, presenting ideas that continue to resonate today…[it] offers a glimpse into the writer’s personal life as well as into his intellectual relationships with such vital 20th-century thinkers as David Riesman, Saul Alinsky, Leo Lowenthal, Harvey Swados and Dan Wakefield… One of the great discoveries included in the book is Mills’s FBI file, which was started after he wrote the bestselling Listen, Yankee (1960), a defense of the Cuban revolution. This file, which documents a possible assassination attempt on Mills in response to the book, is a chilling reminder of the hostility faced by liberal intellectuals in the 1950.”–Publishers Weekly”The ‘Tovarich’ essays are among the highlights of the long overdue “C. Wright Mills: Letters and Autobiographical Writings” … a book of many revelations and felicities that sees the light of day 38 years after Mills’ death. This volume … is not a critical study, nor does it satisfy (to adapt Joyce Carol Oates’ term) pathographic impulses. But it is indispensable to a picture of intellectuals and politics in our time, tracing out the contours of a robust life of the mind, an odyssey that seems as quaint today as anything in Homer.”–Todd Gitlin, Los Angeles Times Book Review “In that unlovely decade, the 1950’s, the figure of C. Wright Mills swept across cold-war America like a meteor….This collection of letters, skillfully assembled by his daughters, are alternately prosaic and lyrical, comic and tragic, the fragments of a prematurely truncated life….In his introduction to this collection, Dan Wakefield, a former student who became a close friend, writes movingly of Mills’ artistic qualities.”–Tariq Ali, Financial Times “The anxious, conformist 1950’s, it now appears, were a high-water mark in American social criticism — from David Riesman, William F. Buckley Jr. and Dwight Macdonald to James Baldwin, Paul Goodman and, of course, C. Wright Mills. . . . Mills’s view of his work as art and literature probably helped him to attain a certan objectivity even in the midst of his indignation.”–John B. Judis, New York Times Book Review”A beautifully edited volume, […Mills’s] letters and autobiographical compositions show a consistent, sincere sense of his role as a redeemer of lost ideals…”–The Nation”The letters are at their best displaying Mills’ outsize personality. Almost every page conveys energy, vitality, immense animal spirits.”–In These Times”The extraordinary C. Wright Mills was an intellectual hero of the New Left, a model of the engaged academic. This volume of his letters and writings provides a fascinating insight into Mills as a person–as a family man and a friend–as well as a thinker. Mills packed so much into his terribly short life, and young people today should find inspiration in his enormous energy, his breadth of interest, and his political boldness.”–Howard Zinn, Boston University “This carefully and lovingly edited volume is bound to revive interest in the work and life of one of the most creative radical intellectuals of the postwar years.”–Lewis A. Coser, Boston University “C. Wright Mills was a passionate public citizen, and therefore, he wrote to be read beyond the academy. He succeeded, making many non-tenured people think, me included. This book further illuminates the life-force within this professor beyond borders.”–Nat Hentoff, author of Living the Bill of Rights “C. Wright Mills: Letters and Autobiographical Writings is an invaluable guide to the thought and sensibilities of one of the greatest sociologists of the twentieth century. This book is a must for sociologists, social science students and historians.”–Saul Landau, Hugh O. La Bounty Chair of Applied Interdisciplinary Knowledge, California Polytechnic University “The personal testimony of a courageous American thinker will afford younger readers a direct look at our past, and perhaps teach them–as Mills did for many of us–that living fully requires thinking largely.”–Norman Birnbaum, Georgetown University Law Center “Mills was among the most intellectually engaging of American social scientists, and he deserves our continuing attention. As these letters and autobiographical essays bring out, he exemplified both a highly personal perspective and a commitment to issues of basic public importance. He saw the connections between biography and intellectual insight, and in this wonderfully edited collection, his writings demonstrate a clarity of perception that adds to our understanding of both his work and his period.” –Craig Calhoun, President, Social Science Research CouncilOne of the leading public intellectuals of twentieth-century America and a pioneering and brilliant social scientist, C. Wright Mills left a legacy of interdisciplinary and hard-hitting work including two books that changed the way many people viewed their lives and the structure of power in the United States: White Collar (1951) and The Power Elite (1956). Mills persistently challenged the status quo within his profession–as in The Sociological Imagination (1959)–and within his country, until his untimely death in 1962. This collection of letters and writings, edited by his daughters, allows readers to see behind Mills’s public persona for the first time. Mills’s letters to prominent figures–including Saul Alinsky, Daniel Bell, Lewis Coser, Carlos Fuentes, Hans Gerth, Irving Howe, Dwight MacDonald, Robert K. Merton, Ralph Miliband, William Miller, David Riesman, and Harvey Swados–are joined by his letters to family members, letter-essays to an imaginary friend in Russia, personal narratives by his daughters, and annotations drawing on published and unpublished material, including the FBI file on Mills.

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