SAAP Annual Meeting 2013

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Reclaiming the Pragmatist Sociological Imagination of C. Wright Mills

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David Woods
NYU Poly
United States

At a 2009 conference in New York City in honor of the fiftieth anniversary of the publication of C. Wright Mills’ The Sociological Imagination, leading progressive scholars analyzed his three-pronged theoretical framework: history, biography, and social structure. The consensus was that Mills’ theoretical moorings were anchored in Marx. However, this essay argues that Mills drew more deeply on American Pragmatism for his progressive theoretical framework, and that his whole way of being as a scholar was as a critical and creative contributor to Dewey and Mead’s strain of pragmatist thought. although he also incorporated Marx as one element in his theoretical milieu, especially in theorizing about power, elites, and political economy. Reading Mills as a radical pragmatist helps us to better understand his contributions to the development of contemporary participatory democratic theory, especially through the Students for a Democratic Society’s employment of his ideas in their Port Huron Statement.


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