14 December 2011

Elite Moneyed Life

The Power Elite by C. Wright Mills, 1956, Excerpts
Whenever the standards of the moneyed life prevail, the man with money, no matter how he got it, will eventually be respected. A million dollars, it is said, covers a multitude of sins. It is not only that men want money; it is that their very standards are pecuniary. In a society in which the money-maker has had no serious rival for repute and honor, the word ‘practical’ comes to mean useful for private gain, and ‘common sense,’ sense to get ahead financially. The pursuit of the moneyed life is the commanding value, in relation to which the influence of other values has declined, so men easily become morally ruthless in the pursuit of easy money and fast estate-building.

The very rich in America have been culturally among the very poor; the only kinds of experience for which they have been models are the material ones of money-getting and money-keeping. Material success is their sole basis of authority. The elite of wealth and power do not feel in need of any ideology. Perhaps nothing is of more importance to the conservative mood than the rhetorical victory and the intellectual and political collapse of American liberalism.

The higher immorality is a systematic feature of the American elite; its general acceptance is an essential feature of the mass society. The absence of any firm moral order of belief makes men in the mass all the more open to the manipulation and distraction of the world of the celebrities. A great deal of American corruption is simply a part of the old effort to get rich and then to become richer.

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