Sociologically imagined: the decentering of C. Wright Mills, the postmodern cowboy
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Examining early biographical events in C. Wright Mills’ life, along with his relationships to his family, some of whom he denied as even being family later in his life, the following study demonstrates a link between the early psychological traumas of a young Mills and the strong impact these had on his later intellectual thought. Such an approach looms as potentially important and beneficial in gaining insight into Mills’ theoretical positions when we turn to academics such as Alice Miller, Sigmund Freud and C.G. Jung who demonstrate the lasting and shaping impact that early psychological development has on the thoughts, ideas and expressions of older adults. Even for empirical-based sociologists who may be hesitant to accept psychoanalytic explanations, it is difficult to reject this position outright. Even within sociology’s own house, Max Weber, Talcott Parsons, David Riesman and C. Wright Mills also utilize basic psychoanalytic insights in their sociological writings. Using Mills’ psychological development as an entry point, this work demonstrates the similarities between Mills’ early biographical trajectory and its psychological impact on his later life as compared to very similar developments in the lives of Friedrich Nietzsche, Thorstein Veblen and Weber. Ultimately, we come to see that not only is Mills’ early psychological development similar to these earlier thinkers, but his intellectual thought later in his life is similar as well.
Kerr, Keith Thomas (2007). Sociologically imagined: the decentering of C. Wright Mills, the postmodern cowboy. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from