White Collar: The American Middle Classes is a pioneering and major study of the American middle class by a prominent sociologist C. Wright Mills, first published in 1951. In this research Mills analyzes the forming of a new class of the white-collar workers and also deals with the social alienation in the world of advanced capitalism, where cities are dominated by bureaucratic units of management and “salesmanship mentality”. Scrutinizing the politics of the American middle class, Mills coins an acute term of “the politics of the rearguard” and provides insightful observations which, in my view, could be easily applied to nowadays.
“Since [the new middle class) have no public position, their private positions as individuals determine in what direction each of them goes; but, as individuals, they do not know where to go. So now they waver. They hesitate, confused and vacillating in their opinions, unfocused and discontinuous in their actions. They are worried and distrustful but, like so many others, they have no targets on which to focus their worry and distrust. They may be politically irritable, but they have no political passion. They are a chorus, too afraid to grumble, too hysterical in their applause. They are rearguarders. In the shorter run, they will follow the panicky ways of prestige; in the longer run, they will follow the ways of power, for, in the end, prestige is determined by power. In the meantime, on the political market-place…, the new middle classes are up for sale; whoever seems respectable enough, strong enough, can probably have them.” (p. 353)
See the full book (in various open-access formats) here:
Mills, C. Wright. 1951. White Collar: The American Middle Classes. New York: Oxford University Press.