[C. Wright] Mills had more than enough energy and ambition to be a great sociologist, were he not undone by three tragic flaws—an inexplicable ignorance of contemporary technology and its impact on society; a masochism that drove him to overwork, motorcycles, drink, and a premature death at 46 (in 1962); and less love for empirical considerations than for his polemical purposes and his egomaniacal self.

Indeed, a recurring mythic form embodied in his books is a damning description of the forces that hinder the progress of the hero (Mills himself, in several guises) and then a call to the reader for aid. In this respect, it is indicative that the most empirically satisfactory of his books is the analysis of the society he knew best, his own academic professor—the topic where, fortuitously, Mills’ pet myth most truly wraps up the evidence.

The Maturity of American Thought (c. 1980, 2006)