This is taken from From Counterculture to Cyberculture by Fred Turner, page 29.
“As means of information and of power are centralized,” wrote sociologist C. Wright Mills in 1956, “some men come to occupy positions in American society from which they can look down upon…and by their decisions mightly affect, the everyday lives of ordinary men and women.” Under the controlling eye of this “power elite,” Mills argued, ordinary Americans found themselves trapped in corridors and offices, unable to envision, let alone take charge of, the entirety of their work or lives. Ordinary people lacked the ability to “reason about the great structures – rational and irrational – of which their milieux are subordinate parts,” he explained. So too, in a way did the men at the top.
For critics like Mills, both the masters of bureaucracy and their minions suffered from a paring away of emotional life and a careful separation of psychological functions. After World War II, reationalization had begun to give rise to “the man who is ‘with’ rationality but without reason, who is increasingly self-rationalized and also increasingly uneasy.” This man, continued Mill, was a “Cheerful Robot.”
Sheldon S. Wolin, in Democracy Inc., takes this further – everyone, rich or poor, identifies with the powers that be.
Mill’s critique could be heard echoing throughout the 1960s in works as varied at Jacques Ellul’s The Technical Society (1964), John Kenneth Galbraith’s The New Industrial State (1967), Herbert Marcuse’s One-Dimensional Man (1964), Lewis Mumford’s The Myth of the Machine (1967), Theodore Roszak’s The Making of a Counterculture (1969), and Charles Reich’s The Greening of America (1970).
Like Mills, these authors suggested that society was undergoing a rapid process of centralization and rationalization, a process both supported by new technologies and designed to help the. The resulting social order went by a variety of names – the “technostructure” (Galbraith), the “Technological Society” (Ellul) the “technocracy” (Roszak). In each case, critics pointed to computers and automation as forces driving the rise of this new way of life.
A way of life that was really a way of death.