The White Collar Book by C. Wright Mills Essay

January 7, 2022 by Essay Writer

Updated: Mar 25th, 2020


The White Collar Book by C. Wright Mills is the collection of poetry and prose about the working world. The author touched upon almost every aspect of the white-collar employees’ work nowadays as well as the historic background of the American economy. The aim of this essay is to compare and contrast two pieces of prose included in the book: The World of the Small Entrepreneur and The Rhetoric of Competition.

Thesis Statement

The World of the Small Entrepreneur is devoted to the history of American entrepreneurship. The experience of America in the formation of capitalistic society and economy was very different from the European experience. Farmers played a crucial role in the development of the middle class in America. The ownership of property was one of the main aspects describing the capitalistic society.

The Rhetoric of Competition is devoted to the competition in the capitalistic economy. The concept of competition is rather controversial and every member of the economic community has their own attitude to it. The concept of competition is inevitably connected with the concept of entrepreneurship.

The Comparison of Two Pieces of Prose

The chapter The World of the Small Entrepreneur describes the formation of capitalism and entrepreneurship in America. While reading the chapter, we get to know about the two stages in the capitalistic development in America. The first stage was the period when the first entrepreneurs, which were mostly the farmers, struggled for survival and economic security. The second stage was the time when the first capitalistic enterprises transformed into the competitors struggling for abnormal profits and when the industries were formed.

“The difference between a peasant mass and a scattering of farmers is one of the historic differences between the social structures in Europe and America and is of signal consequence for the character of middle classes on both continents” (Wright Mills 4).

The first capitalistic enterprises were formed by the farmers. In contrast to the European peasants, the American farmers did not cluster in villages, rather they scattered all over the country (Wright Mills 4).

In the chapter The World of the Small Entrepreneur, the author also touches upon the problem of property ownership which is considered as one of the main characteristics describing the economic order. “The most important single fact about the society of small entrepreneurs was that a substantial proportion of the people owned the property with which they worked” (Wright Mills 7). The dominance of private ownership is one of the most important features of the capitalistic society.

In contrast to the chapter described above, the chapter The Rhetoric of Competition is presented not in the form of narration, but rather in the form of discussion and analysis. In The Rhetoric of Competition, the author makes us think about the essence of competition. He presents different opinions and different arguments in favor and against each. “It has been a grab-bag of defenders and apologists, and so little is it challenged that in the minds of many it seems the very latest model of reality” (Wright Mills 34).

In my view, the main idea of this chapter is the changes in the perception of the term of the competition. In addition, this perception differs depending on the social and economic status. The author argues that despite the significant changes in the economic development which occurred in American history, the ideology has remained the same. It is still based on the perception of entrepreneurship and competition of those farmers who laid the foundations of capitalism in America.

The author gives the opinion of Thorstein Veblen on the competition. Veblen explains it as the economic opposition between the business and consumers. However, the author states that the transformations in American society occurred due to the wide dissemination of small enterprises. In spite of their relatively insignificant economic potential, in aggregate, they competed with business giants undermining the strength of monopolies in America.

At the same time, the author argues that small entrepreneurs do not believe in the competition (Wright Mills 35). They agree with its importance, on the one hand, and disagree with its rules when it comes to their own business, on the other hand. “It is ironic that this ‘natural’ monopoly of the small-town entrepreneur was broken, in large part, be precisely those agencies of mass distribution which small businessmen now denounce as ‘unfair competitors’ (Wright Mills 37). The small-town entrepreneur was a businessman in the grocery retailing who actually captured the market charging the unfair price for its products.

The author stresses that the perception of the competitive environment depends on the macroeconomic situation, to a large extent. In the period of economic recession, the bearish moods prevail in the society and people tend to be more inclined to the stricter government regulation and intervention.


The comparison of two pieces of prose from The White Collar Book helped to analyze different views on some of the most important terms of the capitalistic economy. The chapter The World of the Small Entrepreneur deals with the problem of capitalism origin in America and the changes which it underwent through its history. At the same time, the chapter The Rhetoric of Competition is devoted to the discussion of the role of competition in the capitalistic economy. The author presents different views on the term and make us think about the reasons of attitude to the competition of the different social groups and in different periods.

Works Cited

Wright Mills, Charles. The White Collar Book, New York: Oxford University Press, 2002. Print.

This essay on The White Collar Book by C. Wright Mills was written and submitted by your fellow student. You are free to use it for research and reference purposes in order to write your own paper; however, you must cite it accordingly.

Read more