i am reading Chomsky's Media Control and he is articulating many of the observations that i have had about the public's lack of action in light of the insanity that we are engaged in -- throw a rock (Iraq, unchecked federal power, over-consumption, depletion of resources, etc). i used to listen to Chomsky, but wasn't too compelled by his arguments; despite his use of facts, time-lines, and specific events, i thought they lacked a firm empirical foundation (in other words, i thought he was being a knee-jerk radical). i now realize that i was wrong in this assessment; the Media Control text provides some of the sources that he draws on that can be independently verified. One of those, Edward Bernays' Propaganda is available here. I just downloaded it this morning, so i haven't read it yet, but i will. if Chomsky is correct in his reading of Bernays and the influence that he and this work had in the United States, then the public really is being intentionally manipulated, seduced, and reinforced for and through distraction. a very sad state, but good to know.
i am also re-reading Domhoff's Who Rules America (5th edition); i read the 4th edition last summer and want to re-read it in light of all that i have learned since. if you haven't read it, i would highly recommend it. if you are unfamiliar with Domhoff, i believe that he was a student of Mills' (if not, then heavily influenced by him) and he has been studying power and power structures in the US for the last 35 years. i think he knows what he is talking about; his work is empirically based, rational, and very, very compelling. this past weekend, my daughter and i spent the weekend at the Heifer Ranch in Arkansas where we took part in something called the Global Challenge. it is a simulation of how much of the "rest of the world" lives...no stable source of clean water, no water at all, no stable source of food, etc. my daughter spent the night in a simulated urban slum, complete with dirt floors, tin roof, discarded cardboard for walls, lots of heat, bugs, and one cup of rice for dinner to feed seven people. i slept in a simulated Thai house (quite an improvement from the urban slum) with way more food for the four people we had there, so we shared our food (and other resources, like a fire we had to start) with the urban slum folks and some of the others in the global village (varying housing arrangements and resource allocations).
bottom line...the majority of Americans have absolutely no clue how privileged we are, the impact that the amount of disposable items that we don't need but consume voraciously anyway has on the "those folks somewhere in Asia," how we take for granted many, many things that other people have to fight for. here we go back to Chomsky again -- why do we do this? because of the ubiquity of propaganda that infuses our social world.
lastly, i have adopted a behavior analytic (formerly known as behaviorism) perspective to understanding and accounting for human social behavior (as well as for developing interventions). it is a very powerful, historically empirical, and inherently sociological approach. Skinner, in fact, provided a superb analysis of social control and formal agents of social control in his Science of Human Behavior -- waaaaay better than any i have read in sociology, with possibly the exception of the Frankfurt school. the difference between Skinner and the Frankfurt school is that his work is based on science rather than philosophy -- a plus for me.