Mill discusses totalitarianism and the "power elite" in his work Sociological Imagination. Totalitarianism is a form of government that imposes absolute authority on its citizens in every aspect of life, public and private, and the citizen is always subordinate to the state. The "power elite," a term coined by Mills, "describes the relationships and class alliances among the U.S. political, military, and economic elites."
In his book, Mills argues that America is quietly and steadily becoming a totalitarian regime run by the power elite. He claims that an underclass of people dependent on the government is growing; these people, he says, are being lulled into dependency because those relatively few in power are encroaching so impersonally and steathily, often using the media as their means of control. He points to the decreasing presence of public debate as one of those indicators of encroaching totaltianism, which, of course, seeks to quash voices that sound outside the bounds of their fortresses.
Mills contrasts the "quiet" totalitarianism with the "noisier" totalitarianism of the Soviet Union. There, the state was able to prevent democratic uprisings. Here, we are controlled not only by the "power elite" but also by our mass consumer culture. "Choice," either in purchasing or politics, Mills argues, is an illusion. The few control the many and we do not even see it. According to Mills, we are deliberately prevented from doing so.