Analysis of the sociological imagination and its use in sociology.

Topics: Sociology, Max Weber, Émile Durkheim Pages: 5 (1468 words) Published: May 7, 2003
Sociological Imagnation

The sociological imagination is the ability to look at the everyday world and understand how it operates in order to make sense of their lives. It is a state of mind, which enables us to think critically about and understand the society in which we live, and our place in that world as individuals and as a whole. C. Wright Mills, first wrote of the concept in 1959. His understanding of it being that it was "a quest for sociological understanding" involving "a form of consciousness for understanding social processes." It is a way for a person to look at their life as a result of their interaction with society. It can explain why a life is lived the way it is and all events, decisions, successes, and failures that have occurred. Further more it enables us to understand the relationship between private troubles and public issues. Only by understanding how society affects us as individuals can we ever hope to change society effectively.

A classical approach to sociological imagination is understood has having the ability to recognise the relationship between history and biography within society. This is the basis of Herbert Spencer, Emile Durkheim, Karl Marx and Max Weber. This focus generally sets out to answer three questions. What is the structure of a particular society as a whole? Where does this society stand in human history? What kind of human nature is revealed in this society? In answering these questions they hope to comprehend what is going on in the world and what is happening to the individual as a part of the intersection between biography and history within society.

Contemporary analysis has developed upon the classical approach in that it attempts to put the understanding into practical use. Anthony Giddens sees the sociological imagination as "sociological quest" for an 'understand of the social world initiated by the contemporary industrial societies." He sees this being achieved through knowledge of three factors. They are historical, cultural and critical. Knowledge of history allows us to learn from the struggles of other. Knowledge of culture shows us ways of life that are entrenched in our society and are unlikely to change quickly. An awareness of both the historical and cultural nature of society can have important practical implications. Being critical of the two is the basis of sociological imagination because it leads to an understanding of how the world operates and how we arrived at a certain point in time and what can be done to change social troubles and issues. Critical sociology does not simply accept society as it is, but continues to investigate unexamined ideas.

The classical approach, as taken by Max Weber, rejected that sociology should be affected by values and should only deal with facts. This was done in an effort to leave research undertaken in the field, free of outside influences. According to Mills the sociological imagination enables us to grasp the relationship between "the most impersonal and remote transformations to the most intimate features of the human self." Our values are a big part of the human self as they influence what we think and do, and need to be recognised to fully understand this relationship. Further more, in practice ignoring our values proves difficult and most contemporary sociologists accept their inherent values and express them in their work. Mills believed that this understanding of the human self leads to "the first fruit of this imagination - and the first lesson of the social science that embodies it - is the idea that the individual can understand his own experience and gauge his own fate only by locating himself within his period, that he can know his own chances in life only by becoming aware of those of all individuals in his circumstances." In understanding this we come to understand the nature of sociology.

In order to understand how sociological imagination relates to contemporary issues such as gambling,...
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