Sociological Imagination

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Imagination is the ability to imagine abstract things without having to understand them before. The ability to imagine something that does not necessarily exist in this complex world. Charles Wright Mills (1959: 11) coined up the term the sociological imagination. And in his book, The Sociological Imagination, he said that “this quality is the ability to use information and to develop reason in order to achieve lucid summations of what is going on in the world and of what may be happening within them selves.”

What is this quality of mind that he claims that society is lack of and is what society needs? The sociological imagination enables people to understand the bigger pictures and insights outside their world. Not literally but metaphorically. It enables people to think themselves away and to take into account how individuals are socially related and that we are simultaneously influencing one another. Is also the ability to think anew of why the norms of our daily lives are constantly occurring. (Mills 1959) Almost as if our lives are nothing but a working machine that produces the same things without stopping and without questioning. To have the sociological imagination is to have the power to look at our selves from the outside to the inside. To see our selves from a different angle. Analyzing and thinking about our actions from a different perspective all together. (Mills 1959)

The imagination is an idea that the individual can understand himself more by becoming aware of those individuals in his circumstances in a certain period of time. There are three major concepts that make up the sociological imagination. The first being the social structure of the world. How societies are arranged and organized to form this dynamic system. And how we as individuals are related whether minute or vast, we are all connected to one another. (Mills 1959) Think of society as dots on a map. Any dot has the ability to connect with any dot in the world. To imagine this is almost impossible. But this is the quality that Mills urges us to acquire. The quality of mind that is able to imagine. (Mills 1959)

Another major component of the sociological imagination is history. We all have to understand how history is form and how we are integrated into this world to form history as well. Every action we make is a contribution to a different history made. And yet most people do not comprehend this vital fact. From periods of wars to modern era, this is a timeline of difference in history laid across time. To have this sociological imagination we have to learn how society is formed, changed and modified in history. (Mills 1959)

The third component, which is also the last component, is the biography of the world. We talk and walk a certain way, we behave differently from animals and we blame it on ‘human nature’. But what exactly determines human nature? To have the sociological imagination is to be able to understand how varieties of men and women prevail in society and in this period of time. How people are repressed and liberated from laws that we must abide to live. (Mills 1959)

These three elements is the sociological imagination men must have in order to grasp what is really going on in the real world. For most of us, we do not realize this because we live in a bubble. We live in this polished society that is imperfect and we know it. But we are clueless about its flawless. We go around with our daily lives, presenting the world with our newfound talents and yet often times we are clueless on what is happening to our neighbours who live just next to us. We live together in a society but we do not understand each other. This imagination is a profound power that allows us to see others and ourselves from another perspective. As Mills (1959: 14) wrote, “The sociological imagination is the most fruitful of this self-consciousness.” Thoughts that once we never understood, we will be able to comprehend now. Decisions that we were...
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