Sociological Imagination

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We live in a regime which promotes the ideas of egalitarianism. An egalitarian favours equality of some sort: People should get the same, or be treated the same, or be treated as equals, in some respect. Egalitarian doctrines tend to express the idea that all human persons are equal in fundamental worth or moral status (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2002) but in reality equality, especially racial equality is a huge farce. In my essay I will attempt to describe Mills concept “The Sociological Imagination” and common-sense explanation and use the main ideas and differences between sociological imagination and common-sense to analyse the topic of racism in UK.

Sociological imagination – what is it? The term Sociological imagination was coined by a colourful and controversial New York‘s Columbia‘s university professor C. Wright Mills. The sociological imagination is the ability to see the interrelationships between biography and history, or the connections between our individual lives and larger social forces at work shaping our lives (K. Brown, 2005). One of the primary goals and main benefits of sociological imagination are to help to develop the ability to participate in social life and then step back and analyze broader meanings of what is going on in the world around us and finally to allow us to look at your own society as though you were an outsider. Mills encouraged every one of us as individuality to understand that our own personal fortunes or misfortunes must be understood in terms of larger public issues that we should see beyond self, see the hidden and be aware how our individual problems can impact the society. For example very specific circumstances might lead to one person becoming unemployed but when unemployment rates in society as a whole rise it becomes a public issue that needs to be explained (M. Harambolos & M. Holborn, 2004). He felt that developing a sociological imagination will help us to avoid becoming ‘victims’ of social forces and better control our own lives. By understanding how social mechanisms operate, we can better work to bring changes and influence history (K.S. Stolley, 2005).

On the other hand, common sense has a longer history, when sociology was out of the question. People in ancient civilizations like ancient Greese or Rome often wondered about different ways of the world and how their society worked. They believed in gods, myths and astrology which lead to a common sense – when people knew something because everyone believed it to be true. Today we know common-sense as ideas that people know, just because it is a common knowledge. Those ideas are tightly bound up with beliefs of a particular society at particular periods of time. Different societies have different common-sense ideas (K. Brown, 2005). However, common-sense and what we know cannot always be true. ‘People often do not realize that their appeals to common sense are based on the norms they have established with other likeminded people - based on gender, class, education, shared world view, history, etc.’ (Common sense racism and common sense sexism, 2007).

So how sociological imagination and common-sense differ? The idea of sociological imagination is to describe a perspective on society that is based on theory, research, evidence and conclusions, looking at familiar routines of daily life in unfamiliar ways, from different angle, rather than "common sense," which is like a first level reaction based on what we learned growing up. Common sense is not necessarily wrong, but it tends to reinforce, rather than challenge the existing scheme of things (E. J. Karlsen et al, 2010).Using sociological imagination sociologists re-examine existing assumptions, by studying how things were in the past, how they are changed and how they differ between societies, and how they might change in the future (K. Brown, 2005).

Sociological imagination and common-sense approaches may be used to examine the topic of racism...
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