The Benchmark of a Competent Sociology Student Is Not How Familiar He Is with Sociological Concepts, Theories, and Empirical Findings, but the Ability of Sociological Imagination. the Sociological Imagination Is a State

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The benchmark of a competent sociology student is not how familiar he is with sociological concepts, theories, and empirical findings, but the ability of sociological imagination. The sociological imagination is a state of mind with which people recognize that their (and those of others) social conditions, experiences, and ways of understanding the world are placed within larger social, cultural, and political forces. Essentially, the sociological imagination requires that we “look up” and recognize how our lives are subject to and affected by large and powerful forces, and not just the result of our individual choices and immediate social circles. Exercising your sociological imagination should make you realize how your individual choices and social circles are actually conditioned by larger social, cultural and political forces. In Mills’ own words: What ordinary men are directly aware of and what they try to do are bounded by the private orbits in which they live; their visions and their powers are limited to the close-up scenes of job, family, neighborhoods... Neither the life of an individual nor the history of a society can be understood without understanding both. Yet men do not usually define the troubles they endure in terms of historical change and institutional contradiction. The well-being they enjoy, they do not usually impute to the big ups and downs of the societies in which they live. Seldom aware of the intricate connection between the patterns of their own lives and the course of world history, ordinary men do not usually know what this connection means for the kinds of men they are becoming and for the kinds of history-making in which they might take part. They do not possess the quality of mind essential to grasp the interplay of man and society, of biography and history, of self and world. They cannot cope with their personal troubles in such ways as to control the structural transformations that usually lie behind them. (Mills, 1959)
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