The Sociological Imagination

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The Sociological Imagination, written by C. Wright Mills, is an insightful critique of the research taking place in sociology. Mills covers every aspect of sociology including the works of the renowned sociologist Talcott Parsons as well as his own works. It takes an initial stab at defining what the sociological imagination is. Mills states that the sociological imagination is a quality of mind that allows one to understand "history and biography and the relations between the two within society" (p 6). It allows one to switch from one perspective to another allowing for a comprehensive view of the "socio-cultural system".

The sociological imagination distinguishes between two very distinct ends of reality, the "private troubles", and the "public issues". To understand social reality, private troubles must be examined in the context of the larger issue. For example, a child who doing poor school work may be suffering from a private trouble but that issue is part of a larger picture. Is his trouble coming from a larger social problem that is also affecting his community? Is his trouble something which is common among his peer group. All feelings and emotions are inter-related and in order to understand one end of society you must understand the others.

Mills states some very valid points in this analysis. By defining troubles and issues, he points to each of the connections they have to each other. A good example is on page 9, when Mills mentions marriage. He states that "inside a marriage a man and a woman may experience personal troubles, but when the divorce rate during the first four years of marriage is 250 out of 1000 attempts, this is an indication of a structural issue …". Marriage problems as a private matter become a public issue when the affects they have are widely the same for everyone. The main problem with this is that men and women do not see that their private troubles and the social issues of their society are connected. I believe that the...
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