The Sociological Imagination: The Effect of Personal Experiences on the Public

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The Sociological Imagination

Focussing on Goodwin's quote, I intend to discuss through this essay, the fact that for social workers, the most important thing that sociology can teach is not how ‘personal issues’ may be public issues, but in fact how people’s experiences of personal issues effect public concerns and policy and shape everybody’s lives, thus how their service users’ issues are in fact public issues. To answer the question in brief, poverty is an aspect of contemporary society that can affect anyone at any time, therefore it is of everyone’s concern and is a public issue. For social workers, while it is important to acknowledge how poverty is often a very personal experience for people, it is something that is affected largely by social structures and policy and thus a real public concern, and indeed, one that everybody should take responsibility for. Looking at Mill's notion of the sociological imagination with the question of whether or not poverty is a public issue in mind, we can see that Mills does consider poverty to be a public issue. The quote highlighted within the question considers the effects of societal structures, the first example that Mills highlights in this quote  is the effects of industrialisation on workers; he highlights the changing distribution of wealth as societal structures change. While Mills does not explicitly state that the issue most dependant on societal structures is that of personal wealth, it is implied in the nature of his examples. One could suppose from this that Mills does view poverty as a public issue, as he feels that societal structures have real implications on people's wealth. Thus it could follow on from this that as poverty is always affected by social structures, it can always be considered to be a public issue and the implications of societal structures on personal economics is something that will be highlighted later in this essay. Pete Alcock (1993) describes poverty as going short materially, emotionally and socially.  That individuals living in poverty may spend less on food, on health and on clothing than someone on an average income. Poverty may also take away the tools to build blocks for the future which provide life chances.  Furthermore he claims that poverty steals away the opportunity to have a life unmarked by sickness, decent education, a secure home and long retirement. This explains how, although this essay is concluding that poverty is always a public issue, people’s experiences of poverty are very personal. The implications of poverty become personal issues for those experiencing it. Poverty can affect a family’s quality of life and can significantly constrain the options available to them in numerous ways.  For example, many families are not able to afford essentials such as a cooked meal each day which can have a detrimental effect on an individual’s health in the long run with implications such as fatigue, malnutrition and developmental delay.  A parent or caregiver may not be able to afford clothes, toys or school trips for their children and may not pay priority debts such as their utility bills in order to do so, resulting in them accruing debt and living in fear of the consequences. Furthermore individuals may feel they have no alternative but to turn to crime in order to make ends meet or as a means of survival. An individual may also experience constraints on the ability to find employment due to long-term illness or a lack of skills and the cost of childcare. Moreover many families find themselves living in poor and inadequate housing conditions and unable to adequately heat the dwelling. Furthermore the neighborhood may be unsafe but the family may have no resources to secure a better home in a safer neighbourhood. In addition children who are economically disadvantaged are less likely to do well at school.   Poverty can also affect how a family interacts, for example, marital conflict over money may result in the relationship...
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