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C. Wright Mills: Personal Problems and Public Issues

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C. Wright Mills: Personal Problems and Public Issues

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  • November 2012
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C. Wright Mills, the radical Columbia University sociologist who died 50 years ago (March 20, 1962), has been defined by some as the pioneer of the new radical sociology that emerged in the 1950s, in which his book, The Sociological Imagination (1959), has played a crucial role (Restivo 1991, p.61). Mills was a meticulous researcher and his writing combined outrage and analysis, but he did not wanted to be what he called a "sociological bookkeeper". Moreover, C. Wright Mills argued that perhaps the most helpful distinction with which the sociological imagination works is between personal troubles and public issues. Here we can focus on how he is connecting the social, personal, and historical dimensions of our lives and understand what is the difference between ‘personal troubles’ and ‘public issues’ and how it is related.

At the beginning, we need to understand the meaning of ‘personal troubles’ and ‘public issues’, the difference between it and try not to get confused. The "personal troubles of milieu", are the problems experienced by the individual, which occur in his daily life. It has to do with 'an individual's character and with those limited areas of social life of which he is directly and personally aware'(Mills, 1959, p.4). Because these situations are caused by individual factors, it can just be solved with the desire of individual to change. However, talking about ‘public issues’, it is usually caused by the structure of society or the failure of one or more of society's institutions. Generally, an issue is a public matter and a trouble is a private matter.

C. Wright Mills thought that the individual needs to understand the history of his society to understand the society, and himself in it. Associating ‘personal troubles’ and ‘public issues’ the individual will see that 'others also share these troubles, and that the solution is not to struggle individually, but to join forces with those who also share his experiences' (Mills, 1959, p.8). With...