By: C. Wright Mills
“Neither the life of an individual nor the history of a society can be understood without understanding both.” -C Wright. Mills, www.brainyquotes.com
Why is it important for humans to use their sociological imagination? In this essay I will interpret my sense of thoughts about C. Wright Mill’s theory of humans using their sociological imagination and feeling “trapped”. Modernity has consumed a lot of our lives that we now sense a feeling of being “trapped” in ourselves. We evolve ourselves solely around our immediate surroundings, forgetting how important it is to remember our histories and past. We are so caught up in modern technology such as cell phones, social media, TV, how well have to dress to impress people that we often forget what is going on around us in the rest of the world. C. Wright Mills had presented the theory that in order for an individual to use their own sociological imagination, they must assimilate their personal lives with the society arround them and build a connection between both to view it from another individual’s perspective. In the statement, “Nowadays people often feel that their private lives are a series of traps” (Mills, p. 1)., Mills is referring to a sociological issue that many individuals battle on a daily basis, one in which they do not view the world beyond their own immediate surroundings. For instance, the majority of humans view the surroundings of the world in terms of only “us” - our school, our work, our families, our friends, etc. As far as viewing the rest of the world as a whole, we often look at it in terms of how it will have a direct effect on us; for example, how the sink of the economy will negatively change our lives, how a natural disaster might impact us, etc. To sum up the aforementioned, Mills’ general understanding of the world was that each individual should have the ability to view society selflessly, as a whole; and in order to have a view the society selflessly, we must also understand history and how it still continues to affect us even today. Max Weber was a German sociologist who came up with the term “iron cage.” Weber referred to the “iron cage” as a concept that showed people’s actions were merely based more on rationality rather than people’s values and traditions. In my opinion, I think C. Wright Mills was relating the “iron cage” to his own theory of the “sociological imagination” by questioning how can an individual escape the iron cage? In other words, how can one feel less “trapped” in their own self and look at everything from the world’s perspective? Relative to Mill’s concept, my personal experiences have made me feel “trapped.” After having my first baby and having been unemployed for nearly over a year, it has been very easy for me to feel trapped. Being a first-time mother and also unemployed simultaneously added to that feeling; while surrounding myself around my daughter and my husband all day, I had no sense of the outside world and was only seeing my immediate surroundings. For example, during Hurricane Sandy in October 2012, though majority of New York City and New Jersey were affected by this tropical storm, I, for one, was not. Constantly being home 24/7 made me feel trapped in myself, I felt as if everything that was happening around me was only about me, my spouse and my daughter. After being home for a year after giving birth, I decided to finally register for school because I was turned down by many jobs which I will explain in my next paragraph. Therefore, after experiencing a completely different aspect of life that I was not accustomed to, I was able to sociologically understand how it was for women in the 1900’s to be forced to sit home and manage a household, while not having a social life outside of that. “Seldom aware of the intricate connection between the patterns of their own lives and the course of world history, ordinary people do not usually know what this connection means for the kinds of people they are becoming and for the kinds of history-making in which they might take part.” (Mills, p 1). Society has modernized so much now that it’s much easier for a woman to be more flexible while she is mothering a child, taking care of a household and being employed full time. “In so far as an economy is so arranged that slumps occur, the problem of unemployment becomes incapable of personal solution.” (Mills, p 5.) Aside from being a mother and a housewife, I’ve been unemployed for over a year now, so I have had to depend on my husband to provide for me. Not only does unemployment mean depending on someone else, with the plunging economy, finding a job has gotten much more difficult. Speaking from personal experience, I have tried to apply for many positions; despite the fact that I have years of extensive work experience, I never received any calls from companies for interviews. I found myself wondering why. I feel as if it has a lot to do with the downfall of the economy in 2008 as well religious and ethnic problems. Being a woman from an Islamic background, the tragedy of 9/11 has impacted my life very negatively. Although, I was fortunate enough to not lose a loved one, I am dealing with the discrimination that came with the tragedy. It has gotten much more difficult for me to land a decent job solely based on my Muslim name. In conclusion to C. Wright Mills sociological imagination, an individual must open their minds to view the rest of world and not just feel “trapped” in their own life. We have to open our eyes to focus on what is going on around us. We have to take the time out to consider and reflect on our past histories; such as family histories, social histories, personal histories, etc. After reading this passage from C. Wright Mill’s “sociological imagination” I have a better understanding of how it is to open your mind to many things instead of constantly feeling trapped in your own life.