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The Sociological Imagination

By cherishme Jun 10, 2006 995 Words
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 sociological imagination is an open mind. It's a willingness to try to understand those who are unlike what you're used to. In order to understand the times you're living in, you must understand where you came from. It reminds me of what I've been taught growing up. Education has allowed me to become insightful and thoughtful to actions and consequences of those actions. The sociological imagination allows people to learn from what they've done by taking into consideration history and other society's ideas. By having a sociological imagination, people can begin to see the world in a clear mind. I believe that if everyone had an open view such as this, the world would be a much happier place to be.

The sociological imagination allows one to understand the larger historical scene. It lets someone take into account how individuals often become falsely conscious of their social positions. When people become engulfed in their daily lives they become blind to the obvious sociological connections that their individual lives have in common with others in their society as well as others in different cultures. An example of how Mills tries to point this out is comparing the sociological imagination to a circle. Every aspect of society is at the edge of the circle and no matter what edge you stand at you will still be connected to another person. All of these individuals in this circle despite their individual troubles, concerns, and cultural inheritances are still the same in the larger picture.

When first looking at a society there is an automatic ethnocentrism that the observer will hold. In order to have an accurate judgment on another society one must put aside their opinions and be open towards all others. Mills wrote that people are motivated by historical and economic factors. We learned in foreign policy that all acts the government takes are based largely on economic factors. This is the case everywhere. This shows universality not just in Mills writing but in all of sociology.

Though Mills wrote The Sociological Imagination in a language that isn't as laidback as today's modern writers, the ideas are still a stepping stone in understanding society. People always will conform when there is a large enough group setting the standards. Social order will always come from the values that are commonly accepted. Mills helps to point out the obvious. These are the things that no one ever thinks about but everyone claims to have insight on.

My personal opinion on this book would only be considered one small fragment that usually wouldn't matter. However, in my understanding of reading this book, my one small fragment is just one small piece of a larger puzzle. Each opinion I have comes from what I've learned and I fit into the puzzle with a very important part. I enjoyed reading this book though many points took awhile to grasp. I found the language difficult to understand sometimes which lead me to be discouraged. By just understanding a few main ideas that Mills is trying to get by I was able to understand the basic out linings of the entire book.

In conclusion of reading this book though trying to be fair, I didn't completely enjoy it. I felt like the majority of what I read was already known and I grew tired of hearing the same things. Now just because I've heard them doesn't mean I remembered it all and this is one reason why I did appreciate the book. I think Mills reminded us of basic human nature. Mills wrote about topics which are known about but not always remembered. In remembering these ideas, one can gain a fair perspective on all cultures. I think it's people like Mills and their writings that allow people to once again be reminded of things that they may not be looking directly at.

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