C. Wright Mills on the Sociological Imagination

Understanding the interrelation between a biography and a history is vital for building a broad and realistic view of the roots of everyday challenges and possible solutions to them. The idea of the sociological imagination introduced by C. Wright Mills demonstrates how the ability to analyze the personal experience as related to large social dynamics can help to be well-orientated in social processes and make personal decisions based on the knowledge of a wide social framework.

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What is the Sociological Imagination?

Sociological imagination is defined by C. Wright Mills as the ability to understand the relation between the personal experience and wide social outcomes. In other words, Social imagination is the insight of the influence the person’s everyday routine has on the society and vice verse (Mills 1959). Sociological imagination is the key to an individual’s righteous understanding of the experience and the opportunities he/she faces within the wide framework of the society. Such understanding is crucial to promoting the person’s active involvement in dealing with public issues. It enables the person to be aware of the meaning of the larger historical scene for his/her personal life.

Personal Troubles and Public Issues

Mills (1959) emphasizes the importance of understanding the difference between the personal troubles and the public issues. For example, if only one couple is divorced in the city of 50.000, it is their personal trouble. But if 5.000 couples are divorced in the same city, it is a public issue. This example demonstrates one of the main differences between sociology and psychology. In the first case, the principles of psychology need to be applied to find the roots of the trouble (personal skills, traits of character, etc.). In the second case, the methods of sociology should be used to define the causes of the issue (demographics, social processes, etc.). Therefore, solving a personal trouble requires psychological help aimed at understanding how the personal traits and characteristics of the individual should be changed to overcome the faced problem. Solving the public issue requires the usage of sociological investigation to understand the wide social framework contributing to the development of the issue and find the method of changing it. Finding the solution for public issues is impossible without the application of sociological imagination, which helps to understand why each of the individuals faces a certain problem.

My Perspective of the Sociological Imagination

I understand sociological imagination as a unique ability to see the relation between the personal choices and large social dynamics. I think, this ability is essential for every person willing to find effective solutions for certain public issues influencing his/her life. The understanding of the connection between the one’s life and the wide social processes helps the person to be well-orientated in the life within the framework of society and make the decisions based on this knowledge. Besides, social imagination is vital for making the individual an active member of society able to make a change and improve it. Only the society consisting of people who have developed social imagination can overcome the present negative tendencies and have a successful future. The application of social imagination helps to explain the nature of both opportunities and obstacles met by the person on the way to achieving certain goals.

Sociological Imagination in My Everyday Life

Sociological imagination reflects my everyday life in many ways. Many aspects of my everyday routine can be explained through its perspective. Even the smallest details of my life can be better understood by applying the knowledge about sociological imagination. For example, jogging has become an essential part of my morning routine. My understanding of the positive influence of jogging on the overall health and well-being of the person was promoted by certain events and tendencies in the society, such as the discoveries of health researchers and the popularity of jogging among my peers. Moreover, the high prices for healthcare can also be considered the social phenomenon related to my habit, as it promoted the willingness to maintain good health by the means that do not require big investments.

In such a way, it is easy to demonstrate that such a usual morning routine as jogging is the direct consequence of certain social processes and is directly related to particular tendencies prevailing in the society. Social imagination is the key to understanding this relation. Another example of how social imagination can be applied to the smallest details of my everyday routine is my habit to drink tea. It can be seen as the direct consequences of the prevalence of beliefs about the significant positive health outcomes of the habit to drink tea every day. In turn, such beliefs can be considered related to the discoveries made by scientists studying the influence of tea on human health. In turn, such discoveries can be regarded as related to the fast development of science during the last decades. In such a way, by applying social imagination we can see that such a customary routine of drinking tea is related to wide social processes.

Besides helping to identify the social roots of certain details of everyday routine, social imagination can also help to determine the relation between more significant parts of everyday life to the larger social framework. For example, being a college student is one of the primary parts of my everyday life. It influences all spheres of my life and shapes my habits and choices. It dominates my everyday routine and influences every decision I make. This part of my life can be considered directly related to certain social tendencies occurring in the modern society. The growing rates of unemployment in my country and all over the world promote the willingness of young people to get higher education because the higher chances of finding a good job for people with the college diploma. In turn, the primary roots of increasing unemployment across the globe can be found in the overpopulation of the Earth, as the enormous number of people living on the planet plays a crucial role in making the job market tough and highly competitive. Another stimulus for getting a good education includes growing prices for housing, products, and healthcare services. The chances of getting a god job promoted by the possession of a college diploma raise the opportunities of being financially situated and able to buy essential products and services.

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Therefore, the application of social imagination helps to understand the initial causes of my participation in college education. Another example of the dominating part of my everyday life that can be better understood with the help of social imagination is the usage of Internet. Every day I spend a significant amount of time for using the World Web. Internet influences all spheres of my life, as it gives the opportunities to be aware of the latest news, get the information needed for educational activities, communicate with relatives and friends, etc. The roots of the important role of the Internet in my everyday life can be seen in such global social process as globalization. The disappearing boundaries between the cultures and nations lead to the possibility of living in any part of the country or the world. This factor directly influences the popularity of communication with the help of Internet. The crucial role information plays in the modern world also contributes to the importance of using the Internet, as it gives the opportunity to keep a track of all kinds of events and processes influencing our society. Therefore, social imagination helps to understand the primary roots of my interest to use the World Web in everyday life.

The Process of Explaining the Sociological Imagination

It is easy to explain the meaning of sociological imagination on the real examples. The person who has never heard about it would easily understand its importance if it is applied to her/his everyday life and challenges. For example, the person facing the divorce would easily understand the meaning of sociological imagination if it is applied to this situation. High rates of divorces are a public issue that can be better understood by applying sociological imagination. The person suffering from depression after a divorce considers it a personal trouble or even tragedy. However, such processes as the introduction of the laws enabling the people to get a divorce, the employment of women in various occupations enabling them to be financially independent, the social acceptance of divorce, the increased value of individual freedom, the feminist movement, etc. directly influence the person’s chances of getting divorced.

Sociological imagination helps to understand how the bigger amount of freedom and ability to make personal choices given to women has influenced the divorces rates. The woman blaming herself for getting divorced and comparing her experience to the life of her grandmother who has lived 60 years in the marriage is likely to stop condemning herself to such extent if she applies sociological imagination and see how much the processes that occurred after her grandmother’s marriage have changed the meaning and perception of this phenomenon. Her grandmother did not even have the right to get a divorce or the opportunity to earn her living. If the person is shown that he/she should not consider the divorce the personal fault, as many sociological factors have contributed to it, he/she will have a more objective perception of the situation and overcome it more easily. Therefore, it is easy to explain the usefulness and the meaning of social imagination to the person by applying it to the real situation from his/her life.

Analyzing the Society

The modern society faces certain tendencies that can be easily identified by applying sociological imagination. Men and women striving for individualistic freedom and self-realization prevail in the modern society of the United States. Women equally to men put much effort to get a good education and find a job that provides their financial independence. The current prevailing varieties of men and women are supposed to become even more individualistic and financially-motivated in the nearest future. The process of globalization promotes the disappearance of cultural boundaries between the people. Therefore, modern women and men are likely to pay less attention to the preservation of the beliefs and traditions originating from their cultural background and ethnicity. The prevailing varieties of men and women in the nearest future will be more religiously and culturally neutral. Such tendencies lead to the elimination of such phenomenon as double-consciousness. For example, a woman coming from a certain ethnical group with strict religious boundaries will experience less pressure of her background and is likely to have no difficulties with feeling a part of the society she lives in despite her distinctive ethnic origin. The described varieties of women and men are formed under the influence of the growing role of individualism and financial stability and declining role of cultural boundaries and origin in the life of modern society. The discussed tendencies also lead to the declining role of glocalization, as the cultural differences across the world become weaker due to the dominance of global tendencies making the societies all over the world more similar.

Competitive human nature is revealed in the conduct we observe in the modern society, as a consumption of a constantly growing number of products and services makes the modern community the consumer society. This characteristic stimulates the members of the society to be focused on attaining material goods and being highly competitive in achieving a beneficial financial position. Therefore, the type of human nature prevailing in the society influences the tendencies occurring in it.

The application of sociological imagination to the everyday experience helps to understand the relation between certain personal challenges, habits, and problems and the wide sociological context. Sociological imagination helps to make the decisions that are more adjusted to social dynamics prevailing in the society.

Reference

Mills, Charles Wright. 1959. The Promise of the Sociological Imagination. Web.

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StudyCorgi. (2021, January 20). C. Wright Mills on the Sociological Imagination. Retrieved from https://studycorgi.com/c-wright-mills-on-the-sociological-imagination/

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