The actions of every person have a particular impact on society and its development, and this impact is sometimes underestimated. Most of people believe that, taking into account the total population of the world, their actions are insignificant and can hardly change anything. This, however, is not true, for every personal problem sooner or later becomes the problem of the whole society. The understanding of these relations between history and biography (personal troubles of milieu) is what Mills called sociological imagination, or the ability of a person to understand “the larger historical scene in terms of its meaning for the inner life and the external career of a variety of individuals” (Mills 5).
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One of the examples that illustrate personal trouble of milieu is marriage. A number of people who I know personally are now married and, through their example, it is possible to show which influence the marriage has on public issues and social structure. With respect to public issues, the marriage may change, for instance, people’s leisure. The married couple’s desire to stay at home after work, rather than go to the bar or to the movies has a certain effect on the society, especially if more than one couple is taken into consideration. This, in its turn, has certain social influences because the attendance of these places may decrease, thus resulting in the reduction of their profits.
Another example may be eating too much. A friend of mine has encountered such a problem and now tries to fight with it. It is a great problem on the individual level because it affects the person’s health, both physical and emotional. If this problem is considered on a social level, eating too much may result in such problems as obesity and other eating disorders. This further entails changes in pharmacy with new medicines being invented and healthcare with new health clubs and fitness centers emerging. Thus, personal issues have an influence on public and social structure of the society.
The final example is alcohol abuse. I know a person who suffered from alcohol abuse this is why I can imagine what problems this issue may involve. On the level of personal problems, alcohol abuse destroys the person’s health; it may result in the loss of job, friends, family, and money. On a social level, it may result in social degradation and increase of unemployment if a great number of people start abusing alcohol. As a result of hard-drinking and unemployment, the crime rate is likely to increase, especially that of minor crimes, such as theft, burglary, kidnapping, hijacking, etc. This will disrupt social structure and entail a number of other public issues, such as family fights, divorces and the problems connected with them, etc.
All these examples may be viewed in relation to structural functionalism. As stated by this sociological paradigm, all the elements of society are interdependent and function according to generally accepted rules. Thus, members of society are expected to get married in order to perform their primary function, reproduction. They should also take care of their health in order to live longer. Lastly, they should not abuse alcohol or other substances because it is not in accordance with social rules. To regulate the observance of the rules with regards to these functions, there exist institutions of marriage, healthcare centers and rehabilitation centers.
These examples can also be considered in frames of conflict theory. This theory posits that members of the society exercise control over each other, thus affecting social order. The most widespread conflicts at this are class, race and ethnicity, religion, and gender conflicts. Therefore, if applied to marriage, conflicts may arise due to gender distinctions, for instance, because of women’s unwillingness to be housewives. In case with eating too much, different social structures, such as media and workplace, contribute to discrimination against people suffering from obesity. With respect to alcohol abuse, people suffering from alcoholism fear to be dependent on other people; by refusing from this dependence, they start drinking even more trying to fight with their inner conflict.
Lastly, considering these examples in terms of social interactionism is also important. Social interactionism claims that people regard different things depending on their meaning for them; this meaning derives from social interaction. Thus, for instance, the society demands people to get married because everybody else does it. This demand influences people’s ideas about marriage and their decision-making. When it comes to eating too much, a person suffering from this problem realizes that it is bad and that this problem should be dealt with because otherwise he/she would differ from the rest of the society. Finally, a person who abuses alcohol knows that it is not good for him and the society because his friends or relatives repeatedly tell him/her about this.
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In sum, such personal issues as marriage, obesity, and alcohol abuse have a great effect on larger society. If these issues are applied to functionalism, conflict theory, and symbolic interactionism, some of the problems connected with them and implications they may involve become clearer. This may help to deal with these problems in future.
Mills, Charles W. The Sociological Imagination. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000.