The sociological imagination, a concept established by American Sociologist, C. Wright Mills (1916-1962) provides a framework for understanding our social world that far surpasses any common sense notion we might derive from our limited social experiences. Mills was a contemporary sociologist who brought tremendous insight into the daily lives of society’s members. Mills stated: “Neither the life of an individual nor the history of a society can be understood without understanding both .” The sociological imagination is making the connection between personal challenges and larger social issues. Mills identified “troubles” (personal challenges) and “issues” (larger social challenges), also known as biography, and history, respectively. Mills’ sociological imagination allows individuals to see the relationships between events in their personal lives (biography), and events in their society (history). In other words, this mindset provides the ability for individuals to realize the relationship between their personal experiences and the larger society in which they live their lives.
The ability to imagine things pervades our entire existence. It influences everything we do, think about, and create. It leads to elaborate theories, dreams, and inventions in any profession from the realms of academia to engineering and the arts. Ultimately, imagination influences everything we do regardless of our profession.
Personal troubles are private problems experienced within the character of the individual and the range of their immediate relation to others. Mills identified that we function in our personal lives as actors and actresses who make choices about our friends, family, groups, work, school, and other issues within our control. We have a degree of influence on the outcome of matters on this personal level. A college student who parties four nights out of seven, who rarely attends class, and who never does their homework has a personal trouble that interferes with their odds of success in college. However, when 50% of all college students in the United States never graduate, we label it as a larger social issue.
Larger social or public issues are those that lie beyond one’s personal control and the range of one’s inner life. These pertain to broader matters of organization and process, which are rooted in society rather than in the individual. Nationwide, students come to college as freshmen who are often ill-prepared to understand the rigors of college life. They haven’t often been challenged enough in high school to make the necessary adjustments required to succeed in college. Nationwide, the average teenager text messages, surfs the Net, plays video games, watches TV, spends hours each day with friends, and works at least part-time. Where and when would they get experience focusing attention on college studies and the rigorous self-discipline required to transition into college?
Think for a moment and reflect on how you could use your imagination more effectively and deliberately, i.e. like being WOKE! How would your life be personally and professionally improved if you were to activate your brain in ways you have not done before? Imagine if you could bring this higher intelligence into your daily conscious awareness. How much more satisfying and enriched your life would be? Just imagine…………………
For the purposes of introducing a methodology to guide the approach we will take in analyzing our themes during this course, I present here the concept of the Sociological Imagination as the cornerstone for our observations, critiques, and dialogues…..this is LIT!
Why Do the Sociological “Do”: Every aspect of our lives is shaped by our relationship with society and its influences/ers. Sociologists’ observations about society and how its influences affect us generate important information used to help us relate to one another, whether as consumers, citizens, or community members.
Who are we and why do we do the things we do? How do people relate to one another despite their differences? What lies behind the conflicts that we can’t seem to move past? Sociologists endeavor to answer questions that perplex us when we look at not only individuals but society as a whole.
Research in Sociology is usually carefully planned and conducted using well-established procedures to ensure that knowledge is objective – where the information gathered reflects what is really ‘out there’ in the social, world rather than ‘subjective’ – where it only reflects the narrow opinions of the researchers. The careful, systematic, and rigorous use of research methods is what makes sociological knowledge ‘objective’ rather than ‘subjective.’
Subjective knowledge – is knowledge-based purely on the opinions of the individual, reflecting their values and biases – their point of view.
Objective knowledge – is knowledge that is free of the biases, opinions, and values of the researcher, it reflects what is really ‘out there’ in the social world.
Note: While most sociologists believe that we should strive to make our data collection as objective as possible, there are some sociologists – known as phenomenologists – who argue that it is not actually possible to collect data that is purely objective. In such cases, the researcher’s opinions always get in the way of what data is collected and filtered for publication which in the end distorts the accuracy and integrity of the analysis being conducted.
The Sociological Imagination
As mentioned earlier, for the purposes of this class, and our roles as social thinkers, we will challenge the data presented in our weekly forums objectively, but again, without observable biases, overt prejudice, and hopefully not phenomenologically (say that fast three times!) The method we will apply is the sociological imagination.
The sociological imagination is the practice of being able to “think ourselves away” from the familiar routines of our daily lives to look at them with critical eyes. In this way, the sociological imagination is the vivid awareness of the relationship between experience and the wider society.
The sociological imagination is the ability to see things socially and how they interact and influence each other. To have a sociological imagination, a person must be able to pull away from the situation and think from an alternative point of view. This ability is central to one’s development of a sociological perspective of the world.
Because the sociological imagination – creative in essence but based on data analyses and research – is an artistic and cutting-edge way of observing social scenarios, not only does it help us to analyze current and existing patterns of social life, but it also helps us to see some of the possible futures open to us. Through the sociological imagination, we can see not only what is real, but also what could become real should we desire to make it that way.
With that said, as junior scholars you are asked to review the weekly topics, materials, and overall messages found in the contents, then formulate a general observation[s] as to how we, in our contemporary world engage with each topic on a global scale. In other words, how does our [wo]manity speak to, about, and for our weekly themes?
The Three Elements of the Sociological Imagination:
1. We should see “the interconnection between our personal experiences and the larger social forces.”
2. We should identify behaviors that are properties of and a part of social systems.
3. We should identify which social forces influence our behavior.
ASSIGNMENT Reflecting on the above passage, sociological imagination is the ability to see things socially and how they interact and influenceeach other. To have a sociological imagination, a person must be able to pull away from the situation and think from an alternative point of view. This ability is central to one’s development of a sociological perspective on the world. Your task for this assignment is to carefully and critically review the content in the above passage, then ask:
What does the data say to you?
What do find most interesting about the sociological imagination?
Is the data new to you? If so, after reading it, what are your thoughts about the sociological imagination?
What are possible disadvantages to the sociological imagination?
Why is the sociological imagination important?
Give an example of when you apply or have applied the sociological imagination.
Layout and Design:
Writing 300 – 400 words, and complying fully with the following criteria makes for a successful assignment:
Typed in Times New Roman in a 12pt font
appropriate heading ( name, class, date, professor’s name, topic)
a creative title ( use your imagination and create a cool title)
use of literature and citations if applicable
your grade will reflect grammatical inaccuracies in your work.