02 Jul 2009
Sociological imagination is a sociological term coined by American sociologist “C. Wright Mills” in 1959 describing it as the “Ability to connect seemingly impersonal and remote historical forces to the incidents of an individual’s life”. Or, “The ‘quality of mind’ which allows one to grasp “history and biography and the relations between the two within society”. According to Sociological imagination, people may look into their personal problems, and try to connect them with the society’s problems. In general, they can work on connecting their personal issues with the doings of the society. This way rather than blaming it on themselves, they will think about the greater societal issues that dragged them into that position.
Mills argued that; Men often think that their life is a “series of traps”. They start looking at the issues with a limited vision. They might look at the issues at smaller level i.e. (their jobs, family, neighborhood), which restrains them from looking at the larger perspective of things. A simple example of unemployment describes it all, a person who is capable, and actively seeking a job, is denied of it because of unemployment issues that revolve across the country, but the person never thinks beyond himself, he never thinks about “why unemployment at the first place?” or “what causes unemployment?”. This thinking pattern keeps a person trapped into the deficiencies of a society.
There are many economical, social, historical and political issues that affect our daily lives. One of the greater Political issues that affect our lives is “War against Terrorism”. If not all of us, some of us surely do get affected by the war that America raged against “Iraq” and “Afghanistan”. Billions of dollars are being spent on warfare; the money used in these wars is the tax that people of America pay to their governments, to solve issues like poverty, unemployment, improving literacy rate, and better infrastructure. When this amount is being spent in the warfare, people get deprived of their rights. Many people might look at unemployment as their personal problem but in fact, it is a problem of society, which needs to be addressed at an aggregate level by the people themselves.
One of the greater social issues that affect our daily lives is “tension that present-day women experience regarding their perceived housekeeping responsibilities, as discussed in a 2004 broadcast of “Life Matters” (Radio National 2004). The discussion focused on the rising popularity of domestic advice and support services, advising women who are not able to deal with their perceived roles as home maker. Sociologist “Susan Maushart” argues that second-wave, White middle-class feminism has ‘thrown out the baby with the bathwater’ (Radio National 2004) because, although the victories of feminism have ensured that women are not restricted to being homemakers, they have devalued the home in their wake. Many women thus feel trapped between the social change achieved by feminism and the cultural expectations of being home makers.
Similarly “Unemployment, poverty, drug trafficking, homelessness, immigration, violence, child abuse, media violence are some of the many issues we face in our daily lives, all these issues need to be dealt with on a larger level rather than taking it on a personal level.
Mills offers a solution to this feeling of being trapped. He argues that because: “neither the life of an individual nor the history of a society can be understood without understanding both, we need to develop a way of understanding the interaction between individual lives and society. This understanding is what Mills calls Sociological Imagination: the ‘quality of mind’ which allows one to grasp “history and biography and the relations between the two within society. Mills believed, however, that “ordinary people do not possess the quality of mind essential to grasp the interplay of man and society, of biography and history, of self and world”