(Waters & Crook, 1993) conclude that ‘sociology’ is the systematic breakdown of social behaviour. Its emphasis is on the social behaviour of the individual within the context of his or her social group or society. A way of understanding sociology can be done through the ‘sociological imagination’, which is a tool that provides many distinctive perspectives on the world, which generate innovative ideas and appraisal old. According to Charles Wright Mills, “people need a quality of mind to use information to develop reason to make connections between what is going on in the world and what is happening to themselves. He calls this the Sociological Imagination”. Sociological imagination further helps us understand what the sociologist Charles Wright Mills signify when he writes of the ‘personal troubles of milieu’ and ‘the public issues of social structure’, and in addition to how ‘sociological imagination’ offers us a better understanding of the society in which we live, via exploiting on different perspectives of our world.
In order to define ‘sociology’ we must first look at our world in a bigger picture. The term ‘sociology’ can be perceived as the outcome of people’s search for compelling, consistent, and specific facts about people and society. The theory of society being that “behaviour is influenced by social, political, occupational and intellectual groups and by particular settings in which individuals find themselves”. Furthermore, sociology offers us a better understanding of the society in which we live, by considering “how people view themselves and how much of their life’s outcomes are incorporated with society’s influence” (Bilton, 1987, Ch.1).
This outlook of ones perceptive of person and society is the essence of ‘sociological imagination’. The sociological imagination is the ability to see our private experiences and personal difficulties as entwined with the structural arrangements of our society and the times in which we live. This notion of ‘sociological imagination’ is preeminent confirmed by sociologist Charles Wright Mills, (i.e. “The Promise” in ‘The Sociological Imagination’ chp.1), whereby he explores how people often believe that their private lives can solitary be enlightened in terms of their individual private accomplishments and disappointments. Mills emphasises that individuals fail to distinguish the links between their own individual lives and the society, which revolves around them. This being because they attribute internally the events that surround them without looking at the external forces which greatly influence their daily lives. The process of interpreting the individual’s life in the context of their community or the society in which they live is so called the ‘sociological imagination’.
The ‘sociological imagination’ helps develop an understanding and even outlines the existence of society to the individual in our world. It emphasises that individuals in our society are affected by our society’s traditions over period of time and also the consequences we experience should be further appeared ahead as the product of individual human beings choice and how significantly the effects of society have on them. According to C. Wright Mills, ‘sociological imagination’ enables us to put what is happening to us and around us in historical context and furthermore it offers us a better understanding of our society in which we live today. Mills stresses that we can understand our own experiences and project our futures by locating ourselves in the historical and social context in which others and we live.
He further states that each of our lives, no matter how seemingly small, contribute to the shaping of the society in which we live and the course of history it takes “the sociological imagination enables us to grasp history and biography and the relations between the two within society. That is its task and its promise” (Mills, 1959 chp1). Although, according to mills “ordinary people do not possess the quality of mind essential to grasp the interplay of individual and society, the biography and history of self and world” (Mills, 1959 chp1).
‘The sociological imagination’ by Mills, exemplifies the “interrelationship between history and biography of our society”, whereby he explores ‘the personal troubles of milieu’ and ‘the public issues of social structure’ (Mills, 1959;8). Its concern with emphasizing out on the connections between individual behaviour and the social forces that helps us understands the society in which we live. Through this, Mills illustrates that ‘sociological imagination’ is also the ability to draw connections between different social structures and also to distinguish troubles from issues, and how to deal with each accordingly in the society in which we live.
According to ‘The Sociological Imagination’ (1959) Mills accentuate that ‘private trouble’ are located in individual biographies and their immediate milieu, which offers a seemingly private experience. He further applies that these are factor specific to individuals, such as their psychological characteristics, their state of mind or their good or unwell destiny.
Although, in contrast, Mills emphasises that ‘the public issues of social structure’ are of considerable interest and have a much wider bearing and is of greater significance to the majority of the public, such as wide spread of unemployment which Mills highlights in the text.
According to Mills ‘The Sociological Imagination’ (1959), it argues that people ought to look at their own ‘private troubles’ as ‘public issues’ and, in common, try to link their own individual experiences with the mechanism of our society. The sociological imagination enables us to distinguish between ‘the personal troubles of milieu’ and ‘public issues of social structure’. For example, Mills states that ‘people in poverty due to unemployment might impede to consider that they are not alone in this predicament, and rather than attributing themselves, they should condemn the social forces that directed them into their current provision’.
The ‘sociological imagination helps us understand the society in which we live’ by highlighting seemingly ‘personal troubles of milieu’ such as unemployment, rape or assaults, into a larger social context, where we can distinguish whether and how personal troubles may be related to ‘public issues of social structure’. The sociological imagination can help us understand the linkages between individual acts of violence, such as rape, and collective acts of violence.
In conclusion ‘sociology’ involves the methodical study of vast patterns of human interaction in our society, whereby it emphasises on the different patters which are often structured by historical events, beliefs and also by social factors, which act on an individual, or on a wider social group. According to Mills “The Sociological Imagination” further offers us the ability to understand the society in which we live, by emphasising on an individual’s biography and lifestyles, and place their findings within the surrounding circumstances in which events occur in order to perceive the whole picture of the society in which the individual lives, along with knowledge of the social and historical impact of society that may have on that individual or group of people.
Bilton, T., et al, (1987) Introductory Sociology, 2nd edition, Macmillan, London. Ch 1Waters, M. and Crook, R. (1993), Sociology One, 3rd edition, Longman Cheshire, MelbourneMills, C. Wright (1978) “The Promise” in The Sociological Imagination. New York: Oxford University Press. Ch1.
Van Krieken, R., Smith, P. Habibis, D, McDonald, K., Haralambos, M. & Holborn, M. (2000) Sociology: Themes and Perspectives, 2nd edition. Longman, Melbourne. Ch.1Holmes, D., Hughes, K. and Julian, R. (2003) Australian Sociology: A Changing Society. Pearson Education Australia. Sydney. Ch.1Sociology Essayhttp://www.sociopathic.net/rants/sociology.htm