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Essays Using The Sociological Imagination

“The sociological Imagination is defined as the ability to understand the one’s own issues are not caused simply by one’s own beliefs or thoughts but by society and how it is structured.” (Mills, The Sociological Imagination, 1959). Therefore, one can never solve their problems until they understand that they cannot be solved simply on an individual level but must be addressed on the social level. It is the ability to see how society is structured and how things such as societal norms influence people into performing certain actions. It involves observing outcomes from a different perspective in order to understand what influenced those outcomes.

Growing up in one’s environment is likely to play as a factor in the way they go about things in the life. People cannot change their environment so they sometimes have to change themselves in order to become to fit in with their societies or to become successful person. The sociological perspective better known as the sociological imagination helps individuals see through a broader scope of the society. Being a part of a general category like a working class youth or a student, you must learn how to view the world through by society. My agent of socialization belongs to my university and friends or peer who surrounded me recently because I believe the service-learning that we will be taking part in will help to expand our sociological imaginations.

For myself, my parents are born into a certain environment and depending on how the utilized their sociological imagination, play a part in the environment we become a part of. As I’m coming from the working class family, there is an assumption that you have to go to the school or university for your social status or prestige of your life in my society. My parents always wanted more for me so they enlisted me in a catholic elementary and private high school in my county. So I saw how different I was compared to my other friend’s not in intelligence but in wisdoms. I knew that I was capable of doing more and becoming more because not only I did I believe in myself, my parents did too. It’s correct because when you are in private high school or catholic school, you have to pay tuition fees and a lot of people do not have money to spare with it. Instead of having the latest pairs of sneakers or shoes and throwing big parties for every holiday and your birthday, we can save some money for the future and my education.

From being in my current university student’s life, my entire life that I learn so much not only academically, but that I do not have to settle for what our social class or social location places us. After my private high school in my country, I went to my fist college in the United States. I encountered the language barriers and a lot of cultural differences in my first six months of college life here. I also learned that no matter how good you do academically, you will always be stereotyped and looks at differently because you’re a minority who comes from different cultures in the society.

The sociological imagination is a capacity, ability, and a quality of mind that allows an individual to understand and connect her or his life with the forces and dynamics that impact it. It is about not blaming others for what they do, it is about judging ourselves before we judge others and understand people as if we understand ourselves for example if a student comes late to class there could be many reasons behind this student being late; there could have been traffic or an accident on the way that made him or her come late to class, so we should not judge but understand.

Although we should separate between personal trouble and public issue, for example a student could be coming to class late all the time because of his or her laziness this would be called a personal trouble but if all students are coming late to class than this is called a public issue, meaning there is something wrong with the class. Sociological imagination engages in, the minority status, gender, socioeconomic status and the family structure.

Sociological imagination is a social fact and empathy; social fact is the idea, feeling, behavior of individuals. An example of social fact is when the sun is rising, this is a social fact that we cannot change whether we like it or not it will still rise. There are many sociological issues in society; one of the issues learned in this course is the race and racism issue.

Race and racism are two different issues race is a social constructed aspect of identity in all cultures, race is not biological it is powerful; it is what makes us who we are for example what we are born with like hair texture and skin color. Racism is an interlocking system of advantage based on race existing at individual and cultural symbolic. Racism comes from power, and culture. Racism happens when some social groups have more power over another social groups, but racism have changed even if it still exist it is not visible in which it is been described as dangerous or a hidden fact. Racism is racism that it can’t be better or worse in any country. Even though being born with a specific skin color is a cause of geographic conditions, in which where the person is born for example being born in a sunny place is different than being born in a place in which doesn’t have sun, so all humans are the same if we put skin color a side, also black people are born with more melanin in their skin and that protects them from getting cancer that’s why white skin colored people are more likely to get cancer than people with dark skin. So there are always advantages and disadvantages about what we have and what we don’t have.

Society will always look at you twice before becoming a consideration for different things in an adult life. It takes a great deal of my social imagination to attend college. Not many people in my country feel like they are capable of going to college because of their general categories or social locations. College has always been a big thing in my family. My parents did not want me to settle for just any job that they wanted me to have a career and one that I enjoy. They want me to do well in the life so no only I can get out of the middle social class but I can also take them with me in my success. There is a limited amount of people in my immediate family who actually went to the college in here so going for me is a really big deal. I did not do really well in my past high school so that lead me to a selected few number of colleges to attend when I applied to school in here. I ended up choosing some universities close to my home town for my first student’s life. I decided to go to Webster Thailand campus because I did not want to branch to far away from my family. I know that if I continue to do good academically I can transfer to a college in the big city like Singapore and still be close to my family.

The sociological imagination distinguishes between two very distinct ends of reality, the “private troubles” and the “public issues”. To understand social reality, private troubles must be examined in the context of the larger issue. For example, a child who doing poor school work may be suffering from a private trouble but that issue is part of a larger picture. Is his trouble coming from a larger social problem that is also affecting his community? Is his trouble something which is common among his peer group? All feelings and emotions are inter-related in order to understand one end of society you must understand the others.

The sociological imagination, written by C. Wright Mills, is an insightful critique of the research taking place in sociology. Mills states that the sociological imagination is the quality of mind that allows one to understand “history and biography and the relations between the two within society” (p.6). It allows one to switch from one perspective to another allowing for a comprehensive view of the “socio-cultural system”. Mills stated some very valid points in this analysis. By defining troubles and issues, he points to each of the connections they have to each other. A good example is on Page 9, when Mills mentions marriage. He states that “inside a marriage a man and a woman may experience personal troubles, but when the divorce rate during the first four years of marriage is 250 out of 1000 attempt, this is an indication of a structural issue”.

Education is a key into overcoming one social location or the class. Doing good academically we can branch into different fields in which we can utilize and expand our experiences. Our social class will no longer be a fallback because we can get different types of scholarships. Social perspective plays a major part in one’s decision to go to the college because people want more in life not just what they were given. They want to learn more and they want to be more so getting a college education will get them there. People’s lives are shaped by society. They become accustomed to different things and try to stay in the trends in the society. One’s society plays a huge role in one’s personality and the way that they might live their lives.

Social Stratification is regarded quite differently by the principle perspectives of sociology. Proponents of structural-functional analysis suggest that since social stratification exists in most state of the societies, a hierarchy must therefore be beneficial in helping to stabilize their existence. Talcott Parsons, an American sociologist, asserted that stability and social order are achieved by means of a universal value consensus. Functionalists assert that stratification exists solely to satisfy the functional per requisites necessary for a functional proficiency in any society.

Conflict theorists consider the inaccessibility of resources and lack of social mobility n many stratified societies. They conclude, often working from the theories of Karl Marx, that stratification means that working class people are not likely to advance socioeconomically, while the wealthy may continue to exploit the proletariat generation after generation. Marx distinguished social classes by their connection to the means of production. Therefore the ruling class (the bourgeoisie) and the working class (the proletariat), identify their social positions by their relationship to the means of production. The maintenance of status quo is achieved by various methods of social control employed by the bourgeoisie in the course of many aspects of social life, such as through ideologies of submission promoted through the institution of religion.

In the conclusion, my sociological imagination leads me to where I am today. I did not let other stereotypes about my social location and my social class play a part in my decision making process. I took a stand and decided to go to college to better not only for myself but for my family. The sociological imagination is an awareness of the relationship between an individual and wider society; a key element in this is the ability to view one’s society as an outsider’s would. As being humans, we can’t let our social location determine our abilities. We must explore beyond what we are given and what we are told is right. Humans must defeat their ordinary life by not setting themselves up for limited expectations in the society and we should also try to exceed our or everyone else’s expectations in our life.


Mills, C. Wright. 1959. The Sociological Imagination. New York; Oxford University Press. Web. Engels, Friedrich and Marx, Karl. 1998. Manifesto of the Communist Party. New York. Web 10 Sep, 2013. Web 10 Sep, 2013. C Wright Mills, (1959), The Sociological Imagination, reprinted (2000), Oxford University, chapters 1-3 and 7, pages 3–75 and 132-143. Schwalbe, Michael. 1956. The Sociologically examined life: pieces of the conversation. Collins, Patricia Hill. December 1986. Social Problems 33. Web.

“Neither the life of an individual nor the history of a society can be understood without understanding both.” C. Wright Mills.

Written by sociologist C. Wright Mills in 1959, The Sociological Imagination is a book that encourages people to replace the lenses they're currently using to view their own lives. In it, Mills encourages every member of society to stop boxing their personal situations into isolated corners and open up to the wider landscape of the world.

Understanding the Sociological Imagination

The most common example of the sociological imagination pertains to unemployment. An individual facing unemployment might feel defeated, depleted, and discouraged. That person is likely to look in the mirror and say, "You didn't work hard enough. You didn't try hard enough…" You, you, you.

If Mills were around, he'd say, "Not you. The world around you." Mills believed things only worked when you saw "the vivid awareness of the relationship between experience and the wider society." He encouraged people to stop focusing on themselves alone and to look at the wider landscape of society.

If you take Mills' stance, you'll start to believe that every problem faced by an individual has roots in society as a whole and is faced by many others. There's some truth to that, isn't there? It's unlikely that every struggle you face is unique to you alone. There are hundreds, thousands, if not millions of others who are going through the same struggle.

Mind you, Mills never thought sociology alone was the ultimate science. He felt sociologists, psychologists, economists, and political scientists should all work together. Makes sense, given his broad pair of lenses.

Tea Drinking and Sociological Imagination

This is a fun place to start because it allows us to see how virtually any behavior can have the sociological imagination applied to it. Something as simple as drinking tea can be examined from several different perspectives. It's rarely just an old lady sipping a warm cup of Earl Grey on a misty morning.

For example:

  • Tea drinking can be seen as a means of maintaining good health in the way that one might take daily supplements or vitamins.
  • Tea drinking can be considered a tradition or a ritual, as many people choose to make tea in the same way every day at a certain time.
  • Tea drinking can be considered an addiction because it contains caffeine.
  • Tea drinking can be seen as a social activity because “meeting for tea” focuses less on the beverage and more on talking with others.

As soon as you start to think about various issues or activities in perspectives that differ from your own, you're entering the realm of the sociological imagination.

College Choices and the Sociological Imagination

When it's time to make your way into college, you might think this is a solitary path. You have to pass the tests. You have to nail the college entrance essays. But, is it a solitary path?

Never mind the obvious point that millions of others are also doing it. Your current situation is broader than your immediate world when you consider your family members and school teachers.

Do they have any expectations of you? Are they indirectly pushing you toward an Ivy League when you want to attend art school in Manhattan? Or, do you have a longstanding family history at one university over another?

Boxing up your college choices into a solitary experience can easily be shaken up by the sociological imagination.

Deviance and the Sociological Imagination

Whether we see it on TV or see it in real life, deviance is prevalent. Where do we even start? There's common thievery, random murder, gang violence, drug and alcohol abuse, and on and on.

Is deviance a personal act of desperation? Maybe. Gang members make terrible decisions each and every day. Is that because they're terrible people? That's not for us to say. But, taking things in a broader context, think about this: what if one of those gang members met his fate when his father started abusing him and his mother abandoned him. In a search for some sort of familial replacement, suddenly, he's a deviant member of society.

The sociological imagination is never meant to excuse someone's position in life. Whether we're dealing with unemployment or gang members, it's never okay to just put it all on society. We have to show some accountability for our choices and actions. It's just that life is rarely a solitary situation where our singular choices are untouched by societal or cultural variables.

Social Media and the Sociological Imagination

We might consider social media to be a 21st century phenomenon. Mills would probably say, "Is that so?" Social media didn't pop out of thin air and land in the laps of millennials. It must've taken root somewhere, evolved from something else.

So, while we don't really consider Instagram to be the brain child of, say, the beeper, there are wider lenses we should be using whenever we contemplate current life. Indeed, nearly everything we experience today is an extension of some prior period in life.

It would be hard to call social media a personal experience. Just look at the name. But, how is it impacting you every day? How does it touch your study habits and work opportunities? How does it shape your relationships or help you identify yourself? These are questions that will have different answers for everyone. But, every time you click on that Instagram icon on your phone, 500 million others could be doing the exact same thing.

Marriage and the Sociological Influence

Do you think all our ancestors got married because they fell madly in love? Did some of them get married because their parents arranged it? Did others get married simply because they felt it was "time"?

How about today? Does everyone marry strictly for that fairy tale kind of love? Or do they marry because it's what society tells them is right? This is not a judgment on any decision any person makes. It's a commentary on how something so personal, love and romance, isn't always a singular experience.

Taking out those wider lenses, we might see that dating and marriage has a little bit to do with what our friends say, how our parents feel, or the feared stigma of being labeled a "loner".

A New Perspective

In the end, unemployment, education, deviance, and marriage are not singular situations. First, they're rarely dealt with by one unique individual. They're often experience by thousands, if not millions, of others across the globe.

Second, each of these situations didn't come out of nowhere. They evolved from some past event or way of living. Thus, whenever someone thinks their current station in life is unique, just imagine Mills asking, "Is that so?" Do you believe every outcome has a social cause?

Use those wider lenses to consider the relationship between your personal experience and society as a whole. This will help you change perspectives on your story and your connections to society, to institutions, to history. Now you’re using the sociological imagination.

Do you have a good example to share? Add your example here.

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Examples of Sociological Imagination

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“Neither the life of an individual nor the history of a society can be understood without understanding both.” C. Wright Mills.

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