Concept of Sociological Imagination Personal Essay

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Concept of Sociological Imagination Personal Essay essay
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Each and every human being is influenced and affected by society that they live in. WE do not fully realize the effect the world has on one’s own development until you start looking at your life from a different perspective, analyse it and ask yourself questions you’ve never asked yourself before. A concept by sociologist C. Wright Mills tackles this very idea, it is known as the sociological imagination.

The sociological imagination can be simply described as a way of thinking which shows us how social forces shape our lives and basically gives a reflective view of a person’s relationship in society. It includes shifting your perspective away from yourself and thinking about and looking at things more broadly. Using your sociological imagination means making comparisons of the human experience across societies and across time.

Mills also focused on how personal problems became public issues, they are tied together. For examples, if one person is unemployed that is a personal problem the individual is facing, but if we look at it in an alternative way, if it is one million out of ten million people who are unemployed, it is now a public issue, affecting everyone on a societal level. Many of the problems that people are faced with today have social roots and are shared by many others. These problems are due to the structure of society and the changes happening within it.

But how do we apply sociological imagination and use it in our everyday life. If we take a look at a simple object such as two people meeting for coffee, which we learnt about in class. For most of us a cup of coffee has become a daily ritual, but if you take a closer look it is much more than just a cup of coffee and the action of consuming the coffee, the two people are more interested in meeting rather than actually consuming the coffee, because in today’s society eating and drinking have become reason for social meetings. But someone else may look at this scenario from a different perspective, maybe due to the presence of caffeine, they see this habit of consuming a cup of coffee as a drug addiction, be it due to their culture or social structure.

Lets now take a look at an issue faced in our society today and apply our sociological imagination. We will also analyse using theoretical perspectives at a later stage. Unemployment is a huge socio-economic factor experienced all over the world. Unemployment is an economic condition marked by the fact that people actively seeking jobs remain jobless/unemployed. Now we can look at this and think of many reasons why this may be the case, and we will unpack it here.

Naturally, when presented with for an example an unemployed individual we think to our selves “well maybe he hasn’t looked hard enough” “maybe his history, experience or credentials are an issue” “maybe he has poor work ethic”. So, our initial reaction or response is to believe this issue is a personal problem affecting the individual. And often this is emotionally and mentally detrimental to the individual now as they are too, laying the blame on themselves and looking down on themselves. But as we’ve seen from learning and understanding sociological imagination, we can analyse this issue from different perspectives.

Although the individual is facing the issue of unemployment and we see it as a personal problem, there are many others in the community who are also facing unemployment, making it a public issue. Unemployment is a major concern in every society. There are many reasons for unemployment, often people cannot afford education or are forced to drop out of school for varying reasons. There are homes riddled with poverty and are sometimes child headed households, therefore these children have no choice but to dropout of school to look after their siblings. Therefore, poor education or lack of education is one of the major reasons for unemployment.

In another society or analysing the situation at hand from another point of view, one of the other major reasons for unemployment is economic downfall. When an economy is in recession, it’s causes for unemployment rates to rise, and making it harder to get a job. Looking for example at here in South Africa we have one of the worlds highest unemployment rates, and our economy is rated at a junk status, meaning individuals who are struggling with finding are facing a public issue that many other, mostly young, individuals are facing. Although being a developing country the 4th industrial revolution is slowly approaching, meaning more jobs are going to be lost as machines and technology take over.

In studying the sociological imagination, we further learn about theoretical perspectives which can also be applied in analysing. “Sociological perspectives is a sociological mind-set in regards to being able to connect individual experiences and societal relationships.” Or in a simpler definition the lens that an individual chooses to view the scope of society from. Sociological perspectives help us see social patterns in the behaviour of some individuals. There are 3 sociological perspectives that have dominated sociological thinking for some time now.

The functionalist perspective is “a framework that focuses on understanding how social structures promote the stability and integration of society, it is based largely on the works of Durkheim and functionalism views society as being a system of highly interrelated parts that work together harmoniously.” Followed by the interactionism perspective which is “a micro level theory which is concerned with the ongoing process of social interaction in specific settings based on symbolic communications.”

Lastly the conflict theory perspective which we will be unpacking in relation to unemployment. The conflict theory perspective views society as being made up of conflicting groups of interest competing for power and privilege. To some extent there is tension and conflict between unemployed people and employed people. This maybe because the working class feel some sort of power over the unemployed, or even the unemployed feel as though the working class has power over them due to internalized inferiority complex caused by not having a job and all the depressing and emotional instability. Unemployment has the jobless feeling powerless as they are desperate for any source of income. Sometimes even in happy households’ tension is created as a unemployed man feel inferior to employed wife or even children. In a way we can say that this is the opposite of the functionalism perspective.

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What are the three components of sociological imagination?
Three components form the sociological imagination are history, biography, and social structure . Mills asserts that a critical task for social scientists is to "translate personal troubles into public issues".
Which sociologist introduced the concept of the sociological imagination?
The father of sociological imagination, C Wright Mills , founded this field of thinking in the mid-20th century. At the time he wrote, “Neither the life of an individual nor the history of a society can be understood without understanding both.” Just the same, it's also important to put Mills' theories into context.
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