According to Mills (1959: 6) he defined the sociological imagination as “a quality of mind that enables us to grasp history and biography and the relations between the two within society.” In this essay I will write about the sociological imagination and the problems that African University students come across. Firstly, I will discuss the meaning of the sociological imagination. Secondly, differentiate between a social issue and a personal problem. Thirdly, I will discuss the problem and argue whether it is unique or shaped. I will also argue that the problems are as a result of the society.
Sociological imagination has three components: biography, history and society. Mills believed that we cannot understand the life of an individual or the history of society without understanding both (1959: 3). The sociological imagination helps us to be able to link and understand the relationship between what is happening in our lives(biography) with relative to what is happening in the world(history) Mills (1959:7).
“Mills encourages people to take themselves out of their daily routines in the effort to view their own lives from a broader context- recognising the presence and influence of social norms…” (Pritchard, Joshua:2018). This concept means with the sociological imagination we are able to see how the structures or forces behind society influence our lives. With understanding how these forces shape our lives we are then able to distinguish between what appears to be personal or public Mills (1959:7).
A personal trouble can be defined as a problem that happens in an individual’s life and only affects them personally. “It has to do with an individual’s character and with those limited areas of social life of which he is directly and personally aware of” (Mills, 1959:8). Since these troubles affect an individual’s life the solutions to those troubles can be solved by them. Normally in a society an individual is held responsible for the troubles they come across.
Mills argued that “the distinction with which the sociological imagination works is between the personal troubles and the public issues of social structure (1959:8). The difference between a personal problem and a social issue is that an issue is a public matter while a trouble is a private matter. It differs from an issue in that an issue is usually caused by societal structures whereas a trouble lies within the individual.