The Sociological Imagination

Length: 2 Pages 448 Words

C.W. Mills defined the sociological imagination' as a contrivance to understand that personal troubles can often be caused or influenced by broader issues within society, rather than as a result of the individual. The ultimate measure of this theory is the difference between personal troubles and public issues in society, as they are often not being identified as two different problems. If this divergence cannot be recognized then a sense of entrapment can be felt by the individual. Mills stated that the key to the sociological imagination was being able to see the relationship between the personal life of the individual and the wider public issues of societ Continue...


Once the connection to wider societal issues is seen and perspective changed, this sense of entrapment can be relieved as the individual realizes that though they may not be able to change the situation, they may not be entirely to blame. If an extremely small quantity of people are unemployed every year, this can be seen as personal, however if unemployment number rises and it's affecting the whole nation then this can be perceived as a public issue. The sociological imagination can relieve this feeling as it allows the individual to understand that personal problems can occur due to causes beyond their control, and thus change their perspective on the issue rather than changing the issue itself. Public issues are the result of broad societal flaws, affecting the individual but not caused by them directly (Mills 1959:8). The sociological imagination on this scenario allows us to remove ourselves from this small situation and look at the broader picture. To recap what Mills (1959) said, the sociological imagination is the ability to understand that personal troubles can often be caused or influenced by broader issues within society, rather than by the individual. Unemployment can be perceived as a private trouble. The dissimilarity between the two is not always seen clearly, and often those that are unable to distinguish this difference are plagued by a feeling of entrapment and feel they are to blame for their situation and are thus falsely conscious of their social position (Mills 1959:6). An individual's private troubles may occur due to their character, skills and immediate opportunities. Once we realize that unemployment is a larger societal issue and unemployed people are not entirely responsible, their sense of entrapment can be relieved knowing that being unemployed is not their fault. A good example of this is 'unemployment'. One develops a sociological imagination by examining the distinction between the personal troubles and public issues, and if the distinction between the two isn't clear the individual may feel a sense of guilt.