This concept helps people understand themselves in relation to the individual and their place in history. Who an individual is depends on what is going on in the society around them and how they fit in at that time in history, such as, a man can be a baker or a dictator depending on what troubles an individual is having what and what issues a society is facing. Mills states “the sociological imagination enables us to grasp history and biography and the relations between the two within society”. To really understand this idea you have to understand yourself first, since you will judge your place in history off what experiences you had individually, and then relate it to society’s history. For myself, I will always remember the recession in the 2000’s because that is when I decided to complete college. I lost my position at a company due to lack of business, which is what also happened to thousands of others. This is engaging myself and societies “self” and recognizing how I fit into historical fact and identifying how these two relate. Unfortunately, I was not alone. Thousands of people joined me in having to reevaluate their lives and how to go forward, but this also helped me get ideas in how I should move forward. Mills describes the difference in troubles and issues. Troubles being an individual’s turmoil and issues being a society’s turmoil, such as, I was laid off (troubles) and 60 million people were laid off (issue). But what happens if it was only me who was laid off or if there wasn’t a recession but instead an expansion? Mills describes how issues are institutional and cannot be resolved by personal solutions but need to have multiple structural changes in society to correct them. He also says that “man’s chief danger today lies…contemporary society itself with its alienating methods..” and not “…his own unruly nature and the dark forces pent up with in him.” I don’t feel like that is quite how I see it. I see the opposite. I know when I was feeling lost after losing my job, I took comfort in knowing that this was a nationwide problem. I didn’t feel like such a loser. Had it not been a recession and I was laid off, I would feel like a failure and alienated from society. Whenever I would have thought back on how I fit into a historical context within the society of that period, I would have felt like I didn’t. By having it a big issue, I was able to still fit in, even if it wasn’t a group I wanted to belong to. Plus, when something is just a trouble, society blames you. If it’s an issue, you can relieve some stress and use society as a scapegoat by blaming it to help you get through the blow to your self-esteem. When something is an issue more people are there to help out, commiserate with, and throw ideas around with on how to make peoples troubles go away, which is why I feel that an issue is less alienating than a trouble and helps you understand where you fit within society and history, aiding in the development of your sociological imagination.According to C. Wright Mills the sociological imagination is "the vivid awareness of the relationship between experience and the wider society.”
As we grow as a society, sought after items often change. Our capitalistic society’s superstructure base often changes, forcing items to its different classes to be consumed and enjoyed. Popular things come and go, having values placed on them by how popular they are. Society is based upon labor power being bought and sold to obtain these often sought after commodities.
The use value of items in a society such as the ones we live in today pertains to the people that have those items. They are only considered valuable to a person if they can be “used”. An example of this would be this computer I am typing on. Someone like me can use it to surf the web, watch movies, or even type this blog. If someone without electricity to plug it in and charge had it, they would see no value in it. Also someone that works with windows software, seeing that my laptop is mac, could also see the laptop as not useful. Seeing that I am a Macintosh fanatic, it has more value in my eyes.
The exchange value of an commodity seems to correlate to that of an item’s use value. This can be seen from such things as Craigslist, or other bartering or selling places. Depending on how much someone wants an item is how much someone is willing to pay. There are more people in Chicago, so there may be more of a chance that someone will want to buy an item than somewhere that has less of a population. If you have something that someone would want, there is a great possibility that you can get a higher exchange value for your item then you thought because they see the use value of your item as higher than you do.
Television shows like Pawn Stars or Antiques Road show an average of what society as a whole perceives the value of an item to be. These values are somewhat based on commodity fetishism, in which the value of that item is only what the eye of the beholder sees it to be. Most of the items on these shows may only be enjoyed by collectors and enthusiasts alike, so the value is perceived to be much higher because there is such a limited supply of the item.
When two like items have a different value, factors like labor power are taken into effect. Such things like cars or guitars can range in value drastically. The means of production for the two cars or guitars may be totally different. Common production cars may be produced factory line style where they are just being shelled out for the general public by the proletarian class. The more “high class” cars, such as Ferraris or Lamborghinis are more custom made, sometimes solely by one person. This gives the car a more personal feel, and something that the “Bourgeoisie” of today place a higher value on.
As a whole society, the United States of America, and most of the world, are run by the perception of value of items. The constant trading of items and money for items that have equal value is all on the worth of these items. Marx uses an example that an ounce of gold and an ounce of iron do not have the same values. A ton of iron and two ounces of gold would have about the same exchange value in society’s eyes.
The way to thrive in a society like this is to figure out what the public wants, and then use your, and possibly other persons labor powers. You must seek out areas that have high use values for the items that you are producing, like making tractors in rural America as opposed to trying to sell them in urban areas where they have no use to them. The economic base of this capitalistic economy is all based on the value placed upon items at the time and place of exchange.
Sociology, Theory and the Modern Agenda
Throughout history Sociology has been centered on class, race, ethnicity,
gender, and sexuality (Collins, 2009). Take Martineau’s concept of natural law,
Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness (Martineau, pg 8). This
concept relates to all of mankind, and applies the idea that we all should have
these rights as human beings, but as most are aware there are many societies
around the world that do not share our good fortune as far as freedom is concerned. There are many countries
in which these freedoms we share as Americans are non-existent, so these good people who want, and deserve more out of life immigrate to the United States in search of a better life.
As most are aware change is inevitable, and I believe that life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness merges with the concept of modernity, and the natural order of progress and innovation in today’s society. Each society may have different laws, or
different ways of adaptation to their ever changing environment, and often these
opinions are dissimilar on how to adapt to those changes. And make no mistake
problems will arise throughout each culture, but somehow we manage adapt, the
natural order of life continues, and people do what they can to adapt to those
everyday issues that come from modernity.
Now let us apply Martineau’s concept of life, liberty, and the pursuit of
happiness to the highly controversial issue of immigration into the United
States. One could ask a sample of the population the question, how you do as an
individual feel about this particular issue? But the answers would vary greatly,
and your research would be extremely challenging. So instead we ask the
question, are you for immigration, or against immigration into the United
States. In my personal opinion is yes, I am for immigration, but not illegal
immigration. From a personal perspective the sociological imagination in me sees
beyond the fact that issues like these may take away much needed jobs for
Americans. Because in my heart I feel that everyone is entitled to their
inalienable rights as human beings. I personally have no issues with immigration
I believe that those who do immigrate legally should be allowed a chance for a
better life. But as many of us know the process of immigration is extremely time
consuming, and people wait year after year suffering from starvation, rape,
murder, and homelessness and so on. Therefore, I can’t say I do not understand
why people immigrate illegally. I realize that we as Americans have all these
issues right here at home, and some people may feel that we can’t employ, feed,
or house Americans. We are all entitled to our own opinion, but if we try to
utilize our sociological imaginations and ask ourselves the question, shouldn’t
the concept of life liberty and the pursuit of happiness apply to
Unfortunately, as we all know this particular concept does not apply to everyone, and millions of immigrants must live in unsuitable and dangerous conditions. Immigration continues to be a highly controversial topic and most likely will be for a long time to come. Accordingly, with the concept of maternity in mind, we must come together as a nation and support one another. As Patrick Henry quoted in a speech for the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions in March of 1799 “United we stand and divided we fall “(Wikipedia). There simply is no better way to describe how I feel about immigration, and the
right to pursue happiness.
Comte the founder of sociology himself considered the idea of inalienable
rights and citizenship (1789-1799)( pg.7). We, as sociologist owe a dep’t of
gratitude to our founding fathers. If not for them would we have the knowledge
and wisdom so desperately needed to complement the knowledge and past experience they have given us.
I will start off by asking
myself and you “What is Sociology?” Yes, I understand that I should know what it
is and I have come to learn from my previous Sociology classes as to what
Sociology means. However, I have to remind myself that Sociology is a systematic
study of individual groups and social structures. Makes sense right? It makes
sense when people like Allan, Mills, Lemert, Marx etc. come in the picture. They
are the ones who study the individual groups and social structures. Then the
other individuals, who are us, come in the picture. We, as individuals have to
understand what sociology really is and what socialists like Mills, Lemert or
Allan try to provide with their information and sociology background. The best
way to analyze them, understand and comprehend that information is through
Sociology Theory. As Professor Bradley Zopf Stated “Social theory can illuminate
the patterns of rules, norms and expectations giving you a greater ability to
understand, challenge, and transform them.” I read a piece written by C. Wright
Mills which was really interesting, taught me a lot and made me perceive things
in a different way.
writes about “The Promise of Sociology” which mainly focuses on human mankind,
how we think and why sociological imagination is important. Mills mentions how
men don’t understand their personal problems. If they were ever broke, they
don’t understand why they are in the position that they are in. There are ups
and downs that people experience in life. When we experience a down moment, we
feel heart broken and when we go through an up moment, we love it. However,
Mills states how we don’t understand why we experience things like that in life.
We don’t understand our experiences, life or things we go through daily. Mills
also provides with the information that we need the understanding of life, we
need to feel it and our experiences each and every day and that has to go
through Sociological Imagination. As Mills states “The Sociological
imagination enables its possessor to understand the larger historical scene in
terms of it meaning for the inner life and the external career of a variety of
individuals” (Mills 2).
Sociological imagination is
the understanding between personal experiences and our social world. What I got
from Mills is in order to use the sociological imagination; we must distinguish
between personal troubles and public issues. The concept of that in my opinion has a
lot to do with what my friend experienced in high school. I got to witness a
close friend of mine who dropped out of high school and until this day, she
regrets it. She decided to drop out of high school because she was in a
relationship with an older guy, couldn’t handle school work and gave up. That is
considered as a personal problem. It was her personal problem because she is the
one that decided to drop out on her own, she is regretting it and it’s her own
problem to deal with those consequences. However, if the nation’s public schools
experience high drop rates, then that is a public issue. It’s a public issue
because it involves not just one person, but multiple people. It involves a
nation full of public schools that are experiencing the consequence of high drop
I don’t know if this exactly
fits in to what Mills really means by public issues and personal problems, but
getting laid off from work relates to that as well in my opinion. If one person
is laid off from a company, it becomes a personal problem because that
individual has to deal with its own consequences. That individual might not
have been good enough for the company and they had to let him go. However, if a
company has to let go multiple people and are forced to do so, then that
becomes a public issue. That would mean that the company is not running
properly, it doesn’t have enough money to keep everyone and it’s not investing
like it should.
Why do we go through the
things we do in life? Why do we experience unemployment? Why do we experience
happiness? Why do we experience sadness? Why do we experience wars? Why do we
experience death? Those are just some examples as to what we don’t really
understand. As Mills said, in order to succeed in understanding life and what we
go through, we have to use sociological
By: Peter Dilger
So here is my trial run, my very first blog. And I have a big confession I am about
as confident of this blog as a young tike is first riding a bike after being on
training wheels. It is a terrifying yet exciting event at the same time. I have
written numerous papers in my college career. However, writing a blog has caused
writer’s block and anxiety over writing expectations for a unknown arena - the
For days after reading and rereading the three sociological articles from Mills,
Lemert, and Allen assigned in class, I was clueless of a worthy topic to discuss
in my blog debut and how I could apply it. That all changed while I was
frantically procrastinating over the blog deadline, it dawned on me that in the
particular moment I was living in “the personal troubles of milieu” and “the
public issues of social structure,” as theorized by C. Wright Mills in the
article “The Promise of Sociology (Mills, 1959).”1
In the article, C. Wright Mills established a theory of personal troubles vs.
public issues under the lense of sociological imagination which he explained how
we perceive our environment, the stimuli that occupy it daily, and their
personal impact on us. Mills theory of sociological imagination also proposed
that we impetuous interpret, interact, and conduct inspections on the worldly
stimuli we come across in our daily lives and the certain outcomes they impose
While rereading the Mills’ article and with only a few hours until the blog deadline,
my procrastinating over this blog continued to build and build and build until
it hit a fever pitch and a stalemate. I found myself between two stations
“personal troubles of milieu”and :the public issues of social structure.
The personal trouble was the unyielding task of executing the assignment using my years of education and the newly sociological information I read within the three articles. The personal trouble was the blog assignment was issued to me, along with all of my fellow Sociology 385 classmates and the personal success of my blog rested within my fingertips with every keyboard letter key strategically entered into submission to convey my interpretation of sociological imagination discussed by Mills in his article.
My personal trouble continued on within my head, as doubt began to fill my mind
projecting multiple conflicting thoughts at once suggestively saying to me that
the blog material should be more cut and dry, that the hypothetical blogs of my
fellow classmates will follow a more conventional train of thought and dissect
and regurgitate every morsel of sociological thought muttered by the three
sociologists we were assigned to analyze and apply daily life scenarios to. My
personal trouble writing this blog had rebirthed itself in a new form as an
inner monologued battle with my conscience and myself which meshed with ‘the
public issues of social structure’ which entailed institutional expectations and
forces controlling my academic fate by requiring me to successfully complete
this blog assignment as necessary step closer for me receiving my Bachelor's
Degree in Sociology.
One last note I would like to address in this blog is the fact that many of us to
fail to comprehend the level of potential each mind has for piecing together the
world we live and continuously learning from every experience and environment
our lives dish out. We underestimate and take for granted the simple application
and value of imagination. There is more to imagination than a mere psychological
parlor trick we use on ourselves to escape reality and enter fantasy. And the
imagination of our minds is not only useful for us as children to create their
ideal friend that no one can see or play make believe games. Our minds are full
of imagination in respect to a sociological aspect by they way they that soaks
up every encounter of situational experiences and permanently internalized it
for future social interactions.
C. Wright Mills theorized this imagination manifestation in the same article “The
Promise of Sociology,” of which he coined the phrase ‘the first fruit of this
imagination.’ Which Mills was referring to as the social scenario where
“personal uneasiness of individuals is focused upon explicit troubles and the
indifference of publics is transformed into involvement with public issues
In the statement, C. Wright Mills basically was describing the situational experience where the things a person can control collide with the institutional enforced norms that influences a person’s consciousness toward their unique role on a individual, micro, and macro social level.
1 Mills, C. Wright. The Sociological Imagination. New York: Oxford UP, 1959. Print.
2 Mills, C. Wright. The Sociological Imagination. New York: Oxford UP, 1959. Print.
3 Mills, C. Wright. The Sociological Imagination. New York: Oxford UP, 1959. Print.
The Promise written by Mills in short explains the importance of the sociological imagination in the changes that sociology has made. The social imagination is what allows a person to find the relationship between an individual experience and that of the wider society. When a person is awakened to the idea that they belong to a wider social world they are experiencing the first fruit of this imagination (Mills p.3). The Lemert and Allan articles evolve around the history and changes that have occurred with time in sociology due to modernity. Modernity brought forth social changes, population growth of rural communities, industrialization, and bureaucracy (Allan p4). These new world changes had people questioning the norms, what is normal? What makes things abnormal?
Talking about abnormality is quiet the touchy topic. Abnormality is something most people tend to move away from. In the larger society being normal will get you places, will not get you teased, won’t be emotionally distressing, and will get you the all inclusive in pass with the “cool” kids. This will make your childhood years easy breezy. Unless you are one of those kids who is thinking outside the box, one who was born and has been encouraged to use their sociological imagination.
Kids, amongst other people, are the targeted victims of society’s norms. They are the ones who are the most vulnerable because they are still finding their way, finding themselves. Children haven’t grown to see enough of the world to learn that things aren’t always as society says they should be. There are norms but by all means they are not meant to be followed to the tee. This is where we come to see one of the biggest problems children are now facing in their home away from home, school.
Bullying is a problem that within recent years has captured more attention of the media, although it has been a recurring issue. A bully takes the face of what society believes to be acceptable and makes its victims those who have strayed away from what is considered normal.
How does anyone know what is normal? is it because modernity has taught people that if you are not what society says you should be as a man or woman/ boy or girl, then you get to be the victim? Parents are the ones that have the power over their children to teach them that times and life are different now. Woman or girls don’t have to wear pink barrettes or pink skirts. As a woman or girl, you can play softball, wear jeans, tie your hair back, shave you head and you’re still feminine. Man or boy, you can be thinner or built, strong or emotional yet that will not make you less masculine.
Children have to be taught that times have changed. Individuals are not all robots running around doing everything exactly the same. Some people are born different. Some people question everything around them , something that should be encouraged at an early age, so we can see a change in the behavior patterns that tend to nurture bullying. We don’t just want to raise children, we want to raise individuals who know themselves and know their society
In Sociology, Theory, and the Modern Age, Allan designates theory as the center for all modern fields of science and democracy. The scientific method is not only applied to biological and physical but also to social sciences. The power of theory through assumption is not fully recognized because of pop culture notions. Assumptions and human being’s critical analysis of them is the natural process of understanding of the world (9). Observations and abstractive concepts seem to be key components in formulating theories. They are used to explain the cause and effect relationship of “how things work” (Allan 9). It is interesting that Allan exclaims that assumptions are good and important when we are constantly taught that it is bad to assume things despite it seeming innate. Sociology in general seems to assert that natural things should be more embraced and void of social constructions that lead to hateful behavior like prejudices.
Allan’s description of theory takes on philosophical ideals in the book “Through the Looking-Glass” written by Lewis Carroll in 1871. “Through the Looking Glass” would represent sociologist’s perspective. In the book, the main character Alice has her assumptions challenged when she enters a fictional world where “how things work” is reversed. Overall her perspectives in the real world are altered based on this dream world when the cause and effect relationships are switched. As the main character progresses through her dream state, her perspective and control of that world increases. It compares with how the more sociologists observe the world through their perspective experience; the better they can understand reality (Allan 10). By theorizing standard definitions of cause and effect relationships, they can be applied to understand various scenarios. There is also a notion of constant forward movement that Alice must face throughout her journey. This relates to Allan’s description of modernity movement from traditional thought and religious basis into progression and change (Allan 5).
In Lemert’s Social Theory: Its Uses and Pleasures, his main emphasis is that anyone can be a social theorist through analyzing their society and institutions, which construct social norms. His belief of its theory’s necessity to survive in the world leads into the idea that only the most powerful will survive. They survive because they understand the nature of society but are also able to conceal from the weaker status (2).
Lemert is similar to Allan by describing the shift from traditional thought to modernity as a building block of sociology theory (6). This shift correlates with the 18th century Age of Enlightment when people finally started to implement reflection and ideas for change upon society. This was an appropriate time for America to undergo this transformation as they only recent had established themselves as a country. It can be argued that modernity and sociological theory are the reasons why this county thrived so rapidly. With the ever-cThohanging world, adaptation is the only way to survive whether it is physically, mentally, or technologically. For instance, in a traditional world the fittest country was the one with the largest army but in modern times it is country that is the most technologically advanced. A main signifier of this shift was the Cold War and space race wherein the U.S. and Soviets technologically competed to have the first man in space.
Both of these articles define the significance of social theory and how it can be applied to today. Theory is not something that only sociology pioneers have done; the point of it is that it is constantly changing and being tested. I agree that it is necessary for survival because analysis is the only way to learn from the past and understand how to progress into a better future.
Lewis Carroll. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. London: Oxford University Press, 1971.
Gangs and the Sociological Perspective
Street gangs and the violence and crime typically associated with them are a
serious concern for the city of Chicago. To deal with this issue, legislators have
proposed harsh new laws involving mandatory jail terms and longer sentences for
gang related offenses. However, do harsher punishments actually deter crime?
And regardless, is the sixteen year old gang member soley resposible for his
actions? Or is society at large partially responsible for creating the types of
environments in which gangs thrive? The promise of Sociology by C. Wright Mills
introduces two key concepts that may help answer some of these questions: (1)
sociological imagination and (2) indifference.
The concept of sociological imagination refers to the idea that every member of a
society is a small piece of a very large puzzle, and that broader societal factors, few
of which are subject to individual control, exert a powerful influence of most people's
everyday lives. According to Mills, the quicker one comes to recognize this outside
influence, the better one will be able to cope with it. Sociological imagination may
help explain gangs, more specifically, why people join gangs in the first place. What
do I mean? The neighborhoods in which gangs thrive tend to lack certain elements
which young people need for a stable upbringing, including acceptance, community,
support, and a sense of wellbeing. When they find themselves unable to
experience these elements through societal institutions like the family, school, and
church, many young people turn to gangs to fill this void. For example, gang
members frequently grow up in fatherless homes, leaving them searching for adult
male role models. Is it surprising then, that younger gang members often model
their behavior after older gang members? What makes it worse is that those older
gang members probaly also grew up without fathers, and therefore modeled their
own behavior after even older gang members, resulting in a vicious circle. Another
important factor to keep in mind is that most areas in which gangs thrive are poverty
stricken, which leads many youths to join gangs simply to make money. In a study
in which I involved, the Northwestern Project, one of the sixteen year old
participants who was recently released from a juvenile detention center told me he
sold drugs because, "I got to eat Joe." Analyzing Mill's sociological imagination
makes it resonable to assume that society is just as, if not more, responsible for
than the individual for creating the conditions in which gangs thrive.
A second key concept discussed by Mills that is relevant to the study of gangs is
indifference. Indifference refers to the phenomenon in which," a person is neither
aware of any cherished values nor experiences any threat." Essintially ,
indifference involves a situation in which a person has nothing invested in a
situation and does not care about the situation's outcome, one way or the other.
The majority of people in society do not care the plight of resdients of gang-infested
neighborhoods. More often than not, if it is not happening directly to them or in their
immediate community, people are indifferent. For example, when I was growing up,
a young gang member was shot in front of a local hospital and none of the hospital
workers helped him, instead insisting that the gang member call 9-1-1 and wait for
an ambulance to assist him. In the end, this unfortunate young man literally bled to
death a couple hundred feet from the emergency room door. Although I could site
more examples of societal indifference with respect to gangs, I will not belabor the
issue given the time and the word limit restrictions placed on this assignment.
Mills's concepts of the sociological imagination and indifference shed light on the
various ways through which society often creates the environments in which gangs
thrive. When applied to gangs, the sociological imagination seems to indicate that in
order to combat the social problems that gangs produce, one should look at the
broader context, namely society, rather than the context's smaller components,
such as individual gang members. Maybe stiffer laws are not the answer. Of
course, I am in no way saying that gang members who commit gang-related crimes
should get a slap on the wrist. Rather, I am proposing that we as a society should
look at the larger environmental context, much like the context of the sociological imagination does.