The Sociological Imagination

Unit 1 covered an array of different ideas, theories, and actions that shaped the field of sociology and impacted it in several ways, however The Sociological Imagination by C. Wright Mills was the one that stood out most to me, and I believe it to be the most impactful.

In the very paragraph that defines what sociology is, our textbook gives this quote: “A key basis of the sociological perspective is the concept that the individual and society are inseparable. It is impossible to study one without the other” (Openstax, 2016, p. 9). This quote is the essence of what C. Wright Mills is saying with The Sociological Imagination, and sociology as a field would not be this advanced if he hadn’t come up with it.

Before C. Wright Mills, sociologists would either focus on analyzing the individual or social forces, and the two were often pitted against each other in a debate of which one would give more of an insight into society. Researchers would either focus on the micro or the macro end of the spectrum and stick to whichever one they felt was best, never combining the two. Mills, in writing the Sociological Imagination, was the first to show that society really did effect the individual, as the individual can effect society.

He gives several examples of how the two effect each other, one of them being marriage. If a couple argues or experiences personal troubles, this is an individual issue. However, if you look at statistics and high rates of divorce within the first few years of marriage, this indicates that there is an issue having to do with the institution of marriage, or other social pressures surrounding it, thus obviously making it a social issue (The Sociological Imagination, 1959, p. 9).

This breakthrough allowed sociologists to be able to analyze the bigger picture of society, rather than only focusing on one aspect of it, whether that be micro or macro. Society and the individual are interconnected, and we have to look at certain things from each of them to have a full understanding of the study of sociology.

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