My World: A Personal Blog About Everything

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Sociological Imagination

Hi all, I was reading my Sociology textbook in preparation for the upcoming year.   I learned about some frameworks for sociology theory: functionalism, conflict theory, feminist theory, and symbolic interactionism, but I read about something very interesting called Sociological Imagination. At first I thought this was some kind of b.s... something sociologists use to come up with a theory, as in "if we can't figure out this problem, use your imagination and make something up"... let me tell you it's not that at all! The term was coined by C Wright Mills, an American sociologist, in 1959.   The concept is rather simple but first let me set the mood for what imagination means.   Imagination in this context means the realization in you mind, or the quality of visualizing an unapparent link in your mind.   Sociological Imagination is the quality of bridging what is going on in the world (or in society) and one's current predicament.   In a less precise sense, it's like trying to identify how your life is effected by the ripple effects of a large social conditions.   An example used in the book (from Mills) is during war an insurance salesman becomes a rocket launcher, maybe his wife lives alone and a child grows up without a father, the man would blame himself when the war is responsible.   A better example from Wikipedia is that if someone is unemployed they usually think their skills are to blame for not getting a job, instead of recognizing larger social factors, such as the economy or laws (which is a hot topic in renewable energy jobs right now) as the cause of their unemployment, and then they feel trapped. I thought a lot about how I could apply this to my life (which is the goal of the professor in this course, making sociology practical in your own life).   Honestly, the way it's explained is so negative, it's about trying to figure out why things are bad based on the greater social stuff going on.   I can think of some examples right now, but it really seems like in the end having the quality of Social   Imagination is the quality of looking for excuses outside of yourself.   I don't fully understand the topic yet so don't hold this against me (I've been studying Sociology for 2 hours) if I'm obviously wrong. If I'm unemployed it doesn't matter if it's my fault or society's fault, I want to get a job, and I'll push myself to get a job, adapt my skills.   I personally feel there's never a reason to be trapped and that there's always a way out if you're creative and sharp. Maybe that's too optimistic, but that's just the way I would do it.   The war situation above is a bit harder, but I can think of things to help out with that. I think the point of Sociological Imagination is to apply it to solving social problems.   So for the war situation, instead of the soliders feeling like they won't be around to teach their kids, by recognizing war as being responsible we can think of ways to change the rules to improve the situation.   For example, have more frequent shorter visits home.   Instead of blaming yourself for a divorce/breakup try to figure if a social structure led to it and see if changes can be made to reduce the divorce rates. Anyways, those are my random thoughts, cya

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