In 1959, C. Wright Mills released a book entitled ‘The sociologicalImagination’.
It was in this book that he laid out a set of guidelines of how tocarry out social analysis.
But for a layman, what does the term ‘sociological imagination’actually mean?
In his own words, Mills claimed “it is the capacity to shift from oneperspective to another…the capacity to range from the most impersonaland remote transformations to the most intimate features of the humanself – and to see the relations between the two of them.”
. Mills believed that being able to see the relationship between theordinary lives of people and the wider social forces was the key tothe sociological imagination.
Fundamental to Mills’ theory is the idea of ‘public issues’ and‘private troubles’.
An individual’s troubles are personal when they occur because of theperson’s character.
Public issues, however, are a direct result of the problems withinsociety, they affect people hugely but often the individual willassign the problem as their own personal downfall rather than as asocietal problem.
An ordinary man may get depressed about being unemployed andautomatically accept it as his own personal trouble. He will becondemned as being ‘lazy’ or ‘work-shy’ and labelled simply as a‘scrounger’. However, if there are thousands of other individuals alsounemployed, Mills argues it should then be treated as a ‘publicissue’.
Another good example of this is divorce. If only a few divorces occurwithin a society than it can be seen as person troubles of the peopleinvolved. If, however, masses of people are getting divorced everyyear than it can be seen as a public issue where institutions likemarriage, law and media need to be looked at.
Mills suggested was that these sorts of problems are interwoven withthe large-scale problems of society where government policy may beinvolved and therefore are a ‘public issue’.
It is clear from this that what sociology focuses on is the influence