Mills on Private Troubles and Public Issues

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In order to gain a broader understanding of ourselves and the world in which we live, one must first understand ‘the sociological imagination’ and all that it entails. Mills describes this idea in terms of ‘private troubles’ and ‘public issues’ which continue to effect the lives of each and every one of us (Mills 1959: 8). While the connections between the two are evident, there are clearly a number of distinctions which determine the success or failure of either an individual or a society. Understanding that history and society’s issues come hand in hand also becomes an important part in further understanding the nature of these public issues and private troubles. Additionally, during the mid-twentieth century both men and women felt that these private and public issues could not be overcome, and therefore caused them to feel ‘trapped’ (Mills 1959: 3). Furthermore, public issues and private troubles are still prominent in the early twenty-first century, and thus individuals still feel as though they are unable to escape, and are confined to their private troubles. Mills’ description of the distinctions and connections between private troubles and public issues explains the way in which they can have an effect on a society. According to Mills, personal troubles ‘occur within the character of the individual and within the range of his immediate relations with others’ (1959: 8). It is distinctly private and exists within oneself together with areas of social life that the
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