The Sociological Imagination and Freedom from Feelings of Entrapment

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The sociological imagination is the “quality of mind” (Mills, 1959: 4) that enables individuals to look outside their private sphere of consciousness and identify the structures and institutions in society that influence or cause their personal experiences. In this way, by looking at the bigger picture, they can understand their place in society and explain their circumstance in terms of societal influence. It was developed by Mills in a time of great social upheaval – industrialisation, globalisation and capitalism meant that the social phenomena were different to those previously experienced. The meta-narrative of science and ‘scientism’, previously used to develop theories of society, began to be presenting more moral questions and…show more content…
The sociological imagination raises three core questions. Firstly, what is the structure of the society being studied? Secondly, what relevance does its context in history have? And thirdly, how does it influence and shape those within it? (Mills, 1959: 6-7). The consideration of these questions enables the greatest understanding of the relationship between society and an individual’s position and circumstance, and is what makes the concept sociological. The term ‘imagination’, in turn, is used originally used by Mills (1959) (rather than ‘perspective’), because the concept also fits with cultural and literary understanding. It seeks to combine some of the qualities of art that it prizes (capturing and expressing the needs of the individual), and some qualities already in literature (presenting the social norms that shape individuals), with a “social and historical reality”, a “big picture in which... [individuals] can understand themselves” (Mills, 1959: 20). In this way it hopes to blend “the scientific and the humanistic” (Mills, 1959: 16) to form a comprehensive basis for the study of the social sciences. An example, first provided by Mills but that is still relevant today, which highlights the value – nay, necessity of sociological imagination, is unemployment. Looking at one individual as

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