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A Discussion of Statuses, Roles and The Sociological Imagination

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A Discussion of Statuses, Roles and The Sociological Imagination essay

Statuses, Roles, and The Sociological imagination

In society, each and every one of us has our own niche. In sociological terms, we refer to this as statuses and roles. Statuses are “the positions that individuals within the society occupy” (Newman 15). An example of a status is that I am a college student. More specifically, this is one of my achieved statuses. “An achieved status is a social position we take on voluntarily or acquire through our own efforts or accomplishments” (15). Becoming a college student is something that I achieved in life because it wasn’t just given to me. Another type of status is an ascribed status. “An ascribed status is a social position we acquire at birth or enter involuntarily later in life” (15). An example of my ascribed status would be that I am a white male. This status was ascribed because I was born with it and I didn’t achieve it.

Following this, there are many roles that go along with each status. A role could either be for an ascribed status or even an achieved status. According to Newman, a role is “a set of rights, obligations, behaviors, and duties that people occupying a certain position are expected to perform”. Going back to the first example of an achieved status, a role to follow being a college student would include attending classes and studying for exams. Attending classes is a duty that a student must follow in order to pass their classes. If a student were to not show up to their classes, then they would fail and no longer be a student and occupy that particular status. Studying for exams would also be considered a role because it is an obligation that the student must do in order to pass their classes and successfully occupy that status. Along with achieved statuses, ascribed statuses also have roles. Being a white male has to do with behaviors that are expected of a person in a society. For example, a white male would be expected to be a lawful and productive citizen in society. Being a white male, or any gender or race for that matter, a person is expected to be a law-abiding citizen. Those people are also expected to hold jobs and help the community.

A famous sociologist named C. Wright Mills came up with the idea of sociological imagination. This is the ability of a person to understand how “cultural or historical processes” (8) are related to ones personal experiences. If a person is unable to understand the sociological imagination, they are likely to attribute individualistic explanations to their personal experiences. Individualistic explanation “attribute people’s achievements and failures to their personal qualities” (4). It seems like people tend to jump to conclusions and naturally assume the individualistic explanation, instead of attributing to a deeper understanding of the sociological imagination. For example, if a person wasn’t able to afford to put gas into their car, the sociological imagination would say that the problem is due to the economy and the gas prices rising dramatically in the last decade. However, the individualistic explanation would say that the problem is due to the fact that the individual doesn’t have a well enough paying job or isn’t managing their money wisely.

Statuses and roles all connect to your personal biography. Previously mentioned, there are personal statuses and roles that follow each. For the status of a student, there comes social forces and personal biography that affect your decision to become a college student in the first place. For example, both my parents attended and graduated from college, therefore they knew what it took to become successful in higher education. Because of their success, I was expected to attend college as well. Social forces also affected the decision to become a college student. According to society, there are steps to a successful life. After graduating high school, a person is also expected to graduate from college in order to have a successful job. In order to accomplish this, the student has to perform their roles of attending their classes and studying for their classes. For the status of a white male, a person can look to their parents and relatives to see what is expected of them in society. For example, I would look up to my father and see that he is a lawful abiding citizen who also has a productive job in the community that provides for his family.

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A Discussion of Statuses, Roles and the Sociological Imagination. (2018, October 26). GradesFixer. Retrieved September 29, 2022, from
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