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Examining Our Society Using Sociological Imagination

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Sociological knowledge is helpful in understanding one’s place in society and how societal problems affect us in our daily lives. One can even use his or her sociological imagination to examine ideas and issues, such as race, class, gender, and culture.

Is our society stable or is there constant competition among different groups within our society? Or is it based on daily human interactions? How one answers these questions is an indicator of which perspective a person has towards our society. In chapter one, our textbook introduced the four major sociological perspectives: functionalist, conflict, symbolic interactionist, and postmodernist. Each of these four perspectives offers a different view of our society and is an important starting place in examining our society.

According to the functionalist perspective, our society is fairly stable and organized. Within our society functionalists view our society is being comprised of individuals who share a very similar set of standards, principles, and expectations. Within a society there are social structures and foundations, such as family, education, government, and religion. These all play a part in our society remaining stable and functioning.

On the contrary, the conflict perspective views our society as a constant power struggle and competition for limited resources. For example these conflicts may be concerning family, finances, or even politics. Karl Marx and C. Wright Mills are two influential conflict theorists. Mills supports the idea that the power elite, which are a small group of top business, political, and military officials, make most decisions within our country.

The third sociological perspective is the symbolic interactionist. In contrast to the first two perspectives, symbolic interactionists examine societies on the micro level, which means the view is at the individual level. This perspective is more focused on the small groups. However, the other two perspectives examine society at the large-scale level, which is called the macro level. Our book states that symbolic interactionist see our society as the interactions of individuals and different groups. Basically these theorists define interaction as communication and symbols include: gestures, signals, values, and written language.

The final sociological perspective is the postmodern. These theorists view the other theories as being ineffective in describing our society. This theory is based on the idea that there is social change, globalization, and technology and these are necessary in this era. Sometimes this rapid change within a society can cause chaos and uncertainty. This perspective is often criticized because it always offer answers, but gives more questions.

Sociological imagination can be used to examine the world around us in a different perspective. Our book defines sociological imagination as “the ability to see the relationship between individual experiences and the larger society.” C. Wright Mills felt it was important to be able to link our personal lives to the broader society issues.

When using sociological imagination to examine race and gender, as a white American male, I may have enjoyed somewhat of a privileged life and where I am at in my life currently has historical ties connecting me to the larger society. This has historical significance dating back to the early English settlers coming to America. In our textbook it discusses how the white Anglo-Saxon Protestants (WASPS) have been the “most privileged group”. It dates back to when the early English settlers came to America and developed into the dominant group in America. Sociologists would more than likely say the concept of “white privilege” has been around throughout our history. Early on the WASPS determined our culture, which included language, rules, and celebrations. All other ethnic groups that have entered into our country have had to adapt over the years.

Since whites have had the advantage for so long, achieving social mobility has traditionally been easier for me. Being in a group that has been privileged, I could say it has led to lower poverty rates and better access to resources for my family and me. These privileges have allowed my parents to achieve middle class status more easily with having better access to resources, such as money and higher education. Using sociological imagination helps me to explain why we are middle class living out the American Dream in a small town. I’ll graduate in December and am very hopeful to get hired right out of college. If looking at the larger society, President Trump has decreased our unemployment rate, which has created many more jobs, so hopefully I will be able to find a job quickly.

Being a male, has also allowed me to be more dominant than females within the larger societal context. If looking at history and connecting it to my life, males have been able to obtain power more easily in society. My family has given me gender messages through the gender socialization process.

While continuing to use sociological imagination, the white privilege concept can be also be seen in many aspects of our culture, such as how my local stores are set up, clothing, food, and national holidays. One example is when I walk into my small town grocery store; ethnic groups such as Asian and Hispanics have only a small section of the grocery aisles for their specific food; however, I am able to easily find food on every aisle. Most ethnic groups would struggle to walk into most shops in a local mall and find appropriate clothing for their culture, yet I can go into most stores and find appropriate clothing for myself. Within our country hopefully our future will have all ethnic groups living together with little to no discrimination, more social equality, and easier upward social mobility for all Americans.

If I stop to look at my personal situation, I can see myself fitting neatly into the average middle-class American lifestyle, perhaps with my education I can continue to climb the social ladder and establish upper-middle class mobility as an adult. Being in this course has made me think about the historical and sociological ties to me as a person in the larger world. This analysis is only possible by looking at history and connecting it to where I am currently in my life. Hopefully my life keeps looking up for me and I’ll be able to continue to use my sociological toolbox to examine how society is affecting my personal life. If life takes a slight detour, I’ll still be able to examine myself and see that it might be the larger society that is the cause of my personal problems. Upon completion of this essay, it’s apparent to me that my race, gender, class, and culture have helped to mold me into who I am today and who I’ll be tomorrow.

Works Cited

  1. Kendall, Diana Elizabeth. Sociology in Our Times: the Essentials. Cengage Learning, 2018.

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