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The first thing to note whilst reading ‘The Sociological Imagination’ (first published in 1959) is that when C. Write Mills refers to “man”/ “men” he is in fact referring to the entire population rather than specifically the male gender. This is typical of writing from this time period however in modern society is often viewed as out of date or incorrect. Using the sociological imagination allows people to change their views on society. It allows people to think in a different way as well as highlight the importance of the social sciences. Mills begins by outlining the situation of people in the 1950s, he states that people are not solely in control of their lives. He believes that events which occur in life are a product of people’s social surroundings. An example of this would be unemployment as people will often become unemployed in a time of economic struggle. This is therefore not the individual’s fault but rather that of their struggling society. This therefore means that a person’s individual life is influenced by society and the changes it goes through. To understand the changes in someone’s life we must first look at society and its infrastructure and evaluate the impact these have.
The three main questions to ask yourself when using this method are; what the structure of this society is, where does it stand in human history and what type of people are the most powerful. Write highlights two main features which must be examined if one is to fully understand society effectively. The first stage of the sociological imagination is to understand your own place in society and to understand the common social interactions/struggles of others in the same position. Only then will people be able to truly understand what their chances are in life. Mills highlights that no matter how seemingly insignificant a person may be everyone makes an impact on society. This again shows that events which occur in someone life are impacted by those around them. To get a grasp of the impact of biography there are three key areas to investigate. These are; the kinds of men and women in society (this can be done by looking at things such as gender, social class and religion), how these groups are formed, and which types of people are dominant in these groups/ in society as a whole. Mills does however also state that there is a difference between personal troubles and public issues, however both should be combined and investigated. One of the key points that Mills stresses is the impact and influence of history on modern society. He explains that to fully understand society you must observe both the induvial who make up society and the history of that society.
However, the everyday person often fails to see the extent of the influence that history has. To fully understand this, we must look at the key features of our epoch and be able to make the connection between this and the key feature from history. When trying to understand the impact of history on society there are three questions to ask yourself; what the history of this society is, how did it become this way and how our society was shaped through the changes of history. This will help you to identify where this current society stand within history.
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