Posted: August 7th, 2013






Sociology is the study of the society that uses various empirical methods to develop knowledge about the social activities of human beings. The focus of sociology includes class, social mobility and religion amongst other topics. Sociological imagination as a discipline of sociology was first introduced by Wright Mills in 1959. According to Mills, social imagination is the awareness of the link between experiences and the society. Social imagination is the application of creative thought in the inquiry of sociological puzzles. When people use social imagination, they think away from the normal routines. The idea that social results are established by actors, actions and the context can describe sociological imagination. Actors such as motives and norms, social contexts such as a country and the actions that people do are all shaped by the situation that one is in and the behavior of the people around them.

The things that shape the social outcomes include social norms and the social contexts. What people do is distinguished by the things that usually lead to a certain conclusion. Social imagination enables an individual to perceive things from a social point of view and their interconnection. People with sociological imagination have to be capable of pulling away from normalcy and thinking from a different point of view. It may require thinking from the daily schedules and considering their implications in a different view. To obtain knowledge requires the capacity to cut loose from the personal condition and place things in a wider context (Allen 123).

Mills’ argument that people with a social imagination have a different perspective to the social environment as compared to people without a social imagination, has a degree of validity in as far as their approaches differ from other normal people. Social imagination is required to understand any society and the forces that developed it. Without this understanding, people cannot understand themselves, their place in society or their role in that society. Sociological imagination gives this insight and allows the person to acknowledge and comprehend the bigger forces in play in society. Mills argues “…what they feel they need is a quality of mind that will help them to use information and to develop reason in order to achieve lucid summations of what is going on…”(Mills 5).

People who lack social imagination are isolated from the society and to a certain level, from their true selves. In this state of seclusion, the individual becomes confused, anxious and alienated from the society. Through social imagination, a person can be freed from these bonds by giving them knowledge that places their lives in perspective. Perspectives include the contemporary state of the individual, the history of the evolution of this situation and the fusion of both. Mills focuses on moral values within social imagination as these moral values form the foundation for individuals and societies. People without a sense of social imagination can become so disoriented that according to Mills, they can be considered “morally insensible”.

The analysis made on parent-teen conflict by Stephanie Coontz and Valerie Adrian made observations on the behavior of teenagers within economically stressed families, revealed that they stopped having faith in their parents and turned to their peers for support. These teenagers displayed increased depressive symptoms such as heavy drinking as early as their middle lives. This behavior was regardless of prior drinking patterns or psychological history. The nature of the relationship between men, women and children, may seem personal and disjointed, but the argument by Coontz seeks to reinforce the idea that they may be interrelated and wholesome in nature.

Coontz places the complete personal relationships into a large social context that helps in explaining and differentiating personal issues from the broader problems that occur in the contemporary world. The parent-teen conflicts among youth in America, and the rest of the world, are set in an environment where parents consider a problem with their teenager as just that and not as a sign that modern youth are in a crisis. People exaggerate the issues with modern teens by translating them as pathologies. However, nothing is further from the truth. For example, teenage suicide rates are blown out of proportion as they only consider age brackets around 15 to 24. The relationships between teenagers and adults have been strained not because youth lost their childhood but because they are not adequately prepared for adulthood.

One of the most common dilemmas facing teenagers is that of “rolelessness” within the society. Teenagers normally require responsibility to be displayed from their parents. This lack of having a role in society puts adults and teenagers at loggerheads. The youth feel that adults put their lives on hold until they mature. On the other hand, parents feel that there are more consequences for the behaviors among youth in the modern society. Balancing between the interests of the youth and the interests of the parents creates a problem (Stimson et al 57). Parents blame themselves for the present state of the youth, instead of looking at the social issues as discussed by Mills. Mills argues that the individual needs to get in touch with his or her own experiences that are different in each context. People can, therefore, understand themselves better by looking at their history and not immediately blaming themselves.

The differences between teenage troubles and deep running issues are never properly done. Troubles occur on a personal level and affect an individual while issues deal with larger segments, groups and cultures. Having a social imagination, starts with differentiating between troubles and issues.

Work Cited

Allen, Thomas M. A Republic in Time: Temporality and Social Imagination in Nineteenth-Century America. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2008. Print.

Mills, C W. The Sociological Imagination. New York: Oxford University Press, 1959. Print.

Stimson, Blake, and Gregory Sholette. Collectivism After Modernism: The Art of Social Imagination After 1945. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 2007. Print.

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