The Sociological Imagination – C. Wright Mills (1959)


The Sociological Imagination is a 1959 book by American sociologist C. Wright Mills published by Oxford University Press. In it, he develops the idea of sociological imagination, the means by which the relation between self and society can be understood. Mills felt that the central task for sociology and sociologists was to find (and articulate) the connections between the particular social environments of individuals (also known as ‘milieu‘) and the wider social and historical forces in which they are enmeshed. The approach challenges a structural functionalist approach to sociology, as it opens new positions for the individual to inhabit with regard to the larger social structure. Individual function that reproduces larger social structure is only one of many possible roles and is not necessarily the most important. Mills also wrote of the danger of malaise (apathy), which he saw as inextricably embedded in the creation and maintenance of modern societies. This led him to question whether individuals exist in modern societies in the sense that ‘individual’ is commonly understood (Mills, 1959, 7–12). In writing The Sociological Imagination, Mills tried to reconcile two varying, abstract conceptions of social reality, the ‘individual’ and the ‘society’, and thereby challenged the dominant sociological discourse to define some of its most basic terms and be forthright about the premises behind its definitions. He began the project of reconciliation and challenge with critiques of ‘grand theory’ and ‘abstracted empiricism’, outlining and criticizing their use in the current sociology of the day. … The reception of C. Wright Mills can now be seen as somewhat illustrative of Mills’s personality. In his work, we can see the ‘space of selfhood’ which Mills argued individuals connect individuals with society as a whole. Thus, of personalized experiences being used to link public discourses he can thereby be seen to mark a biographical turn in post-structuralist Sociology (Brewer, 2005, 661-663). His work can also be seen as reaction to cold war America and the radicalism and disengagement with establishment sociology. It can also, however, be seen as return by those such as Brewer to a tradition of ‘social reformism’ as well as a response to the professionalization of the discipline (Brewer, 2005, 663-665). …”
Wikipedia, W – Sociological imagination, W – C. Wright Mills
John Brewer on C. Wright Mills (Audio)
C. Wright Mills 1960 – Letter to the New Left
[PDF] The Promise of the Sociological Imagination By C. Wright Mills

About 1960s: Days of Rage

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