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The Sociological Imagination

The Sociological Imagination

Author: Paul Hannan

Recognize how the sociological imagination is applied, and its impact on sociology.

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Source: Intro Music by Mark Hannan; Public Domain C. Wright Mills; Creative Commons:

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Welcome to this episode of Sociology Studies of Society. Today's lesson is on the sociological imagination. As always, don't be afraid to pause, stop, rewind, or even a fast forward to make sure get the most out of this tutorial.

The sociological imagination, what is this? Well, the term is brought and introduced by C Wright Mills. Now C Wright Mills is a famous sociologist. He only lived for 50 years. He died relatively young. But he still had a really strong impact on sociology. What C Wright Mills did that was so special is he was the first sociologist to really attack collective issues in society as issues of society rather than individual issues.

So a good example of that would be poverty. Poverty, C Wright Mills was the first to argue, was not as much an issue for the individuals in poverty. Poverty is a result of issues within our society. And that's where this term "the sociological imagination" comes from. It's really the idea of turning a personal problem into a public issue. And as you'd see with the word "imagination" there, you're really imagining yourself outside of the personal issues. You're imagining yourself in a broader context than just your everyday interactions.

So you're really seeing-- this imagination is really helping you see the connections between personal experience and wider society. So I like to think about really zooming out of personal issues, and that's how you see them into a larger context and how they're really not just a personal issue. They really tied to all of society.

So today's takeaway message-- the sociological imagination is just the process of turning a personal problem into a public issue. And C Wright Mills was the famous sociologist who was the first to coin this term, and he really pushed this idea that problems in society are society's problems, not the individuals who are suffering from those problems. That's it for this lesson. Good work, and hopefully you'll be seeing me on your screen again soon. Peace.

Terms to Know
Sociological Imagination

​The process or skill of connecting individual personal troubles to broader societal issues.

People to Know
C. Wright Mills

​Famous American sociologist who saw personal problems as societal issues.