Importance of Sociological Imagination

When thinking sociologically or studying sociology you must first have a basic understanding as to what sociological imagination is. Coined by sociologist C. Wright Mills, sociological imagination is the understanding of how each person’s experience correlates with society as a whole. When we recognize our role in society and how we affect it, we can in turn see how society and its rules mold our lives.

For this we must be able to separate ourselves from our own issues and see how history and societal rules have shaped the issue.

This allows us to evaluate the situation we live in and how we can best adapt and change it. To greater understand how society can affect our everyday lives you must be able to recognize the difference between private troubles and public issues. Issues affecting and individual or their family are private troubles, such as poverty affecting an individual or family. Public issues arise when these issues occur in large amounts, such as how in 2015 10% of the world lived on less than .

90 a day. What is believed to be a personal trouble has amalgamated into a public issue that affects everyday society. W. E. B. Du  Bois studied the social problems within Philadelphia’s African American communities such as dual heritage. He recognized that being both American and black caused conflict in values and identity.

The three main sociological perspectives are the functionalist perspective, conflict perspective, and symbolic interactionist perspective. Functionalists believe that society operates based on a common set of beliefs and values.

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When everyone within a society fulfills their role the system is functioning in and orderly fashion. Conflict theorists believe that society is in a constant inequality, benefitting some while others struggle for power or resources. Symbolic interactionists focus on the interactions among people, cultures, and groups. They examine symbols and their meanings and interpretations, as well as their usage in society.

A sad reality of society is xenophobia, which is defined as an irrational hatred and or fear of foreign cultures and people which is different from their own. Ethnocentrism plays a large role in this hatred of anything foreign as it causes a feeling of superiority of one’s own nationality or culture by evaluating other’s ways of life in comparison to their culture and beliefs. I feel that intense or extreme nationalism or patriotism can be a focal point of this hatred as it creates a feeling of superiority of one’s own culture. Scrutinizing the actions and beliefs of a culture from the viewpoint of that culture is known as cultural relativism. Cultural relativism differs from ethnocentrism as it views the culture without judgement. All three focus on different cultures, with ethnocentrism and cultural relativism analyzing while xenophobia fears.

Self-concept is how we view ourselves, which is derived through social interaction and what we believe others think about us, as well as how others perceive us. Charles Horton Cooley developed the looking-glass self which refers to how our self-concept is defined by how others view us, or how they believe they view us. When we base our self-concept on how others may potentially view us it may be a false belief. A person may believe that they are ugly based on societal standards and may alter the way they look to fit these standards. In America, women that are size 14 may believe that they are plus size when it is the national average size, but societal “norms” state that we should be less than which is largely caused by mass media. Over all forms of media we see celebrities who promote flat tummy suckers and extreme dieting to keep a small size. Mass media influences us greatly whether it be to diet, what car to buy, what brands are best, etc. and largely impacts our society.

Conflict perspective plays a large role when viewing societies social structure. Many people will struggle for power and have to fight for resources no matter their status if people deem them lower in the social structure, such as how many view people of color. There are many people that no matter their achieved status will never benefit as much as they could based on their ascribed status. When Obama became president though he received the achieved status as President of the United States he still received major backlash due to his race and did not receive the recognition he deserved. Social structure can also be subjective in the sense that what some believe to be lower in the social structure may differ from others and is a social construction of reality. Symbolic interactionists analyze how people view life based on the meanings we give particular objects or groups. The meanings we give different experiences are largely based on how we have defined them.

We always want people to think of us in the best way possible and will act differently around different people to make sure that they see us in the most positive light possible. Erving Goffman’s dramaturgical analysis compares our everyday interactions to how we act as different characters in a play. We present ourselves as the best us possible, you do not want everyone to know the lesser or bad aspects of yourself in fear that they may fear less of you. Maybe around your friends you act polite and friendly but when you are home you are loud and rambunctious. When you receive negative feedback to an action you are not as likely to repeat that action in fear that you may receive it again.

Everyone wants harmony and peace no matter the situation, even to the point of pressuring another. Groupthink occurs when the need for unanimity in a group causes those who believe the decision to be unwise keep quiet to keep the harmony. This is big with social media as it creates an echo chamber of those who believe their ideas to be right. When you are in an echo chamber with people repeating and confirming your own thoughts you do no learn the perspective and ideas of those whose ideas vary, and many people within a social group may conform to keep their presentation of self good.

McDonaldization is a large problem, especially here in America. Many industries are focused on income and quantity rather than the quality of their service or product. When you go through many big cities there are multiple of the same big name businesses on every street in large numbers. McDonaldization isn’t just in our fast food industries and stores anymore either. Many factories, industries, and prisons have focused on the quantity rather than quality. Many factories have large scale recalls because they have pushed out items at such a fast pace and in such a large quantity that the product is not the best quality.

When lower class societies do not receive the resources that they need to survive, as the conflict theory states, deviance is the next best option to attain what they need for survival. Many lawmakers and government officials maintain their position of power by creating these laws which put and keep those who must fight for the needed resources in prison. The prison industrial complex uses the prisoners as a profit to keep the economy running smoothly no matter the effect it has on those they imprison. In many small towns with prisons, that is their main source of job opportunities and income keeping them running. People in lower classes have the ability to receive the wealth and needed resources through illegitimate opportunities such as drug dealing, robbery, etc. In the film, “The House I Live In” people who seek the means the need through these illegitimate opportunities suffer consequences such as life in jail or harder times finding the job opportunities they need to survive. Drug laws and policies are driven by the need to fuel the economy, and tend to target those lower class areas which survive by selling drugs.

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Importance of Sociological Imagination. (2022, Apr 29). Retrieved from

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