The term sociological imagination is said to have originated in 1959, with American sociologist C. Wright Mills. It refers to the number of factors in sociology that influence and shape connections between that which is remote and seemingly indirectly related on a personal level to simplistic aspects of everyday life for an individual. The idea basically implies that personal issues are projected as social problems by people in an attempt to rationalize a linkage to society. However, in employing the sociological imagination it is believed that distinctions are able to be made between the two.
Take teenage pregnancy for instance (“Sociological Imagination”). Under the suggestion made by Mills, underage mothers should be able to recognize that they are not the only ones who are dealing with the same problem. This is a large-scale public concern that faces young girls in almost every community across the country. Instead of falling into a pit of guilt, sociological imagination says that they should perhaps blame the school system, their parents, or any of a number of other social forces that led to their personal dilemma.
In an article by David Von Drehle published in Time magazine entitled “Finding Their Way Back to Life,” the question that was originally asked by philosophy professor Joseph Pitt is reiterated: Can Blacksburg, Virginia residents ever return to a life of unlocked doors? (p. 44). This comes after the shocking incident that took place on April 16th of 2007 where a young South Korean student opened fire on the Virginia Tech campus, killing thirty-two innocent people in two separate attacks before taking his own life.
This horrific event directly affects a vast majority of Blacksburg’s relatively small population not to mention the families of victims that may very well reside in other communities throughout Virginia and even across the country (Von Drehle 44). Indirectly, however, the controversy surrounding gun control has been tossed back onto the public as well as political debate tables. Distinction must be made between the man behind this massacre, Seung-Hui Cho, and the millions of other potential gun owners.
Sociological imagination enables this distinction to be made in order to help in the understanding of such incidents. As described in the example regarding teenage pregnancy, the school system could be blamed, the government maybe, or perhaps the store where the weapons were purchased. But it is not the personal troubles of this young man or the suffering of any one individual’s family, friends, or classmates that matters because they are not the only ones who have been faced with such heinous activity.
This episode has been run in the past with a similar ending; only the people involved each time have changed (Von Drehle 44). Social factors that appear to be irrelevant are actually closer to home than people would like to believe. Historically, these specific crimes would probably not have taken place. The question is why? What is different in today’s society that allows or leads to such violence? The answers to these and other related questions can potentially be found in the sociological imagination.
One person’s or group’s actions exert force and then materialize into something else that can inherently affect those that come into contact with some aspect down the line as in the case of the Virginia Tech shootings. Works Cited “Sociological Imagination. ” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. 2007. Wikimedia Foundation. 19 May 2007 . Von Drehle, David. “Finding Their Way Back to Life. ” Time Life Magazine Vol. 169, Iss. 19. 7 May 2007: p. 44.