C. Wright Mills defined sociological imagination as the most needed quality of mind. Sociological imagination is the process of connecting ones life experiences to develop a thought process and build motivation. It’s the outside forces of society rather than the internal instincts. “The society in which we grow up and our particular location in that society lie at the center of what we do and what we think” (Henslin 2007:4). Henslin enforces the idea of the society around people influences how people think and what actions people take.
After writing the journal entries and answering questions about how I look at myself from my eyes and the eyes others opened up the idea of sociological imagination. I see sociological imagination as the influences society has on an individual and I am a product of that. In my second journal I discussed how I dress everyday as an athlete. Especially, being a basketball player here at Oregon, there is sort of a sense that I will dress in athletic clothes most of the time. I will not wear things that are considered not to be a “baller” (baller- slang for someone who plays basketball, dresses in big clothes, more NBA style dress).
I found myself as someone who dressed as the status I allowed others to put on me. The sociological imagination idea developed by C. Wright Mills involves three major perspectives: conflict theory, functional analysis, and symbolic interactionism. Each perspective builds on sociological imagination. Karl Marx was a conflict theorist who promoted the idea of a classless society by having the working class revolt against the capitalists. Marx described how the capitalist members built a society that influenced the working class to not revolt.
Thus, the working class was caught in the sociological imagination, where they allowed life experiences from society determine their thoughts and actions. Durkheim discussed the perspective of functional analysis as social integration. Durkheim described social integration as, “the degree to which people are tied to their social group, as a key social factor in suicide” (Henslin 2007: 8). The functional analysis looks at how parts of society must flow together to live a smooth lifestyle. When the view of society coincides with the personal view of person, life is smoother.
Social imagination expands from the functional analysis. In my third journal issue, I described the life I live and how it compares to the people I am around everyday. I compared my life as someone from the upper working class to teammates whose lives come from poor working class. I found myself attached to my social group as well as the view society had of me, which has helped my life progress with little social troubles. The third perspective from the sociological imagination is the symbolic interaction. Symbolic interactionism looks at how people’s ideas and behavior change as symbols change (Henslin: 15).
In relation to social imagination, the symbolic interaction society develops shapes people. I know as an athlete, that people look at me and expect me to act in a certain way. I have been symbolized as an athlete or jock. It’s a role I have taken on and it does effect my behavior on how I should act in public and ways I think about my life. I see myself as an athlete. Social Imagination is can widen an understanding of social issues relevant into today’s society. An on going struggle in the world is the every growing gap between classes. The rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer.
Social Imagination allows people ask about making choices and how it directly affects lives. However, in relation to the rich and poor gap, the life choices between the two classes are vastly different. Today’s world is a place where the ability to choose differs greatly between people. In society the poor or lower working class have less life choices than others. In third world countries and even second world countries, where poverty overwhelms the country and people have little opportunities to escape from their life and struggle day to day. These people have fewer choices than those who live an upper class life.
The sociological imagination opens up the idea and present the struggle to areas like the United States where life is increasing better. It shows the true corruption within theses countries and how people are struggling everyday. Choice is unequally distributed and is becoming more unequal. The inequality has increase, not only within our own society but also in the world as a whole, for the gap between rich and poor countries has been widening. WE live in world that gives us choice but also takes it away. Where mist of life’s choices lie within a small group, while majority have little say at all.
The class struggle goes beyond Marx idea of conflict theory between classes. Which is occurring, it’s also deeply involved with the functionalist perspective. Yes, Marx idea of having a lower class revolt against the upper class, but there will always be a class system because people will differentiate themselves from others. It’s the functionalist idea of living a life that flows smoothly with our lives and the lives people have on us. This goes with the idea of the United States. The United States is looked up to as a place of opportunity and a chance at a better life.
However, the view of other countries does not match with the view the United States has here. The United States is ran by the larger corporations and CEO who make decisions based on what’s best for them rather than what’s best for everybody as a whole. The common world belief is the United States allows people to have a voice in what occurs with the country, but when it comes down to it, it’s the upper class that chooses what’s right. Sociological imagination unveils questions in society that otherwise might be left to what the common belief is.
It brings about the three major perspectives developed by Marx, Durkheim and Mead. Sociological Imagination allows people to look at life experiences and connect them to the world around them. However, these experiences influence everyday thought and actions. Everyday people think about the mass media and what to wear or what’s cool, the United States is ran by a small upper class. Each of these effects peoples everyday lives. With sociological imagination people take a look at the world and its issues. It opens questions that are going to effect people’s lives everyday.