C. Wright Mills championed the sociological perspective, which involves applying information and data to analyze social patterns and develop theories. It underscores the significance of gathering information and using it to make judgments or predictions. However, it also recognizes that individual perspectives differ, preventing us from solely relying on our own viewpoint to understand society. Mills stressed the necessity of considering alternative theories and perspectives for a comprehensive understanding of human behavior. He maintained that our thoughts are merely one interpretation among numerous others, highlighting the importance of openness in sociology.
C. Wright Mills argued that the “sociological imagination” allows individuals to perceive societal patterns and comprehend their impact on groups and individuals. This concept is analogous to the phrases “never judge a book by its cover” and “never criticize another until you have walked a mile in their shoes”. By listening to other narratives or theories, we can shape and transform our own perspectives. In his 1959 publication “The Sociological Imagination”, Mills explored the correlation between society and individuals, emphasizing the distinction between personal issues and public issues. For example, unemployment is seen as a personal failing when an individual is laid off, but it becomes a public concern when multiple people face layoffs. Through employing the sociological imagination, we can identify trends such as divorce patterns. By comprehending others’ experiences, we can develop theories and predict outcomes. The terms “ascribed status” and “achieved status” pertain to various forms of social positioning. “Ascribed status” encompasses traits beyond our control yet influencing how others perceive us. Skin color serves as an exemplary instance of ascribed status since it is unchangeable; it is inherent from birth. Racism still persists today, despite our inability to alter our skin color, leading us to encounter judgment based on it. Our skin color, along with race, age, gender, and height are among the characteristics defining our ascribed status.
The term “Achieved status” pertains to a social position that is acquired through effort. For instance, individuals pursue higher education with the objective of receiving a degree and obtaining a desirable job, ultimately achieving the desired comfortable lifestyle.
The way others perceive and treat us is heavily influenced by our socioeconomic status. We strive to alter or impact this status, recognizing that being rich, poor, or middle class can result in varying treatment. It’s crucial to acknowledge that our inherent status can impact our achieved status as well. For instance, when applying for a job, two candidates with identical qualifications and recommendations may be assessed differently based on their race. Despite laws prohibiting racial discrimination during the hiring process, it still persists. Consequently, an employer may favor a Hispanic candidate over a Caucasian candidate out of fear of being accused of racism. Ultimately, the selected individual will ideally thrive in their role while the other candidate continues their search for employment.
Moreover, conflict theorists provide an explanation for deviant behavior.
There are different understandings and perceptions of deviance among individuals, as well as varying personal opinions on suitable forms of punishment for such behavior. Several sociological theories have been created to explain deviance, three of which I find particularly relevant: The Cultural Transmission/Differential Associations Theory, The Control Theory, and the Labeling theory.
The Cultural Transmission/Differential Association theory proposes that all behaviors are learned, including deviant ones. According to this theory, individuals who themselves engage in deviant behavior pass it on to others. If we only witness conventional behavior, wouldn’t we only display conventional behavior? Conversely, if we are taught deviant behavior, we are more likely to participate in deviant acts. In my opinion, this theory is highly applicable when considering deviant behavior.
The Control Theory posits that social control mechanisms in our culture influence the perception of “normal behavior”. It also queries why we refrain from engaging in deviant acts. Essentially, it delves into the reasons behind the acceptance of certain behaviors as normal and how adhering to these norms fosters success in society. Conversely, the Labeling theory argues that deviance is a social process wherein select individuals possess the authority to designate others as deviant. Only when someone with social power assigns this label does a person become truly deviant. In simple terms, if an individual of higher status labels someone as deviant, then they are perceived as such. Prior to receiving this label, they are not regarded as deviant. I draw a parallel between this theory and a judge with elevated standing who only deems someone a felon or “deviant” once that judge convicts them.
Crossman, Ashley, Sociology – Sociology information, resources, and news from About.com… The Sociological Imagination. Retrieved November 11, 2013, from http://sociology.about.com/od/Works/a/Sociological-Imagination.htm
Kpohazounde, Grace. (2010, February). C. Wright Mills, “The Sociological Imagination”, 1959. Retrieved from http://dimension.ucsd.edu/CEIMSA-IN-EXILE/publications/Students/Grace-1.2010.pdf
Vissing, Yvonne. Chapter 1 & 3. An Introduction to Sociology. Bridgepoint Education, Inc.. Welcome to Valdosta State University. Sociological Theories To Explain Deviance.Retrieved Nov 09, 2013,