What is the “sociological imagination”?

* Here’s a link to the original post on LinkedIn *

Over the years I’ve interacted with thousands (no exaggeration) of students as their tutor, lecturer, and/or research supervisor. Most of them did not have sociology as a major and very few of them would ever do any form of sociological research (i.e. including fieldwork) of any kind.

However, I strived to instil in all of them the potential impact of thinking sociologically, or engaging with the “sociological imagination”, regardless of their educational and/or or career paths.

This idea of the #sociologicalimagination is often associated with C. Wright Mills and his book of the same name and can be viewed as:

👉🏽 “a way of looking at the world that can see connections between the apparently private problems of the individual and important #socialissues… [a way of] connecting the #social, #personal, and #historical dimensions of our lives” (A Dictionary of Sociology).

This is MUCH more difficult that it sounds… and, in my opinion, this makes good sociology deceptively difficult. Why?

Depending on where we live, our political persuasions, our religious beliefs, our cultural background, the language we speak, our family environment, our socio-economic status, our education, and so much more, we each have an array of perspectives (or assumptions) about the way the world is.

These have been developed over years and we aren’t even consciously aware of many of them. If you’re doubting me, you’re sort of confirming that second point, and I want you to try something.

Think of something, anything, you believe unquestioningly. It could be something about #sport, #politics, #music, #food, absolutely anything. Then, think about these questions:

🤔 Why you believe that?

🤔 Where do you think you first got that idea?

🤔 Who else (currently or previously) in your orbit believes the same thing?

Then consider these…

🤔 What if you never went to that place where you first heard this idea?

🤔 What if you never met that person who gave you this idea?

🤔 What if you were born in a different #country?

🤔 Would you still believe that?

If you think you would, how would you have learnt it, where would you have been exposed to that perspective?

These are difficult questions to face and/or answer honestly… and, a bit of discomfort is okay.

I’ll revisit this idea again, but how might more of this kind of critical thinking be useful in the world today and/or in your career/business?

#sociology #socialscience

About the Author

You may also like these