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What Is Sociological Imagination? Why Most of the Students Face It?

In simple terms, sociological imagination is humans’ capability to build connections between large social issues, and personal challenges. Yet this simple definition is not as sufficient as the complexity that sociological imaginations deserves, and brings forth. By reading this definition, the readers may come across many questions like;

  1. What kind of personal challenges are the subjects of sociological imagination?
  2. Which are the social issues in terms of sociological imagination?
  3. What are the possible bridges between the above two?

Moreover, sociological imagination summary presents it in a different way. In essence, the other aspect of this phenomenon explained it as, how a person can use it for personal, or professional skills development.

After all, sociological imagination is a thinking method. It thinks about the human society because it is a part of sociology, which deals with humans’ social behavior, or the community in general. Hence, if we bifurcate sociological imagination and analyse both separately, we can get a more realistic definition. The term sociological suggests ‘studying the society’. Whereas the term imagination refers to human’s’ creativity, ideas, and thinking abilities. Yet, a possible connection between the two is to use human brain for solving society’s issues.

In general, sociological imagination inspires humans to think for the betterment of their lives. But it does not only allow them to do so at the individual level. Because it includes multiple aspects as well that are as follows;

Historical context

This part helps the human in locating their space in time. It deals with the impact of past events on the current status.

Biological context

Biological context specifies how the human nature drives a person’s needs, and desires.

Societal context

Societal context deals with the cultural norms. Here we think that an individual’s desires, thoughts, and actions are the results of a community. Hence a change in the community’s norm will directly affect an individual’s attitude.

As a whole, sociological imagination explains that surroundings, family, friends, country, and the world as a whole shape an individual’s personal abilities. For example, let’s discuss the eating habits. There’s no doubt that every single person has his/her own food choice. But those individual choices depend on societal factors too. In broader context, sociological imagination shifts an individual’s perspective from self-centred approach, to a human-specific one. This approach suggests that if two people with more or less similar mind-set are present in two different regions, they will order different foods. Like a person living in a landlocked area will not prefer seafood. Whereas the other person living in the coastal area will have no problem with eating seafood. This is how the societal factors drive an individual’s thinking abilities.

The attributes mentioned above are only spatial boundaries. Like this, the family relationships also define your personal challenges. All cultural and ethnic heritages have an effect on us. Thus, in conclusion, sociological imagination helps in consideration of the culture, or yourself as a third party observer. It never aims to distant you, but instead emphasises on considering yourself as a normal part of the larger system. Where this system refers to the universe.

Mills’ Five Sociological Imagination Tips

Many people think of sociological imagination as a theoretical approach. But in reality, this approach contains many tips for sociologists, and the general public as well. These tips help students, academic writers and other entities in better contextualising the world with ease.

Avoid Existing Sets of Procedures

Most aspects of sociology rely on the existing systems. According to famous sociologist Mills, in practice, the theories stand over humanity. To cater this, Mills explained that sociologists should work as individuals. He also added that they should advise new methodologies and theories that could support, or oppose the established sociological norms.

Be Clear, and Concise

Mills explained that in most sociological academic tasks, the author’s way of addressing the phenomenon is too complicated. That becomes a great challenge, especially for the students to understand. In contrast, sociologists should remain concise, and clear. This will allow even the beginners to take into account the aspect of sociological imagination.

Observe the Macro and Micro

Before Mills’ work, structural functionalism was the most acceptable primary philosophy in sociology. Structural functionalism focused on the Micro aspects whereas Mills suggested sociologists to use Macro approach for seeing the world. The core reason behind Mill’s suggestion is that ‘the world is full of both Micro, and Marco things’. Hence to make sociology a robust field, the study of all is necessary.     

Focus Social Structure and Milieu (Person’s Social Environment)

As described in sociological imagination part, Mills explained that individual actions and social structure are interconnected. The term he used for this was the Milieu. From this concept, an important point is understanding the society, where two things are the most important. The first one is individual moments, while the other one is long time span. 

Avoid Arbitrary Specialisation

Mills advised all sociologists to take into account the interdisciplinary approach. He insisted sociologists to imagine the world after neglecting his own personality. In addition, for more comprehensive understanding, they can explore the world beyond their specialised field as well.

Sociological Imagination In The Life Of Students:

For understanding how sociological imagination works in the life of a students, let’s consider an example. Suppose a student wants to purchase a book. And of course, as a student, he must have a pretty good reason for buying that book. Most probably, it may be the desire to learn something. But why does he want to learn something? He may want to get good grades, that’s why. Why does he want to secure good grades? It may be as he wants to inspire the society through his achievements. In this way, the thinking leads a common phenomenon (buying a book), towards the societal contexts.

Once a student starts asking such questions, he will come to know that behind the actions, choices are not the only reason that drive them. The q-q game (question on question game) will help him in identifying the underlying reason that may have roots in societal, cultural, or some other aspects. Hence, sociological imagination helps the students in understanding that even their personal desires, actions, and norms are not theirs alone. In reality those are a part of the society they’re living in. By understanding this concept, students can better relate to the concept of sociological imagination that can also help them in the future.

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