C. W. Mills’ book ‘The Sociological Imagination’ was published in 1959. Mills is justly famous for his idea of the sociological imagination as it still provides sociologists with a set of guidelines with which to carry out social analysis. Sociological Imagination refers to the connection between individual difficulties and the social forces that are the possible reasons for them. The key and most important terms that form the basis of the sociological imagination are: biography; tradition; ‘private troubles’ and ‘public issues’.
Mills argued that in order to avoid becoming victims of a large nd seemingly distant event, we must learn to understand the relationship between private troubles and public issues. Mills writes “The sociological imagination enables its possessor to understand the larger historical scene in terms of its meaning for the inner life and external career of a variety of individuals” (Mills1959). The sociological imagination requires us to engage in the study of an individual’s biography; but to place that biography in the wider context of the history and tradition of the society in which that individual lives.
Mills suggests that a good tactic to use when trying to comprehend the idea of this ‘imagination’ is to use the ‘fruitful distinction’ between on the one hand ‘the personal troubles of milieu’ and on the other, ‘the public issues of social structure’. (Mills1959). For mills there is an all too common trend of individuals perceiving there biographies as personal and private and segregated from society. While according to mills the lives of the individual are interwoven and interrelated to the society directly. For example a drug addict may see the trouble’ of addiction as a ‘private trouble’.
Clearly it is a private trouble, however for Mills the individual needs to recognise that it is one not unconnected with wider social forces. The central aspect of mills sociological imagination, that is “.. to see it whole. ” (Mills1959). It is my consideration that the aim of the sociological imagination is to try to allow the individual to see the ‘bigger picture’ giving them a perspective on there worth, involvement and influence within there society. This is analogous of making what was once clouded to being clear.