More Explanation of C. Wright Mills's Sociological Imagination…

Benefits of Sociology
(so many…so little time )
• Use the “sociological perspective” to look
at how society affects individuals…
• Use sociological research to question
assumptions or common sense beliefs
about the world around us!
Troubles, Issues, and Social
Location (more on Mills):
• Personal Troubles: private problems from
events in one’s own life
• Public Issues: Affect large groups of
people and come from the structure
(patterns of behavior and relationships) of
More Explanation of C. Wright Mills’s Sociological
 Sociological imagination transforms personal
problems (or troubles) into public issues
 Your social location (or place in society) has an effect
on your life chances. The sociological imagination is
your ability to see the societal patterns that influence
individual and group life.
 “Mills believed that in order to understand our own life
chances and those of others, we had to become
aware of the broad social events and trends
surrounding us.” (pg. 4)
 More Examples of C. Wright Mills’s Sociological
 Often, people who are unemployed have assumed “something
is wrong with me because I can’t get a job.” During the
Depression of the 1930s when unemployment rose to 25%,
people began to realize that “because the economy has
collapsed, there are no jobs to be found.” Unemployment
causes personal troubles (stress, depression, loss of identity),
but the problem is deeper than one person’s experience. It must
be understood by looking at the social structural conditions that
influence people’s lives.
A recent example
• Oprah’s video on educational inequality:
personal troubles and social issues?
• “30 Days” and immigration reform as a
personal trouble and a social issue
What happens when we use the
sociological imagination?
• We may feel uncertainty and new
challenges when we question the world
around us
• It can be scary to question common sense
or what we’ve been taught
So…where do social problems
come from???
• WE “socially construct” social problems,
which means that we define conditions as
harmful and in need of change
• Who are “we”? Do “we” all consider the
same issues to be “social problems”
Then what?
• Claims making: the process of convincing the
public that an issue should be a social problem.
• Claims change over time and change depending
on who is making them…
• Social movements form
– Social movements are the organized work of people
together to shape understanding of the social problem
and bring about change
Important things about
“social problems”:
Social Problems are…
the result of the organization of society
not caused by bad people
socially constructed!!!
defined differently by different people
changing over time
subjective, not just objective
sometimes solved!!!
To test what we’ve learned:
• Write down your answers to the following
– Which of the following would be true regarding
“public issues” and “personal problems” as
C.Wright Mills explained these terms
• A public issue affects only particular families
• A personal trouble affects all people in the nation at the
same time
• A public issue is a matter of public debate and collective
solutions are sought
• Personal troubles never overlap with public issues
– Sociologists believe that social problems are
caused less by personal failings than by the
Deviance of the powerful
Whims of political leaders
Bad people in society
Operation of society itself