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  • 1. C. Wright Mills and theSociological Imagination 1
  • 2. Once the sociological nature ofindividualism and the social problemscaused by it are understood, an appreciationof the sociological is possible.Until this appreciation is achieved, sociologyoften remains mysterious in this, the mostideologically individualistic of societies. David R. Simons, 1995 2
  • 3. This statement will become moreapparent when we look at Mills’emphasis upon biography andhistory. 3
  • 4. “Mans chief dangertoday lies in the unrulyforces of contemporarysociety itself, with itsalienating methods ofproduction, itsenveloping techniquesof political domination,its internationalanarchy--in a word, itspervasivetransformations of thevery nature of man andthe conditions and aimsof his life”  4
  • 5. C. Wright Mills onhis way to work atColumbiaUniversity, NY. 5
  • 6. 6
  • 7.  Biography and history Personal troubles versus public issues The social versus the individual 7
  • 8. Each of us has a place in the world. We are individuals. But as we relate to one another we develop, over time, a place in that history we were born into. 8
  • 9. History cannot exist, per se, without people both living it and making it. You live in an historically specific moment that was constructed out of a series of such moments.As well, you are making history now. 9
  • 10. Sociology is where biography and history meet. It is where you, as a person, interact with those larger forces around you – what Durkheim called social facts. 10
  • 11. Mills worked with Hans Gerth in translatingthe works of Max Weber. In this process others(Parsons) did so as well. But the translationshad different skews to them. Parsons wasclearly functionalist while Mills took it in adifferent direction. This is where the concept ofConflict Theory mostly came about. 11
  • 12. Mills invented a method he called “collectivebiography.”Mills was concerned about the problem ofpower in modern society.Power is what conflict theory is all about. 12
  • 13. Mills was concerned with classissues. The working class hadchanged after WWII. It was nowa “new middle class” of whitecollar workers. 13
  • 14. Contrary to Marx’s reasoning, the nextrevolution would not come from a blue-collarworking class.Perhaps major change would come from this“new middle class.” 14
  • 15. But this new middle class hadbecome “a kind ofhypercompetetive marketplaceof status-hunting that he called‘the status panic.’” (Collins &Makowsky, 2005) 15
  • 16.  Work is an anonymous “great salesroom” The trades are no longer independent but merely “tools of the establishment.” People have become “cheerful robots.” 16
  • 17. “The new middle class is superficially satisfied, but inwardly anxious, and dishonest about admitting it to themselves …They have no independent source of power.” (ibid.) 17
  • 18. Thus he comes up with the concept of thePower Elite.A nexus of elites from the military,corporations, and the political realm thatconverge much like Eisenhower’s military-industrial complex. 18
  • 19. “In this structure there is no effective challengeto the power elite from the traditionalinstitutions of American democracy.” (ibid.) 19
  • 20. In the power elite world organizationsconverge causing the collective biographies ofthe individuals within them to come toresemble one another.Does this sound like now? 20
  • 21. More on Mill’s perspective of society and itsproblems:Mills sees social problems as social ills thatarise from contradictions.What are some social contradictions? (Also called antagonisms) 21
  • 22. Think in terms of what Robert K.Merton called “structural strain.”Imagine all the obstacles thereare to going to college now. Thatis structure. 22
  • 23. According to David R. Simon,there are four key issuesrelated to the sociologicalimagination and itsapplication: 23
  • 24.  A critique (deconstruction) of other paradigms or ideologies, especially their contradictions. The relationship between personal troubles and social problems. A model for analyzing the relationships between the structure of society, the historical epoch, and the social character being produced. A model for the analysis of social problems. 24
  • 25. These issues fit into two distinct views: The Macro Perspective & The Micro Perspective 25
  • 26. 26
  • 27. We get a view of society as a whole.What major forces are at play? Theeconomy, history, human nature. 27
  • 28.  Structural Functionalism Conflict Theory 28
  • 29. 29
  • 30. We look at specific niches of society. Welook at the human interaction that is at play. 30
  • 31. Symbolic Interactionism (or just interactionism) 31
  • 32. So the three primary perspectives are:Structural functionalismConflict theorySymbolic interactionism 32
  • 33.  All parts exist to support the whole The organic analogy Interconnectivity Stable patterns Social structures: media, religion, family, etc. Manifest functions (intended) Latent functions (unintended) 33
  • 34.  Karl Marx: Antagonisms (or conflicts and contradictions) as a mode of change C. Wright Mills: Contemporary views and applications The American Dream 34
  • 35.  Micro theory Social creation of reality The interplay between individuals and society Humans have agency 35