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C. wright mills v3 9 13


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Update on Mills and Conflict Theory

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C. wright mills v3 9 13

  1. 1. C. Wright Mills and the Sociological Imagination 1
  2. 2. Once the sociological nature of individualism and the social problems caused by it are understood, an appreciation of the sociological is possible. Until this appreciation is achieved, sociology often remains mysterious in this, the most ideologically individualistic of societies. David R. Simons, 1995 2
  3. 3. This statement will become more apparent when we look at Mills’ emphasis upon biography and history. 3
  4. 4. 4 “Man's chief danger today lies in the unruly forces of contemporary society itself, with its alienating methods of production, its enveloping techniques of political domination, its international anarchy--in a word, its pervasive transformations of the very 'nature' of man and the conditions and aims of his life” 
  5. 5. 5 C. Wright Mills on his way to work at Columbia University, NY.
  6. 6. 6
  7. 7.  Biography and history  Personal troubles versus public issues  The social versus the individual 7
  8. 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. 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. 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. 11. Mills was concerned with class issues. The working class had changed after WWII. It was now a “new middle class” of white collar workers. 11
  12. 12. Contrary to Marx’s reasoning, the next revolution would not come from a blue-collar working class. Perhaps major change would come from this “new middle class.” 12
  13. 13. But this new middle class had become “a kind of hypercompetetive marketplace of status-hunting that he called ‘the status panic.’” (Collins & Makowsky, 2005) 13
  14. 14.  Work is an anonymous “great salesroom”  The trades are no longer independent but merely “tools of the establishment.”  People have become “cheerful robots.” 14
  15. 15. “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.) 15
  16. 16. Thus he comes up with the concept of the Power Elite. A nexus of elites from the military, corporations, and the political realm that converge much like Eisenhower’s military- industrial complex. 16
  17. 17. “In this structure there is no effective challenge to the power elite from the traditional institutions of American democracy.” (ibid.) If this sounds like today, yes, he was not only on the mark, but quite prescient as well. 17
  18. 18. More on Mill’s perspective of society and its problems: Mills sees social problems as social ills that arise from contradictions. What are some social contradictions? (Also called antagonisms) 18
  19. 19. Think in terms of what Robert K. Merton called “structural strain.” Imagine all the obstacles there are to going to college now. That is structure. 19
  20. 20.  Merton was clearly a functionalist. But describing everything in terms of their function was not satisfactory for analyzing the uncertainties, complexities and social upheaval of the 60s.  Mills has another take on things. 20
  21. 21.  Mills sees conflict in the social structure. In essence he revived the Marxist conflict perspective.  Overall, functionalism ended up relegated to the minority of sociologists.  Conflict seemed the most appropriate approach for the period. 21
  22. 22. According to David R. Simon, there are four key issues related to the sociological imagination (Mills) and its application: 22
  23. 23.  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. 23
  24. 24. These issues fit into two distinct views: The Macro Perspective & The Micro Perspective 24
  25. 25. 25
  26. 26. We get a view of society as a whole. What major forces are at play? The economy, history, human nature. 26
  27. 27.  Structural Functionalism  Conflict Theory 27
  28. 28. 28
  29. 29. We look at specific niches of society. We look at the human interaction that is at play. 29
  30. 30. Symbolic Interactionism (or just interactionism) 30
  31. 31. So the three primary perspectives are: Structural functionalism Conflict theory Symbolic interactionism 31
  32. 32.  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) 32
  33. 33.  Karl Marx: Antagonisms (or conflicts and contradictions) as a mode of change  C. Wright Mills: Contemporary views and applications  The American Dream 33
  34. 34.  Micro theory  Social creation of reality (that is, how we, as seemingly small entities, actually are a powerful force in the creation of the larger social structure.  The interplay between individuals and society  Humans have agency (i.e. we do ultimately make choices). 34