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The Sociological Imagination
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on October 13, 2012
I did not understand any of the concepts to this book. It was way over my head!!! I'm an honor roll student and I didn't get 95% of this book. Boring. Only read if you absolutely have to!!!
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on December 21, 2013
The book is also a bit rough for a 'good' valuation.
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on March 4, 2002
"It is my aim in this book to define the meaning of the social sciences for the cultural tasks of our time. I want to specify the kinds of effort that lie behind the development of the sociological imagination; to indicate its implications for political as well as for cultural life."
The first chapter of this book is "The Promise" and in it Mills takes his stand with the great tradition of the Enlightenment and the idea of liberation by learning. For Mills, the promise is that cultivation of the sociological imagination may enable people to place personal worries and concerns in the larger social and historical context, and thus to think more effectively about them.
Chapters on Grand Theory and Abstracted Empiricism show how the understanding of social processes is impeded by immersion in certain types of theory and in narrow-minded "nomal science". Other chapters explore the many and varied ways that the critical and probing "sociological imagination" can be subverted or frustrated. His description of the Machieavellian tactics employed by academics to sideline rivals is especially revealing (for example, have a potentially dangerous book reviewed by a junior member of a hostile faction). His comments on the function of professional associations and conferences are equally deadly.
The fatal flaw of the book is Mill's Marxism and lack of understanding of economics, exemplified by his dismissive reference to people who could not see the value of the New Deal. The author's theoretical and ideological stance is not explicitly articulated but was clearly in the rational and humanistic Marxist tradition. He yearned for a viable alternative to liberalism and Marxism as he saw them in the 1950s but he clearly did not perceive classical liberalism as a candidate that was worthy of mention. It seems that classical, non-socialist liberals were so thin on the ground during his lifetime that he did not see any need to engage with them. That is a major weakness and it prevented Mills, and this book, from reaching the full extent of insight and understanding that his scholarship, his integrity and his industry should have permitted.
The Appendix on Intellectual Craftmanship is worth reading every few years to keep focussed for effective reading, thinking and writing. The remainder of this review consists of extracts from the appendix to convey some of its flavour.
"It is best to begin, I think, by reminding you, the beginning student, that the most admirable thinkers within the scholarly community you have chosen to join do not split their work from their lives.They seem to take both too seriously to allow such dissociation, and they want to use each for the enrichment of the other."
"You must set up a file, which is, I suppose, a sociologist's way of saying: keep a journal...In such a file as I am going to describe, there is joined personal experience and professional activities, studies under way and studies planned..."
"One of the very worst things that happens to social scientists is that they feel the need to write of their 'plans' on only one occasion: when they are going to ask for money for a specific piece of research or 'a project'. It is as a request for funds that most 'planning' is done, or at least written carefully about. However standard the practice, I think this very bad: it is bound in some degree to be salesmanship, and, given prevailing expectations, very likely to result in painstaking pretensions; the project is lilely to be presented', rounded out in some arbitrary manner long before it ought to be; it is often a contrived thing, aimed at getting the money for ulterior purposes, however valuable, as well as for the research presented."
"Any working social scientist who is well on his way ought at all times to have so many plans, that is to say ideas, that the question is always, which of them am I, ought I, to work on next. And he should keep a special file for his master agenda, which he writes and rewrites just for himself and perhaps for discussion with friends. From time to time he ought to review this very carefully and purposefully, and sometimes too, when he is relaxed."
"Any such procedure is one of the indispensable means by which your intellectual enterprise is kept oriented and under control...In [a vigorous and free intellectual community]...there would be interludes of discussion among individuals about future work. Three kinds of interludes - on problems, methods, theory - ought to come out of the work of social scientists and lead into it again: they should be shaped by work-in-progress and to some extend guide their work. It is for such interludes that a professional association finds its intellectual reason for being."
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on December 11, 2017
if you are studying sociology in college this book is enlightening, if not this book is a very hard read, i would recommend the "power elite" if you appreciate c. wright mills.
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on June 7, 2017
Must read for all social sciences students
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HALL OF FAMEon July 30, 2000
No one has written with more verve and authority about the awesome and frightening capabilities of man than the late C. Wright Mills, a prominent and controversial sociologist who wrote such memorable tomes as "White Collar", an exploration of the emerging American Middle class in the early 1950s, and The Power Elite", a provocative examination of the nature of power, privilege, and status in the United States, and how each of these three critical elements of power and property in this country are irrevocably connected to each other. At last look, both books were still in print and are still used in both undergraduate and graduate sociology courses throughout the world. After fifty years, that in and of itself is powerful testimony to his enduring value as a scholar and an original thinker.
Here Mills focuses memorably on the qualities and uses of the sociological perspective in modern life, how such a scientifically based way of looking at, interpreting, and interacting with the larger world invests its user with a better, more accurate, and quite instrumental picture of what is happening meaningfully around him. For Mills, the key to understanding the value in such a perspective is in appreciating that one can only understand the motives, behavior, and actions of others by locating them within a wider and more meaningful context that connects their personal biographies with the large social circumstances that surround, direct, and propel them at any given historical moment. For Mills, for example, trying to understand the reasoning behind the sometimes desperate actions of Jews in Nazi Germany without appreciating the horrifyingly unique existential circumstances they found themselves in is hopelessly anachronistic and limited.
On the other hand, one invested with such an appreciation for how biography and history interact to create the meaningful social circumstances of any situation finds himself better able to understand the fact that when in a country of one hundred million employed, one man's singular lack of employment might be due to his persoanl deficiencies or lack of a work ethic, and be laid at his feet as a personal trouble, it is also true that when twenty million individuals out of that one hundred million figure suddenly find themselves so disposed and unemployed, that situation is due to something beyond the control of those many individuals and is best described in socioeconomic terms as a social problem to be laid at the feet of the government and industry to resolve. To Mills, it is critical to understand the inherant differences between personal troubles on the one hand, which an individual has the responsibity to resolve and overcome, and social ills, which are beyond both his ken or control. Indeed, according to Mills, increasingly in the 20th century one finds himself trapped by social circumstance into dilemmas he is absolutely unable to resolve without significant help from the wider social community.
Thus, for both psychological as well as social reasons, a person using the sociological perspective, or invested with what he called the "sociological imagination", is more able to think and act critically in accordance with the evidence both outside his door and beyond himself. Fifty years later, such a recognition of "what's what" and "who's who" based on the ability to judge the information within the social environment is as valuable as ever. This is a wonderful book, written in a very accessible and entertaining style, meant both for an intellectual audience and for the scholastic community as well. While it may not be for "everyman", any person wanting to better understand and more fully appreciate how individual biography and social history meaningfully interact to create the realities we live in will enjoy and appreciate this legendary sociological critique and invitation to the pleasures of a sociological perspective by one of its most remarkable proponents some half century ago.
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on May 22, 2001
I first came across this book when I was an undergraduate doing a course on introduction to sociology. It was on the required reading list. I had to confess, when I first encountered it, I did not know what to make of the book nor what the fuss was all about.
Now, many years later, I have just finished re-reading the book and am now convinced why this is a classic in the literature of the Social Sciences. Mills in this book seeks to advocate a certain ideal in the discipline of sociology. Known as the sociological imagination, he advocates the idea of using sociology to bear on the unease which man(in a generic sense!) faces in his daily life. Mills is arguing that much of unease felt by the individual has social roots, i.e., it is shared by many others. The cause of such unease has to do with the structure of society and changes that is happening in it. Hence, there is a great need for sociologists (and other social scientists) to articulate how such unease has sociological causes and thus enabling the individual to understand how his biography intersects with the structure and history of his society. In this way, hopefully it will empower to individuals to transform such unease into public issues in order to bring about changes in society.
Overall, this work is intelligently written as well as being morally challenging.Sure, much has changed since the first publication of this book but it is a good place to start for those who wants to find out what is sociology and to those who wants to be reacquainted with the ideals of sociology.
It is a morally challenging work which needs to be read and re-read time and again!
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on January 22, 2016
A wonderful and pertinent book.
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on July 1, 2013
Everyone living in a democratic society should read and practice the sociological imagination. You won't be disappointed with this book. It's a great read.
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on August 5, 2007
I bought this book to send to a teacher in Meghalaya, India who is taking a graduate degree in Sociology and it was a text in his own classes. He was thrilled to receive it because the standard of his work is raised according to the textbooks from his own reading list he is able to obtain.
I cannot review the book (as I didn't read it), but repeat his appreciation and his promise to use it to serve his community.
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