The ability of an individual within society to recognize the world around us and to understand how it functions in correlation with one’s life is, the social imagination. “The sociological imagination enables its possessor to understand the larger historical scene in terms of its meaning for the inner life and the external career of a variety of individuals. ” (Mills, 1959, p. 3) In this paper, I will be discussing the various aspects of the sociological imagination in relation to one other contemporary article, (Benforado, 2010), as well as within my own life.
The idea that Mills presents in his writing, The Sociological Imagination, is the concept that one must be knowledgeable of their role within society. The process by which we become aware of our wellbeing in society is, by the “quality of mind” (Mills, 1959). What Mills (1959) is trying to acknowledge by the “quality of mind” is that, as individuals, we must be informed and understand society as a bigger picture. He explains that must not be narrow minded, but gain wisdom when developing our social views and opinions. An individual can understand his own experience and gauge his own fate only by locating himself within his period, that he can know his own chances in life only by becoming aware of those of all individuals in his circumstance” (Mills, 1959, p. 2). He is trying to explain that one must be aware of not only role in society through our own perception, but need to look at the boarder things society presents. For example, if we look at the high crime rates among young black males, it may be because of poverty or unemployment.
But maybe the reason why crime rates among young black males is higher is because they may not have proper education or perhaps the amount of social disorganization within poor communities. The social disorganization theory explains that crime is a result of communities not establishing relationships with each other. In this way one is able to look at all aspects of a situation and receive a better perspective. There are two views present, one of them being your own while the other is through social reasoning. It is obvious that one must look at the broader picture of things o fully understand aspects of life. In doing this one will begin to acknowledge the sociological perspective and the processes behind it. “Neither the life of an individual nor the history of a society can be understood without understanding both” (Mills 1959, p. 2). The sociological imagination can be applied to one’s career much like in criminal justice. Looking within the article, (Benforado, 2010), one can look at the sociological imagination process that is applied thought out the criminal justice system. The author describes the sociological imagination by analyzing the case of John Charles Green.
Green was convicted of burglary and was sentenced to three years in prison where he was then a victim of rape. As a result, green felt he had no other choice but to escape from prison because he unsafe and threatened. He was caught the next day and charged with a felony escape. This article explains the sociological imagination by analyzing, why Green committed burglary, and what was the reasoning behind his attempted escape? The author states that, “people directly around at the prison influenced Green’s act of escape”(Benforado, 2010, p. 820). This is a clear example in the article that uses the sociological imagination.
Several views were taken into consideration here, one’s own view of the situation and the other is through social reasoning of the issue. Society, being the members of the prison, influenced Greens’ decision to escape by the act of raping him. He felt compelled to escape at the expense of his safety. The author states, “One element of the situation that we are particularly likely to miss is the role of the physical environment in shaping behavior”(Benforado, 2010, p. 829). He goes on to explain the meaning behind physical space and how physical space is overlooked within society as an influential factor.
Mills (1959) explains that a sociological imagination requires one to have a broad perspective on issues to fully understand the situation. It is obvious that throughout this article that the author clearly uses the sociological imagination process to examine Greens’ case. To relate the sociological imagination in my own life, I can try to find myself within my generation and social class. Being apart of middle class in society, living in a small town called Eagle River, Wisconsin, I don’t feel I have experienced many social issues. However despite that, one issue has occurred in my life.
During my senior year of high school I began to become more aware of my social status of being middle class. I began to realize that my generation is facing more financial problems than my parents. I would like to point out that my parents, unlike many during their generation, had more financial problems than others coming from poor families. Despite my parents having poor families, unlike my generation, were able to establish great careers without any college education. Today, in my generation, society has shown us that if we want to get anywhere in life, college is the key to a success.
Ever since we were children we were stressed the importance of a higher education. The problem with that is college is becoming more and more expensive every year. Being part of middle class society, like most in my generation, I am unable to afford the expenses of highly priced schooling. Our parents do not make enough money simply to live their lives and pay for our schooling. As a result, we are forced to take out hefty school loans. After graduation we are left with a tremendous amount of school debt that simply is almost impossible to pay off.
Another problem has occurred now; the unemployment rate has been ever increasing making it hard for college graduates to find jobs. When we do find jobs, we are lucky if our earnings will be able to support our lives and still be able to make payments on loans. My generation has fallen into a life of debt and economic troubles that seems to be overwhelming. We can rise above this situation and take responsibility for our actions by understanding the concept of the sociological imagination. We can use our knowledge concerning our problems and take actions to change society for the better.