C. Wright Mills is a prominent American sociologist whose works are influenced by the writings of Weber, and Mannheim. In his scientific studies, Mills also follows the ideas of Marxism. One of the concepts developed by Mills is the sociological imagination. This term indicates the existence of the interconnection between the experience of an individual and society. The current paper is dedicated to this concept in the writings of Mills. More precisely, this essay explains why Mills argued that US sociology is deprived of imagination.
To begin with, apart from what was said in the previous paragraph, imagination from the sociological perspective is the ability to estimate the same situation from an alternative point of view. This requires an implication of an alternative vision that could be even contradictory to the initial one. Mills states that the implementation of this concept means creating a connection between personal issues and the troubles of the public. In the book The Sociological Imagination, Mills lists several methods that could help to use imagination in sociological studies in order to improve them. His advice includes the application of various techniques and methodologies; avoidance from the excessive use of complicated terminology; and consideration of minor events that could seem useless from first sight. Consequently, a social scientist Consequently, a social scientist`s possession of the sociological imagination helps to analyze a problem from different perspectives profoundly.
Still, Mills believes that many social scientists lack sociological imagination. This prevents scholars from creating high-quality researches in the sphere of sociology, literature, and political science. The American scholar emphasizes that US social studies are characterized by this shortcoming. Pyyhtinen investigates this viewpoint and concludes that sociological imagination has become different from the initial proposition of Mills. The American sociologist is concerned that sociological imagination is strongly connected with cultural life, while Pyyhtinensays that this concept is much closer to the sciences of the mind, rather than with social studies. From this, it could be inferred that American sociologists, while conducting their researches, fail to take into consideration the proper aspects of society`s functioning.
The failure of American sociology is proven by the fact that the researchers estimate any situation only from one perspective and do not trace the relationships with the historical and political processes. Therefore, the US scholars display a weak comprehension of society, history, and politics. It could be suggested that sociological imagination is a state of mind that could be trained; it is about a scientist`s ability to perceive a connection between any ordinary event, daily routine, and the broader context. Apparently, such connections are not always evident and easy to figure out. Nevertheless, the critical task of a sociologist is to combine all the knowledge of numerous social sciences in order to reveal these linkages.
In fact, sociology as a subsection of social sciences appeared because its pioneers, such as Weber, Marx, and Tocqueville, were able to unite the history and the current circumstances of people’s life. Mills’s conception of sociological imagination indicates, to some extent, intellectual imperialism. This means that the scholars should be aware of the diversified theories and methodologies, not a particular one. Apart from that, the support of elitist ideas and attempts to maintain the status quo are also the causes of the failure of American sociology.
It is curious to notice that in 1959 Mills indicated that American sociology is in decline. One could claim that over the past 60 years, the situation might have changed. However, House continues the assertion of Mills and claims that modern sociological science in the US is still in crisis. Although both scholars indicate different reasons for this decline, House`s point of view stems from one of Mills’s. House reckons that the current level of development is insufficient. It is evident in the researches, way of teaching a new generation of sociologists, fall of demand on this profession and the discipline.
To sum up, it should be stated that the lack of imagination in American sociology is caused by scholars` inability to combine the individual experience with the other aspects of social sciences. Sociologists should pay attention to the historical and political context as well. Their work should be a part of their life so that they could notice that the past and the present are interconnected and mixed in society. Hence, it is immensely significant to see the linkage between the social structure in which individuals exist and their personal experience.