Tuesday, September 09, 2008

A Centrist Sociological Imagination

C. Wright Mills, in The Sociological Imagination, tries to engage students by connecting the personal problems of individuals with the social issues of society as a whole. This is an effective approach to encouraging a sociological imagination in highly individualistic people.

The Sociological Imagination is a classic in the field, probably the single most influential introduction that American sociology has produced. I read it again recently and was struck by something that Mills' approach leaves out. He gets students to think about how their personal problems are connected to social issues. Mills does not ask us to consider how our personal blessings are connected to social issues.

I see the makings of a truly centrist approach to the sociological imagination: an equal emphasis on problems and blessings, vices and virtues, structures of oppression and structures of good order. Sociology has a strong bias toward criticism; we need a balancing passion for appreciation.

2 comments:

Eastis said...

That's a really interesting insight. At the very least, I think I'm going to rephrase the essay question I use in Intro to Soc from "analyze one of your problems in its social context" to "analyze one of your blessings."

Gruntled said...

Excellent -- I would be very interested in the outcome of that experiment.