Home > free > Sociological Imagination Essay Examples

The individual and the social- what do we mean when we start talking about individual interpretations as opposed to social interpretations

Critical consciousness

The structure of society is the same concept- the way that stucture is built, held together and the various institutions gives rise to a particular type or shape of culture. This means that we are socialised into a particular type of social character (eastern person or western person or hunter&gatherer).

How does our society hold together?

The individual and the social- are there links between what we do as individuals and what happens in a social situation.

The sociological perspective- the way of viewing the world

Do we have a free choice in what we wear and what we consume.

Yes we do have a choice in what we wear- I can wear a green tshirt if I want but essentially we are all wearing the same clothes, we are all wearing western clothes.

We all consume essentially the same food, they may be different brands but we are still eating the same things.

Why do we do that,

What do we eat,

When do we eat,

At what time of day,

What type of food do we eat,

Why do we eat that type of food,

Why do we eat at those particular times,

Why do we have the sorts of things we have for breakfast- if we have breakfast,

Do we have a free choice in how we live our lifestyles or do we have a number of other alternatives that are really very similar

Do we have a free choice in partners, or how free is our choice in partners (do I suddenly look up into the back row of the lecture theatre and instantly fall in love with someone up there- no, and there are a lot of reasons why that doesn’t happen)

Do we have a free choice in terms of jobs- not really.

The influences on us are our age, gender, race/ ethnic background, religion, organisational setting (eg: university), socio-economic background, media and advertising, technology in terms of how we comminicate with each other and even our relationships (meeting someone online?), government policies (eg: divorce).

All of this has an influence on our individual behaviour

Industrial sociology by John Kenneth Galbraith- one of the most prominent economists of the 20th century, key advisors to many of the American governments. In his book he talks about technological imperitives. Example, an incredible amount of money goes into the production of a motor vehicle, then having produced that motor vehicle and having spent 7 years doing it (design, contracts, testing, electronics etc) we then have to sell it. Advertising controls consumer demand, we are coerced to want these types of products (glossy brochures, clever placement of advertising messages.

Technological imperatives- having built that product we now have to control consumer demand to ensure that their product will sell and they get a return for their 7 years of investment.

Victim blaming- in our society there is still a tendancy to blame the victim, it is their fault, they are the problem.

Relationships- certainly influenced by outside forces, the friends we have, the circles we move in, where we work (many relationships are developed in the workplace), someone new who comes onto the scene may actually change a relationship, fellow students.

Getting a job- it is much harder to get a job now than it once was, why is this so? Newman talks about some of the micro things (perhaps a person didn’t interview very well, perhaps their presentation was a bit shoddy, perhaps they didn’t wear the appropriate clothes, etc). More than likely there were also things happening at the macro level, things such as; nowadays there are many more graduates meaning that there is more competition and expectations are higher, there has also been a lot of downsizing in industry and this will continue with the way we use technology in the workplace now. For example, now, instead of using a secretary, we may type all our own notes on our computers. Technology is now doing more and more of the work for us. The increasing demand for education, years ago you could get a very good job with just your HSC but now you would be lucky to get shortlisted for a job at McDonalds.

It is very important to look at the link between the macro at the individual level and in the wider society and the influence of the macro on the micro. What are the things outside that are different, historically, now compared with even 30 years ago, how has the world changed (eg: no computers).

Sociological consciousness- sociology is a form of consciousness, the ability to see the impact of social forces on our lives.

What is the impact of the various social forces around us?

An analytical, critical approach- it is not about criticism but rather analysing critically what the relationship is between the individual and the wider macro society. What is going on out there to generate this type of interaction or behaviour.

This approach seeks to be sceptical and not take things for granted- we need to analyse why we are the way we are in that particular situation.

Why should I do it that way- is it part of social convention. Why do I behave like that- is it part of being respectable.

Questions to be asked

– why is it happening

– how is it happening

– who is involved

– what are the various power relationships there

– who benefits from all of this

– what is the structure

– where is it happening, when is it happening (historical notion)

– should it be happening

– “is that which is, is that which ought to be”. The distinction between “is” and “ought”

This is the same as when you are looking at your relationship, or the individuals relationship to the outside community or wider social organisation


– who holds power

– how is it expressed

– is it formal power or informal power

– is that respectable (Peter Burger’s book invitation to sociology?)

– what is respectable

– how do we define respectability (deviance)

– what is relative (notion of relativity)

Why do we wear the clothes we do in summer when people in other countries will be completely covered up at all times regardless of the season/ weather conditions?


– the notion of time

– different time periods

– differnet values

– vietnam war

– various revolutionary movements

– hippy culture

– typewriter> computer> palm pilot> ipod

Macro & Micro- the relationship between them

Socio-economic class and the lifestyles and life chances that flow from economic class

Roles- we do not play one fixed role, we may play many roles in one day (teacher, parent, friend). We alternate between various roles depending on the situation we find ourselves in.

Commonsense- when we talk about commonsense, what do we mean? Commonsense is dependant on factors such as age, eduacational level, race, religion, class. These all influence who we fall in love with- does someone from the Ghetto fall in love with someone from the aristocracy?

The notion of romantic love is restricted to the circole we are moving in, the people we are meeting, the nightclubs you go to (to a certain extent, the people in these nightclubs will be of the same socio-sconomic groupings), locality- though this may be changing with the introduction of internet dating, though there are still things common in internet relationships such as socio-economic background and educational level.

Is it also commonsense when we think of the law- is a law in place in the interest of all? Who makes the law and in who’s interest is the law?

Why is it that 90% of those people in prisons come from a lower socio-economis grouping. Is crime only committed in the lower socio-economic areas- NO- there is also much crime (though it may be different crime), being commited in the white-collar middle-class areas.

Who benefits most from the law? Is it commonsense that the law protects all of us or are we all equal before the law.

Given that there is a 50% chance that a marriage will fail, does it make sense to get married or get into a relationship? Is it commonsense to get married knowing that you have a 1:2 success rate?

Arranged marriages

Can prisons rehabilitate on a wide scale- NO

Do prisons protect? No, they don’t do a very good job because there is a 70% recitasism rate and only 2% of known offenders who go to prison


What is an ideology

It is a set of ideas that serve a vested interest, in other words, depending on your ideological stance we can view things differently as well. We can have different interpretations and meanings about a certain situation or event

Conspicuous consumption, false needs, economic manipulation

Fashion industry from an ideological stand point

Sociological imagination

Coined by C. Wright Mills

What is the structure of the society we are looking at, what is its underlying base? Is it an advanced technological society, a hunter and gatherer community, a fishing village. Where does it stand in human history (eg: grandma’s values on divorce as opposed to those today). What is its basic social character (aquizitive, materialistic)

Very important part of the sociological imagination is the distinction between personal troubles and public issues

– Divorce, personal or much wider? Why is divorce increasing- life expectancy, isolation (extended family isnt what it used to be), both partners working with kids, stigma doesn’t exist so much now- considered to be more a part of everyday life

– Aboriginal imprisonment

– Suicide, USA levels of imprisonment vs Australia