1. Using the Sociological Imagination, explain Sam's decision to drop out as a Private Trouble and as a Structural Issue.
2. Because of his history, family background and what William J. Wilson refers to as "neighborhood effects," Sam's life chances and choices might be limited. If Sam resorts to criminal activity, explain how this criminal activity may be explained as a Private Trouble and as a Structural Issue.
Sociological imagination and its definition
The Sociological Imagination,” by Charles Wright Mills seeks to encourage individuals to view their lives in a different perspective from the one they hold. The book encourages people to desist from hiding their personalities but rather open to all the good the world has to offer. The book seeks to reconcile two different concepts in reality that are abstract which are the individual and the society. The book presents the concept of sociological imagination which is defined by Wright as "The vivid awareness of the relationship between experience and the wider society." The sociological imagination can be said to be one's ability to see things from a social perspective and how they do interact and have an influence on someone. For one to have a sociological imagination, one should be able to pull him/herself from the condition he/she is in and reason from an alternative point of view(Crossman).
Mills starts by criticizing the trends in sociology that were present by then, and he then proceeds to explain sociology in his perspective. Mills proposes his ideal version of sociological practice that it is dependent on one’s view of the world and the historical context at the time and the immediate surrounding (environment) in which the individual exists. Mills further emphasizes on the importance of getting to see connections between individual experience, the agency and the social structure. An instance can be through our experiences with our “personal troubles” such as not having the ability to pay our bills being actually "public issues" since social problems do affect many. Mills also does recommend us to avoid strict adherence to one theory since practicing sociology in one way will tend to produce biased results and recommendations. Mills urges the social experts to work in the field of social science as a whole rather than specializing in a single field such as economics, sociology or political science. Mills had the perspective that sociology can show us that society happens to be responsible for most of our problems. His argument had the perspective that sociology had the role of transforming personal problems into public ones (Mills 11).
Forces that may seem remote and impersonal may be linked to incidents that do take place in an individual's life. This means that people majorly tend to look at their own personal problems as issues that are social and connecting individual experiences with those of the society. For instance, women who are forced to live under repression might link the conditions in which they live in. The same could also apply to people who have lived under poverty conditions; they would also link their conditions to those of the society in which they live in. Another instance could be in the case of a person being unemployed; the person will tend to link his unemployment to that of the society which he or she lives in (Janis, Irving, and Leon 18).
My parents never had much of an influence in my life, I grew up very distanced from them and the ways in which they were raised. My life was influenced more from personal reasons that happened to me and did not connect to my parents. I grew up with a lot of hardships that I had to overcome. At around age 13 or 14, I was physically attacked by a guy who was 19. Instead of letting my friends and family comfort me, I isolated myself from the rest of the world almost completely. After, I kind of just shut down and stuck to myself. When I was 15 or 16, I decided to let someone into my life that I fell for, and they committed suicide. From that, I didn't just isolate myself, I lost myself. I grew so angry that I turned on my parents, and the people that cared about me. I let go of my school work, and went numb, ignoring any of the emotions I should have allowed myself to feel. Then at age 16 or 17, I got into an abusive relationship, physical and mental. I finally hit my limit and stopped letting myself hate the world. I put all of my energy into my schooling to earn straight A’s. Now I am a 4.0 GPA student in college. I set my standards higher and met my significant other of 2 years now, I found a job, met new friends. My society around me wasn’t raised in poverty or a poor school system. But instead, it was my personal hardships that shaped my life. I feel that when it comes to parents, I relate to Sam’s story. I did not have the parental, teacher, or family guidance that I should have to make me strive the way I should have. I would stay out late to avoid going home, just as he did. It affected my relationships and my grades, just as it did his.
Mills' perspective on sociology
The circumstances that we do live in are the ones that influence our decision making and life chances. The decisions that we do make range from what we choose to eat, how we choose to put in our effort and how we decide to spend our money. The decisions are based on our fears, for instance, having lived childhood in a poverty background, one could be motivated to decide to work hard or lose hope in his or her life. Our biographies will be influenced most probably by the social structure in which one is in. A positive social structure in which the society can adequately cater for needs of the individual members probably most individuals born in such a society will grow up motivated in their lives.
In the story, Sam's decision to drop out was both a structural issue and private trouble too. It was private trouble in that both of Sam's parents did not secure a job that was beyond the minimum wage. The parents not having a decent job implied that they did not have the ability to have Sam attending a good school or the parents getting a home in a better area of town. Structurally, Sam also had the issue concerning the kind of area in which they lived; food was not easily accessed in the area. Sam’s school also did not have quality facilities as the textbooks were not available and teachers were inexperienced. Given the societal conditions and conditions that Sam personally faced, he drops out of his high school. As a result, Sam may be forced to resort to criminal activity. To pay for the things that he can’t, since his education did not provide him with enough to get a job. He started rebelling from a young age, which might also escalate into rebelling with criminal behavior (Brannen, Julia, and Ann 412-428).
To separate the two more in depth, he had many private troubles to account for his reasoning. With his constant exposure to his parents failing marriage, Sam rebelled and isolated himself from all those around him. He started staying out late at night to avoid being around his parents when they were at their worst. Staying out late took over the time he could have spent studying and doing work at night, then made him too exhausted during the day to focus in class. Sam is most likely being raised in the same town that his parents were, in a school that doesn’t transform its students into anything exceptional. Which is where the public issues of Sam’s decision came into play. The school that Sam attends, and his parents probably attended prior, is incapable of giving Sam any type of future. It is extremely underfunded, and due to its lack of funds, is unable to pay for efficient, talented staff. Its unexperienced teachers do not have any desire to help Sam through his troubles enough to graduate. They completely lack understanding to Sam’s hardships and let him chose the wrong path. Along with the teachers, the school’s academic plan is also broken. They focus more on academic testing rather than a student’s actual knowledge into the subject. Testing is stressful, especially for a student dealing with so much. Sam gave up because his education couldn’t give him a future, and the school let it happen. The combination of both of these factors proved to be too much for Sam, causing him to drop out before graduating.
Crossman, Ashley. "Definition of the Sociological Imagination and Overview of the Book." ThoughtCo, Jun. 22, 2018, thoughtco.com/sociological-imagination-3026756.
Mills, C. Wright. The sociological imagination. Oxford University Press, 2000.
Janis, Irving L., and Leon Mann. Decision making: A psychological analysis of conflict, choice, and commitment. free press, 1977.
Brannen, Julia, and Ann Nilsen. "Individualisation, choice and structure: A discussion of current trends in sociological analysis." The sociological review 53.3 (2005): 412-428.
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