“We need to cultivate the imagination, for those who lack an imagination cannot know what is lacking.” -Vijay Prashad The Sociological Imagination Let us imagine a traffic jam… So what is Sociology? Sociology Systematic study of human societies. YOU SHOULD WRITE THIS DOWN OR MAKE SURE YOU GET IT FROM THE WEB SITE “Sociologists question what most others take for granted about society.” -Dalton Conley Why is Sociology important? Sociological thinking can help us better understand society, how we fit into it, how it shapes us, and how we can change it. Sociological thinking —developing a sociological imagination— is super powerful, in my opinion. Let us start with an easy question: Why are you here? “Thinking like a sociologist means making the familiar strange.” -Dalton Conley Sociology won’t give you all the answers. But it will help you ask the right questions. TIME TO READ! C. Wright Mills The Sociological Imagination Remember: Reading is not about perfect understanding; reading is about learning. How Are We Going To Do This? • You may read alone or with a partner • Please do all of the following: – Read the entire text for our seminar discussion on Monday – Annotate the entire text (what does “annotate” mean?) – Write a 1-paragraph summary in your notebook of the entire text – Write at least 3 discussion questions in your notebook for our seminar on Monday – Answer the following questions in your notebook: How does C. Wright Mills define a Sociological Imagination? What does he mean by that? • This must all be completed prior to Monday’s seminar. I will not accept any of this late, as it is important to be prepared for our discussion. The Sociological Imagination • • • • Annotations Summaries Questions How does C. Wright Mills define a Sociological Imagination? • Milieu or Milieux –Cultural surroundings or cultural context “Neither the life of an individual nor the history of society can be understood without understanding both.” “The Sociological Imagination” defined: • “A quality of mind that will help [people] use information and develop reason in order to achieve lucid summations of what is going on in the world and what may be happening within themselves.” “The first fruit of this imagination…is the idea that the individual can understand [their] own experience and gauge [their] own fate only by locating [themselves] within [their] period, that [they] can know [their] own chances in life only by becoming aware of those of all individuals in [their] circumstance.” “In many ways it is a terrible lesson; in many ways a magnificent one.” “By the fact of [your] living [you contribute], however minutely, to the shaping of this society and to the course of its history, even as [you are] made by society and by its historical push and shove.” Intersection of Biography and History “The sociological imagination enables us to grasp history and biography and the relations between the two within society. That is its task and its promise.” Personal Troubles vs. Public Issues Examples? Personal Trouble Or Public Issue? Smoking Related Deaths in the US • More deaths are caused each year by tobacco use than by all deaths from HIV, illegal drug use, alcohol use, motor vehicle injuries, suicides, and murders combined. • 300,000 to over 400,000 deaths annually (including deaths from secondhand smoke). • 49,400 deaths per year from secondhand smoke exposure Smoking Related Deaths in the US • Based on current cigarette smoking patterns, an estimated 25 million Americans who are alive today will die prematurely from smokingrelated illnesses, including 5 million people younger than 18 years of age. – Data from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Personal trouble or public issue? Alright, let us move on. “The first wisdom of sociology is this: things are not what they seem.” -Peter Berger, 1963 Sociology has been called, the great myth de-bunking discipline. But thinking sociologically ain’t always easy. What might be some obstacles to developing a sociological imagination? • Cultural values of individualism and free will • Desire for certain rather than probable answers • Social processes are dynamic, not static • Commitment to “common sense” • Critical nature of the discipline What might be some benefits of the sociological perspective? • Humanizing effects – Fosters appreciation for diversity and broadens personal views • Liberating – Empowers people to recognize their role in making history – Helps overcome “bad faith” • Bad Faith = the belief that you have no freedom—when people argue they don’t have a choice but to follow unjust rules or do their job • Our choices may not be without consequences, but we do have choices (even if they are limited) • With liberation come responsibility What might be some benefits of the sociological perspective? • Helps us understand obstacles to solving social problems • Inoculates us against simple explanations of complex issues Anyone who gives you a simple solution for a complex problem is either ignorant or lying. Remember this.