Applying the Sociological Imagination Essay
Applying the Sociological Imagination Essay
Sociological imagination is one of the common concepts that are used in sociology. It is a concept that was created by an American sociologist, Charles Mills, in 1959 and it was used to explain the type of awareness that is offered by the subject of sociology. Sociologists differ in their explanation of social imagination concept, but many of them suggest several commonalities in the idea. According to Mills (2000), sociological imagination is the cognizance of the association between individual experience and the wider community. It is critical to identify that sociological imagination is not a philosophy but a viewpoint of the society which attempts to steer a person to think away from his or her normal day-to-day life and freshly focus at one’s life. In other words, the sociological imagination entails a situation where a person develops a deep knowledge of how their memoir is as a result of historical course and ensues within the larger social context. In this paper, I will explore how social imagination apply the concept of sociological imagination presented itself during my high school life.
I was born in West Africa in a middle-income family. My parents were hardworking, and they always dreamt of making a good life for their children. They knew that the best way to enhance the lives of their children was to ensure that they went to good schools where they could get a quality education and be employed in very good jobs. As a result of my early upbringing, I equated success to getting good grades in high school and ensuring that one went to the university. In my definition, I considered university education as the best means of raising my social status because my parents taught me to believe so. At the age of 15, we came to the United States and settled in Los Angeles, California. My parents enrolled me at Inglewood high school. I considered it as a big achievement because every student desired to join the school. However, only parents from upper and middle-class social status were able to take their children to such schools.
While in school, I realized that there were only a few people from the minority communities, like the Africans and Latinos. Although there was no apparent racism in our class, I realized that children from the white community preferred to be grouped with those of the white origin. Those from the black community were grouped. I also realized that there was stratification in our school based on the families that the students came. For instance, those from the upper-class families preferred to work together and disregard the children from middle-income families. Since I come from the minority group, I would consider myself inferior. I thought it was a personal problem and like many other people I kept dwelling on the question ‘Why me?’ I was not able to address the issue until I learned about social imagination.
After considering my personal experience above, it is quite evident that there was a lot of sociological imagination in the whole story. According to Charles Mills, sociological imagination is the value of mind that permits an individual to appreciate history and biography and the associations between the two in the society (MILLS 6). Sociological imagination allows an individual to switch from one viewpoint to another thus allow one to understand the socio-cultural system. I have learned that the social status that a person holds in the society cannot be considered as the fallback because we are all open to scholarships and grants that we can use to advance our education and career dreams. However, it important to acknowledge that the social viewpoint plays a critical role when a person is deciding to join a high school or college. We all understand that college education forms the foundation of our careers and we also understand that it can play a critical role in our success.
The presence of social classes is not a new phenomenon. In chapter 4 of his book, Dalton Conley presents Herbert Mead’s theory that explains that social-self starts during early age and continues throughout the lifetime. According to Conley (2015), the phases of social development starts with babies, who only recognize the I. As they grow, they grow, they recognize that they are distinct entities to be perceived by others. Therefore, the issue of social class that I experienced during my high school life is not a new phenomenon but something that starts with many infants. In fact, the lives of the people are shaped by the society, and this makes them become accustomed to various things and try to stay within the acceptable trends of the society. Therefore, we can confidently accept that the society plays a very great role in determining the character of an individual and the way every person lives his or her life.
The concept of stratification and social classes in the society has been there for a long period. In Chapter 5 of his book, Dalton Conley explores the issue of stratification and states that it is a concept that exists in almost all societies. According to Conley (2015), social stratification is a feature of the society, and it persists over the generations and is also continued through philosophies that are extensively shared by the people in the society. The issue of stratification is viewed with a lot of variation by different sociologists. Proponents of social stratification believe that this concept exists in many societies to bring a hierarchy that stabilizes the society. Since no society in the world is not stratified, we cannot claim that social grouping is a new concept. In fact, functionalists believe that stratification is important because it induces the people with special acumen, knowledge, and expertise that motivate them to enter into the most important jobs. Even in the United States where democracy has existed for a long period, the issue of stratification still exists.
According to Jaworski (2017), 26.8 percent of American wealth is owned by 1 percent of the population while 4 percent of the population owns 21.4 percent of wealth. 5 percent of the population owns 9.7 percent of the wealth. These statistics also indicate that 57. 8 percent of all wealth is owned by the top decile of the United States’ population. In fact, stratification has been proven to be a concept that affects almost all countries in the world. This is demonstrated by the income gini coefficient map that was published by World Bank in 2014 as indicated below.
Gini coefficient map that was published by World Bank in 2014 (Jaworski, 2017). Higher income Gini value shows that the county has a high-income inequality among its citizens.
From the above numbers, it is quite obvious that stratification is a concept that normally exists in a society. In fact, some sociologists have argued that social order and the general stability of the society are achieved when there is an agreement of universal values and morals.
Racism is also not a new concept. It has existed in the society, and even the governments have tried to pass laws that prohibit discrimination on the basis of skin color. In Chapter 7 of his book, Dalton Conley demonstrates that racism is not a new concept. Conley (2015) states that Modern racial thinking started during the mid-seventeenth century in combination with international changes like the Protestant Reorganization, the Age of Exploration, and the increases of capitalism in countries like the United States. But the meaning of white was certainly not static. In fact, Donley believes that racism has never had firm boundaries and there is no regulation for defining racial identity. However, we cannot assume that racism is a new concept in the society because it is something that has been existing. Racism has been existing for a long period, and this is clearly demonstrated by the criminal arrests in the United States. According to the data from Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), United States Census Bureau, and Crime reporting program, Minneapolis city recorded high rates of racism in the criminal justice system between 2004 and 2012 where many arrests were made on the black people as compared to white people for the same felonies. The Graph below demonstrates the inherent racism in Minneapolis justice system.
Racism cannot be associated with personal defects as I thought when I joined college. Racism is a product of the society where one grew. For instance, those who have been brought up in societies which are predominantly white are likely to discriminate black people. Therefore, racism did not occur because of my fault, but it was a product of the society I lived in.
My sociological imagination regarding social classes and racism shape my way of thinking in a greater way. Although I belonged to a middle-income family, I had to put a lot effort to make sure that I attained my education dreams. I decided to work hard since I was in high so that I can achieve my dream. I will not allow social stratification or racism to deter my dream of becoming a successful person. Through social imagination, I have learned that the issues I experience affect the whole society. Furthermore, I have learned that human beings must learn not to be limited by their problems or shortcomings but focus on exploring things that are beyond the ordinary.
Conley, D. (2015). You may ask yourself: An introduction to thinking like a sociologist. New York: W.W. Norton ; Company.
Jaworski, J. A. (2017). Stratification and Racial Statistics in the United States. New York: Nova Science Publishers.
Mills, W. (2000). The Sociological Imagination. Oxford: Oxford University Press.