Analytic summary notes
Mills contends in the book, that the most important task for social scientists and sociologists is to create a link between different social environments of individuals and social and historical forces where the experiences are entangled. The view challenges that of structural functionalist because it creates a new opportunity for a social scientist to inhibit in relation to the broad social structure. The broad social structure is produced through a combination of individual function. In essence, the author was trying to make an attempt of reconciling two varying concepts of social reality, the society and the individual. In doing so, he sought to challenge the sociological discourse that dominated the field.
He uses abstracted empiricism and grand theory to conduct the project of challenge and reconciliation. He criticizes the Parsonian sociology using grand theory where he directly addresses Taclott Parson’s work of the social system. Parsons argues that the socialization of individuals helps to create and maintain culture in addition to developing the structure of society. However, the author criticizes this view and provides concrete justification for his criticism. He contends for a society that is homogenous. He rules out the social order perception propelled by Parson by arguing that individual citizens are not able to be integrated into the society fully. They are also not able to fully internalize all the forms of a society’s culture.
He further argues that the society and cultural symbols of society cannot be self determined. They are derived from individual citizens and their consciousness. The society enforced a system of belief which he argues forms the center of power. Social order, according to Mills, is derived with observation, a view which his opponents in structural functionality dispute.
In illustrating his ideas, he talks about social science being a practice of a craft where an individual social scientist becomes impatient to discuss his or her work in order to develop method and theory. For such a social scientist, it is better to have a presentation of his or her work to beginning students than sharing it with other specialists who may not have done such work. However, the author says that it is through conversing with similar thinkers and specialists that theory and method can best be developed and imparted on the beginning students. The following are the main points presented by the author:
Accomplished thinkers have one distinguished characteristics, which is the ability to treat their minds, observe their development, and organize their experiences. Experiences are treasured by thinkers because it is the origin of original intellectual work. These experiences are very few in a person’s short lifetime and therefore thinkers have to be sensitive every small experience they go through in life. It is through journaling or file keeping that a thinker can learn to maintain a reflective habit out of experiences.
He further illustrates his argument by saying that writing plans does not necessarily have to be motivated by the need to make money. He notes that most people are involved in careful planning whenever they are required to request for funds or make money. He says that this is actually a very bad idea which can result to pretension. He likens this habit to salesmanship to some degree. There are several other consequences of such a habit. For instance, a project can be rounded out well before its time which is a contrived thing. A sociologist is however supposed to constantly be involved in review of his or her project(s) which is best achieved through reflection. Journaling can also be strategic by dividing content into topics. Each topic can have its own notes, references from books, and personal experiences. Basically, the entries of a personal file need to be divided into sections and subsections. This is to say that sorting out the items becomes easy when they are well organized.
Another key point that presented entails intellectual production through filing. The author says that when a social scientists or a thinker, for that matter, maintains a journal, he or she is involved in intellectual production. The habit basically implies that the individual continues to store ideas and facts in addition to being able to separate the vague ones from the finished ones.
Another critical points made by the author is the power of organization. This he says is the one thing that has made minority group of people to rule over the world. He refers to them as the organized minority. They rule over men as well as over things. The men who are ruled over fall on the contrasting category which the author refers to as the unorganized majority.
Reflection about the author
The ideas of mills are very important for the understanding of topics in sociology. The Ideas are used to enhance sociological comprehension. Traditional approach to the structure of sociology is largely criticized by Mills and he proposes an approach which deepens the understanding of the field. His ideas can actually be adopted in schools and institutions of learning in order to help students of sociology to further their understanding of key topics in the field. One major point discussed in the article is that the field of social science is one that relies on the contribution of various thinkers, scholars, or researchers. Social science can best be developed by the collective efforts of different scholars. Individual scholars also have to make their contribution by engaging in procedures and methodologies which seek to make connections between related and unrelated information.
The concept of sociological imagination has various benefits as illustrated in the book. It helps students and scholars in sociology and other fields of social science to develop a global perspective of issues and social problem surrounding them. They are also in a better position to confront issues of race relation through the development of skills of hands on observation. The idea of journaling and reflection is important for sociologists. As the make observations of their daily lives, they are able to reflect on key topics in sociology and link between personal experiences and social forces in the context of history. The use of social imagination also helps one with the skills of responding to injustices in the society. This is majorly due to the fact that it exposes a sociologist to such experiences. Through reflection and imagination the social scientist will be able to respond understand and respond appropriately to injustices in the society.
In essence, the argument of the author is that the field of sociology does not depend on a single clear-cut empirical study. Instead, the field is made of various empirical studies which touch on key points that make general inferences that shape and contribute to the field. This implies that the key points and statements in sociology cannot have any basis until they are re-worked on by different scholars and proven to hold some ground from a scientific point of view.
This argument holds a lot of ground. It is true that the field of social science is best built by a collective effort from various scholars. Basically, the theoretical implications are credible and the findings have a broad application. They can be applied in other fields of study. The formation and development of a discipline requires scholars to conduct studies under different original circumstances before key conclusions can be drawn. This is among the main arguments developed by Mills in the article which proves its broad application. The findings have been considered by many to be the most influential of all his works. It examines social structures as well as the nature of human beings in the society. Scholars who make exemplary contributions towards various fields of study have a nature or character which distinguishes them from the rest. This is clearly pointed out by Mills and holds some truth across various sectors of society.
Mills also says that individual social scientists look at the works of other scholars for various purposes. For some, earlier works of other scholars from related or same field of study will help them to learn directly. In their reports and articles, they will only be involved in a restatement of what they read or learnt from the materials. Secondly, social scientists may look into the early studies and either accept of refute the findings. When accepting, justifications have to be made. Similarly, when refuting, justifications have to be made to support the stand taken. Thirdly, early studies may act as a source of suggestions for the ones research study. For instance, most researchers always suggest areas of further research upon completion of a study. A future researcher with the same or related interest and topic can therefore proceed to study the suggested areas of further research. One research study may offer an opportunity for another. As one researcher completes his or her study and makes conclusions which contribute to the main points of sociology or whatever fields in that matter, the findings offer an opportunity for another scholar to further the study. This is how the author looks at how the field is developed. The perception is actually a good one since it has very little areas which can be criticized concretely. Whatever criticisms that may arise may fail to have a solid justification against the argument.
The point on power organization is a critical one that applies across may things. Its evidence is quite visible in the society today. Very few people control things as well as others in the society. A number of books have been written to support these assertions by Mills. For instance, the 80/20 principle was developed later after Mills had published all his works. According to the principles, 20 percent of the world’s population is in possession of 80 percent of its resources. This is what Mills referred to as the organized minority who rule over things and over men. They are considered powerful due to the immense amount of wealth in their possession. Their wealth does not only mean material wealth but information.
The idea of journaling also applies across borders of sociology. It is the one thing that people are encouraged to do if they want to become effective in life. Keeping a file helps one to organize their lives effectively and act as planned. It is also critical for reflection an aspect which distinguishes great thinkers from the rest. According to Mills, the idea of keeping a file by social scientists helps to translate private issues into public concerns. This is a difficult task for ordinary citizens but sociologists have the task of connecting personal experiences and challenges to social institutions. It then becomes the work of social scientists to link the institutions to structures within the society.
Mills was a family man. He met his wife, Helen smith while studying at the university and got married in 1937. The wife was very supportive in his work. She is the one who contributed to the editing and typing of most of his work. In 1942, he received his PH. D, which the wife also typed and edited, from the University of Wisconsin. In the same year, he was appointed a professor and joined the University of Maryland where he began his career. In 1945, he joined the Bureau of applied social research at Colombia University in New York as a research associate. This move lead to the separation with his wife Helen and eventually they divorced in 1947.
He later became an associate professor at the same institution, department of sociology. His contribution to journalistic sociology started while at Maryland where he was the professor of sociology. In the same year, he re-married. The second wife, Ruth Harper, was a statistician and she worked together with Mills at the Bureau of applied research. They worked together to publish a number of research studies and books including The Power Elite, White Collar, and The New Men of Power. The two separated in 1957 and later divorced. This lead Mills to marry his third wife in 1959. Yaraslava Surmach was an American artiste who had her origin in Ukraine. With each of his three wives, he had a single child. Throughout his life time, he had been ailing cardiovascular complications. He used to experience heart attacks which lead to his demise in 1962.
Professional contribution towards research
Mills wrote several books including, The New Men of Power: America’s Labor Leaders, White Collar: The American Middle Classes, The Power Elite, The Sociological Imagination, The Marxists, Listen, Yankee: The Revolution in Cuba, and The Causes of World War Three. He studies labor metaphysics in the book The New Men of Power: America’s Labor Leaders. The main findings and conclusion in the book is that labor no longer plays an oppositional role as was the case traditionally. Instead, labor has become reconciled to life in a system that is predominantly capitalist.
In the book, White Collar: the American Middle Classes, he studies the middle classes of America and says that they are oppressed by cheerful. They are oppressed because of bureaucracies, which has snatched them independent thinking and turned them into robots. He divides power in the work place into three. They include: manipulation, authority and coercion. He says that the traps which have a hold on the middle class individuals tend to make them powerless. In effect, the strong social elite tend to have a lot of power.
In the book The Power Elite, Mills describes the relationship between various elite groups in the society such as the military, the economic elites, and the political elites. According to Mill, all these elite groups of the society share a common view of the world where power and authority is centralized and rests upon the elites. He further suggests that authority and centralization of power is composed of military metaphysics, class reality, and interchangeability. He expounds on these terms and says that the power elites always represent their own interest. Power usually interchanges among these three elite groups of the society. For instance, a nation would want to create a permanent war economy. This means that in addition to being an economic power house, a nation would also want to gain military superiority.
The book social imagination is considered to be his most influential book compared to the rest of his work (Mills, 1959). As mentioned earlier in the first section of the paper, the book talks of the mindset in which sociologists and scholars in the field of social sciences need to have as they make their contribution towards the field.
In his lifetime, Mills managed to get a number of awards. Among them, is the award received for one of his books for exemplification in outstanding research in social sciences. Mills left a legacy which will be remembered both in the field of social sciences and beyond.
Mills, C. W., Mills, K., & Mill, P. 2001. C. Wright Mills: Letters and Autobiographical Writings. New York: Thoemmes Press.
Mills, C. Wright. 1959. The Sociological Imagination. London: Oxford University Press.
Rick, T. C. 1984. Wright Mills: A Native Radical and his American Roots. University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press.