C, Wright Mills suggests that people with sociological imagination think about their social environment differently than do people without a sociological imagination. To start with, social imagination is the ability refers to the ability of an individual to look beyond his/her everyday life as a cause for daily failures or successes and view the entire society in which he/she lives as the potential cause for all those occurrences. C. Wright Mills describes social imagination as a enabling “its possessor to understand the larger historical scene in terms of its meaning for the inner life and the external career of a variety of individuals” (8). In his work, Mill goes ahead to explain that many people are not aware of the connection that exist between the patterns of their lives and the course of world history. As such, he proposes that ordinary people do not possess the ability to realize the importance of this connection in determining what they become in future and the influence of history on what they become.
Sociological imagination is essential for individual people and societies to understand their social environment. It is imperative for people to be able to understand and relate the situations in which they live their daily lives to the local, national, and global societal issues as they affects them (7). Lack of the ability to make these relations render people unable to see societal issues that affect them, thereby inhibiting their ability to determine if these issues require some adjustments in order to find a better way of living. To this end, it can be argued that different societies and nations have obtained different levels of social imagination throughout history.
Mills suggest that people without social imagination tend to attribute the “troubles they endure in terms of historical change” (3). For example, a middle aged man with heart attack may put his condition to excessive smoking or lack of exercise. The problem with the individual is that he does not consider that the illness may be linked to living in the 21st century, the major cause of the illness lie in the modern society. As Mills put it, such people are not aware of the complex connection existing between their lives and the world history (4). People with social imagination think differently about their social environment since they have the ability to understand the interplay “of man and society, of biography and history” (4). In addition, they are able to monitor and control their personal issues such that they are able to control structural transformation that masks them.
Using examples from Coontz's analysis of parent-teen conflict to explain what she meant by this
What Coontz means by this statement is that people in today’s society fail to separate behavioral attributes peculiar to an individual from the broader dilemmas people face in the 21st century. In her article, Coontz gives an example with the contemporary American teenager. According to Coontz, American parents find it difficult to deal with teenage problems in isolation without attributing it to problems associated with the modern society (8). People tend to blame the society for their individual problems which they ought to deal with in a mature manner. Parents get carried away by the information they receive from the media and internet to generalize issues without analyzing the situation to determine the root cause of the problem. As Coontz puts it, the modern society presents a myriad of issues that crowds individual problems faced by youth in the society which makes it difficult for parents to understand and help their children. Information available to the society is distorted which makes it hard for people to make appropriate decisions. According to Coontz, information provided by various organizations regarding problems with youth are never accurate or try to bring out a picture that the problems with the youth are on the rise. Time has changed and parents have done little to prepare the youth for new requirements for adulthood. As argued by Coontz, today’s youths lack defined roles in the society which makes them vulnerable to undesired behaviors. In conclusion, Coontz statement implies that problems faced by the modern society can be understood by examining the contemporary issues in the society we live in.
In my opinion, Mills would agree that Coontz has a sociological imagination. To start with, Coontz recognizes the importance of historical change in defining the problem. She acknowledges that things have changed including aspects such as role played by the youth in the past two decades. In addition, Coontz is explicitly aware of the complex connection that exists between youth’s pattern of life and the changes that have taken place in the American history. For example, Coontz says that the average puberty age in 1820 was 16, but today, it is 12 years (9). Coontz has social imagination since she recognizes the influence that structural transformation has on the society.
Coontz, Stephanie. The Way We Really Are: Coming To Terms With America's Changing Families. NY: Basic Books, 1998. Print.
Wright, C. Mills. The Sociological Imagination. 40th ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1959. Print.