Sociology, Society, Sociological Imagination

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Updated: Aug 18, 2023
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Category: Imagination
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I asked my dad what problem he had today, and he said that he couldn’t figure out why he was missing seven dollars from his wallet.

“He said he had it on his mind for a while and just couldn’t figure out what happened to it. The fact that he was missing seven dollars for no apparent reason bugged him. He wouldn’t have been happy until he found out where it went. It turns out that he bought some stuff for his truck’s windshield to stop it from leaking; he just forgot.

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When Mills discussed the distinction between ‘personal troubles’ and ‘public issues,’ I think that he meant personal troubles only affect the individual, not society. Therefore, a person’s personal troubles are not public issues. If one person is unemployed, that is a personal problem, not a public issue. There must be a reason for an individual to become unemployed, which is why it is their own personal problem. If a large percentage of the population becomes unemployed, that is a public issue because it involves society. You can’t have a well-developed country with everyone being unemployed; that is an issue.

After my dad found out that he was missing seven dollars from his wallet, he thought he had lost it, or someone had pickpocketed him. However, he didn’t consider that very likely. The only historical circumstance that could be associated with this problem would be pickpocketing, since it goes way back in history. You rarely hear about pickpocketers today; even if they exist, nobody would report losing ten or twenty dollars. The only social circumstance associated with this problem is that society today doesn’t value money as it used to. If someone loses ten dollars, they will forget about it after a short time, wondering where it went. I bet if your average person were pickpocketed for ten dollars and didn’t know it for sure, they wouldn’t report it because they might sound ridiculous. It could also be assumed that it’s hard to identify a pickpocket, even if you are quite confident that you’ve been pickpocketed.

It is important to understand the larger socio-historical forces that help create ‘personal troubles’ for individuals because some problems are experienced by the individual, but they can also be caused by society, history, or their culture. According to Ferris, Kelly and Stein, Jill, The Real World. New York, London: W.W. Norton, 2016, “Sociology asks us to see our familiar world in a new way.” If a person doesn’t have a ‘sociological imagination,’ they will fail to see the troubles of society and will only blame themselves for what goes wrong in their life.

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Sociology, Society, Sociological Imagination. (2022, Aug 20). Retrieved from