Mills used the term "sociological imagination" to explain what a sociological perspective could give a person who possessed it. One aspect of it was that an individual could only understand their own experiences in reference to a larger society. In other words, he claimed that good social science represented biography and history, and their "intersections within a society." Mills further described this in terms of "the personal troubles of milleu" and "the public issues of social structure." As an example of this concept, he cited unemployment:
When, in a city of 100,000, only one man is unemployed, that is his personal trouble, and for its relief we properly look to the character of the man, his skills, and his immediate opportunities. But when in a nation of 50 million employees, 15 million men are unemployed, that is an issue, and we may not hope to find its solution within the range of opportunities open to any one individual.
As this passage suggests, Mills's sociology was marked, indeed framed, by a strong sense in social justice. He went on to argue that when one examined a capitalist economic system, that the types of economic downturns that led to individual unemployment were actually the consequence of the way society was arranged. Thus the "problem of unemployment becomes incapable of personal solution." Rather than simply blaming poverty on the poor, or unemployment on the unemployed, one had to examine the structures of which the poor and the unemployed were a part. This required a "sociological imagination," or "perspective."