How were the components of the sociological perspective defined by C. Wright Mills?

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C. Wright Mills referred to his sociological perspective as the "sociological imagination." His perspective involved seeing one's life not only as an individual but also as the product of larger societal forces; it involved breaking away from one's individual lens and seeing the world in new ways.

Mills suggested that people's individual experiences are affected by the structures of society. For example, one's experiences as a woman might be affected by the larger realities of how women are treated in society and of the history of women in our society. One's outcomes are affected by one's historical context and history. We are not only individual actors but also actors in a larger societal frame in which history and tradition can affect us. He believed that sociologists have a role to play in making individuals's issues larger societal or public issues. In other words, if people are struggling because of larger societal forces, they need to be aware of the connection between their experiences and these forces. For example, a person who cannot pay her bills may be affected by larger forces such as lack of good job opportunities, sexism, racism, and so on.

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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."

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