The Sociological Imagination

Nearly four weeks into my University of Liverpool Sociology and History studies now, and for the first time sending out a brief blog post from inside the library where I’m spending much of my time.

I’m here in the library mid-afternoon on a Tuesday, having been in and around the university since early this morning, mostly reading generally and otherwise getting ready for the next few day’s lectures. And mostly done now, giving me plenty of time to carry on with reading the last lot of stuff for this Thursday’s ‘Philosophy of Social Science’  titled ‘The Sociological Imagination’ and about the works of C. Wright Mills and Howard Becker.

Suggested chapters by and about both of these have been suggested by this week’s lecturer, who’s also suggested we might, now or sometime soon, like to read the whole of ‘The Sociological Imagination’ by C. Wright Mills as ‘It’s a wonderful text.’

 

Thus encouraged I started reading it yesterday and it is – wonderful, readable, clear and opinionated. What’s more, involved in it as I am, this is the first day in my nearly four weeks that I haven’t brought a novel in with me as well, for my occasional relief-reading. This being good enough on its own to read like a ‘proper’ book!

I think I might be starting to feel at home here? Not yet entirely sure I’ve got what it will all take but maybe beginning to get there?

 

Once I didn’t much like it here at all, doing my degree back at this same university in the 1970s. As I’m now learning, sociology back then was a very different thing. Dominated by concepts and writers time has now left mercifully behind, Talcott Parsons for one. Back then he was revered like a god, recommended all the time, and I could barely understand a word he wrote.

Summed up now in Wikipedia as:

‘From the 1970s, a new generation of sociologists criticized Parsons’ theories as socially conservative and his writings as unnecessarily complex.’

And by C. Wright Mills, on a sample of his writing:

‘Those who do not claim to understand it, but who do not like it – if they retain the courage of their convictions – will feel that indeed the emperor has no clothes.’

‘The emperor has no clothes.’ Yes.

He goes on to translate whole sections of the old verbiage in a couple of sentences, and then a whole Talcott Parsons book in four paragraphs. Splendid work.

And I wish I’d read ‘The Sociological Imagination’ back then in the 1970s. I could have, as it was written in 1959, but no one told me to and I wasn’t curious enough to have found it in those days. Those days of getting out of a different version of the university as soon as I could, to get on with some practical housing stuff that was needed and that I understood.

But I’m here now, the book’s open in front of me and I’m going to carry on with happily reading it as soon as I’ve pressed ‘publish’ on this.

And apart from criticising Talcott Parsons what’s it about? In the author’s own succinct words:

‘What are the social sciences all about? They ought to be about man and society and sometimes they are. They help us to understand biography and history, and the connections of the two in a variety of social structures.’

That’s more like it, linking the ‘personal troubles’ of all of us people and our biographies with the wider ‘public issues’ of history and society. That’s the sort of thing I’m here to think and read about. I’ll get back to the book then.

Which I did, reading on until it was dark early evening as I left the library..

More of my university thoughts here.

 

 

7 Replies to “The Sociological Imagination”

      1. Wasn’t told, don’t remember or wasn’t ready to hear? It was a long time go. Anyway it’s been a good and curious day reading some of that and so much else today. But it’s gone half six now and nearly dark outside the library windows, so I’m going home. Full of new thoughts and ideas.

  1. The first Sociology book I ever read prior to studying at Liverpool in 1969. Still the best.
    You can apply his personal v public perspective to just about anything.

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