The Sociological Imagination
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The Sociological Imagination

4.12 of 5 stars 4.12  ·  rating details  ·  997 ratings  ·  41 reviews
C. Wright Mills is best remembered for his highly acclaimed work The Sociological Imagination, in which he set forth his views on how social science should be pursued. Hailed upon publication as a cogent and hard-hitting critique, The Sociological Imagination took issue with the ascendant schools of sociology in the United States, calling for a humanist sociology connectin...more
Paperback, 256 pages
Published April 13th 2000 by Oxford University Press, USA (first published 1959)
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Abby Brown
The Sociological Imagination was written by C. Wright Mills in 1959, and he died in 1962 only three years later. He was a sociologist at Columbia University, and the goal of this book was to analyze the discipline of sociology with suggestions for improvement. He felt most mid-century sociologists lost their true purpose: "That these three - biography, history, and society - are the co-ordinate points of the proper study of man has been a major platform on which I have stood when criticizing sev...more

There's a scene early in Crime of Passion (1957, Barbara Stanwyck, Sterling Hayden, Raymond Burr) when a newspaper advice columnist named Kathy (Stanwyck), a self-confident, independent, unmarried dame, is trying to cover a story about a woman who has killed her husband. A police chief comes into the press room and Kathy tries to get some information out of him. He says, "What are you doing here? You should be at home with your children, cooking your husband dinner." Sadly, Kathy does not at tha...more
Aug 24, 2012 Andrew added it
Shelves: sociology
Think of this as a manifesto for the social sciences. Its key points: think critically, always consider ideological implications, and think holistically but pay close attention to the evidence. Mills was a remarkable thinker, and he shows why the social sciences have something to say about the world we live in. And, unlike many of his fellow Marxist writers, he has no patience for jargon or obscurantism. It's a clarion call for action that retains all of its power to this day.
The first 100 pages of this book were really hard to get through, and even after that, the book was very dense and took quite a bit of effort to understand. All that being said, this has been one of the most thought-provoking and academically-inspiring books I have read in the past year. Mills was a prominent sociologist of the earlier half of the twentieth century (if I’m not mistaken, he coined the phrases “WASP” and “white collar”). In this book, Mills criticizes the two dominant methods of s...more
Dec 21, 2007 Kate rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: budding sociologists and scientists
Shelves: read-for-school
The Sociological Imagination is a term coined by Mills to describe the way that good sociologists view a problem and the possible solutions. He suggests that we view everything through the intersection of history, biography, and sociology, and that we multidisciplinary approaches to finding solutions for sociological problems. It's a hard read at first, and you start of kind of hating Mills and thinking he's an arrogant sod, but by the time I got to the solution chapters, I had begun to "get it"...more
The first chapter is what is most often read and/or assigned, but I think it continues to be one of the best statements defining sociology and a sociological perspective.

The other chapters on grand theory, etc. are also worth reading, but the first chapter 'The Promise' is perhaps the most important and also mostly commonly cited by contemporary sociologists.

Mills' description of the way in which Americans tend to perceive problems as emanating from the individual - rather than considering larg...more
Dec 26, 2007 ben rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone interested in society
This book is written as a sort of textbook for aspiring sociology majors, although Mills wouldn't like the term "textbook". He spends the beginning of the book fairly aggressively attacking current (in the 50s but still I think quite relevant today) trends in sociology and then goes on to explain sociology as he sees it: a neccesarily political and historical profession.

Though I wouldn't recommend it to everyone and it's certainly not light reading, it provides an excellent toolkit for starting...more
The Sociological Imagination is a usefull book to read for every one that like to underestand Social and Political relations. Specially inequality in human relations explained well. I enjoied of reading this book.
This book has an interesting subject-matter. For me, you can read it all the book: the discussion between the Grand Theory (Parsons) and Abstracted Empiricism, his vision and his theoretical proposal. Besides you could read just the first chapter (The Promise) and the last chapter (Intellectual Craftsmanship). I am not going to tell the book, if you want to know, you must read it.
For me the first chapter is enlightening, the author expose a lot of thing that my book is completely highlight and,...more
The Sociological Imagination is perhaps the best introductory book to Sociology out there.

In this book that is part theory, part commentary and part appraisal, Mill appeals to readers to reconsider the positions and places of everyone in society.

Like a true sociologist, he asks the reader to see one's condition - the possibilities, aspirations and limitations - from another person's point of view. Through the light and lens of history, Mill urges anyone who reads his book to use his imaginatio...more
This is one of the best known works of sociology and the highlight of Mills' impressive career. I've seen excerpts from Chapter 1 (An inspirational essay on "The Promise" of sociology) and the Appendix (A student's guide to the dos and don'ts and the author's helpful suggestions "On Intellectual Craftsmanship") in various introductory classes, course packets, and textbook anthologies of selected readings.

Between the oft-referenced first and last sections lay a scathing critique and intelligent t...more
The Sociological Imagination reads like a manifesto for US sociologists and the intelligentsia. Full of bitter, but succinct and devastating critiques on the then most prevailing trends in sociology, “grand theory� and “abstracted empiricism,� this declaration serves as a moral and ethical footing for those engaged in the field of sociology. Additionally comments on theory and methodology serve as useful tools for students both at the graduate and undergraduate level.

Certain pronounceme...more
Frances Mican
Although I was often frustrated by The Sociological Imagination, I feel that it is a must read for social scientists (and certainly should be read by educators, political scientists, historians, etc.). Mills can be hard to agree with at times, and I regularly had to re-read portions to really understand what was being said. However, this book is an important reminder that we need to act ethically as social scientists--we have to look at the impact of our work (who is it reaching? what are we try...more
Probablemente haya sido uno de los ensayos sociales que más me han gustado en los últimos tiempos, y quizá también pase a engrosar mi lista de lecturas recomendadas para la gente interesada en estos campos (cada día menos) y que no sabe por dónde empezar. Como texto introductorio en los temas más analíticos de las Ciencias Sociales, me ha parecido una maravilla, uno de esos que los lees y casi te dan ganas de volver a la universidad. Entonces es cuando recuerdas por qué la dejaste, y prefieres s...more
Penny Weaver
C.W. Mills shows us that there is definite relationship between societal changes and changes within our personal lives. This symmetry should help us recognize patterns in our own lives and the patterns of history. Looking at the world as "The Sociological Imagination" would have us do, can help us to develop values and strategies to achieve change.

Mills makes an interesting distinction between troubles and issues. A "trouble" occurs within an individual's relations with others. A "trouble" is a...more
May 09, 2010 Adam rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommended to Adam by: Alex Hiatt
The book was written pretty understandably, and he makes a lot of good points about mindset problems that can hinder you while doing social science and what social science ought to be doing. I was particularly interested in the few paragraphs scattered throughout when he comments on what "science" is - and why social science can fit that definition. Also, after watching Sam Harris' TED talk on morality, a lot of what Mills said on the mission of social science for humanity really resonated me -...more
feel good to read
Lisa Wixted
This is a really good book & although I nearly finished it - I didn't get quite to the end.

No fault of the book - it was just too 'educational' for bedtime reading!

Will read it again someday (along with The Second Sex which was great but I had same problem with) when I've the time but for now I'm sticking to pure entertainment (or at the very least, edutainment) in my bedside reading material!
This is an amazing book and kind of unlike his other books. I think it is given a lot of praise for the first 1-2 chapters, but the rest of the book outlines his theory quite well also. He's a very interesting sociologist and I really agree with the whole "public sociology" idea. Also, I think everyone needs some sociological imagination in their lives.
Jason Marciak
This book was Mills opus. The Sociological Imagination laid the foundation for the humanistic perspective in Sociology aimed at linking the concerns of the individual with the macro concerns of society as a whole. The perspective revitalized aspects of the social sciences taking them in the direction of being restorative and not just explanatory.
Admittedly, this is not the easiest book to get through but it still deserves its place in the sociological canon. Mills writes about the motivation behind social research and the spectrum of social studies including sociology, anthropology, history, and economics. This book is a classical manifesto for anyone engaged in social science.
Aug 25, 2007 Jules rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: sociologists
As far as sociology goes, this book is a MUST. I think this book was required in every soc class I ever took, and I didn't mind. It's the book that opened my eyes to social sciences and the realization that everything is socially constructed. Academic basics for soc students, but a very nice read even if it's not required.
Lisa Taylor
In The Sociological Imagination, Mills challenges all of us to be better students, citizens, teachers, political agents. Although not as good as his classic The Power Elite, this is a unique book in the annals of social theory. Nothing comes close to it. Anything by Mills is good, but this one is really good.
An early primer on perspective taking and understanding how societal structures are a factor in shaping identity--society and the individual. If nothing else, read the introduction as much of the rest is debating the usefulness and validity of grand theory in general and structural functionalism in particular.
Rodger Broome
Awesome book! It surprisingly critiqued mainstream social science methodology and presented some very challenging concepts for understanding the social world ranging from micro to macro levels of consideration.
Christian Foust
An important book to read in light of today's academic situation of capitally defined disciplinary boundaries and funding. This book is as relevant, perhaps more relevant, than at the time it was written.
My brother Travis is a Sociology major and recommended this book to me. I like it. It was a difficult book to get through but I learned tons and it changed the way that I view the social sciences.
Ron Bruno
Mills criticizes statistics relentlessly. But that's all that matters in current social science. Yet Mills is an icon. I can't figure this out. Can anyone clarify?
A must-read for any sociologist; the classic work that draws the distinction between private troubles and public issues and highlights the importance of imagination.
Feb 22, 2010 Marisa added it
This is a dense read. Luckily I am in a sociology class so we can discuss the concepts from the book that might have otherwise not been understood.
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American sociologist. Mills is best remembered for his 1959 book The Sociological Imagination in which he lays out a view of the proper relationship between biography and history, theory and method in sociological scholarship. He is also known for studying the structures of power and class in the U.S. in his book The Power Elite. Mills was concerned with the responsibilities of intellectuals in po...more
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