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The Sociological Imagination

4.16  ·  Rating details ·  2,523 ratings  ·  106 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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 ·  2,523 ratings  ·  106 reviews

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Aug 31, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: social-theory
I’ve been teaching a first year university subject to student teachers on the sociology of education – I hadn’t realised how much fun I would find the course. It is sort of an opportunity to talk about all of my favourite things. But in the first lesson I had to explain what sociology is and so I talked about the sociological imagination and felt a bit of a fraud, as I hadn’t actually read the book. So, now I have.

And it’s a wonderful book. Conveniently, Mills provides his own three-sentence su
Abby Brown
Jan 10, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Jul 19, 2007 rated it liked it
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
May 20, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
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
Apr 13, 2009 rated it it was ok
Shelves: own

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
Apr 04, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: academic
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
Jan 05, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: sociology, philosophy
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
Dave Schaafsma
Feb 06, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: theory
“Let every man be his own methodologist, let every man be his own theorist.”

“The sociological imagination enables us to grasp history and biography and the relations between the two within society.”

“Neither the life of an individual nor the history off a society can be understood without understanding both.”

― C. Wright Mills, The Sociological Imagination

The Sociological Imagination is a classic sociological text published in 1959, three years before Mills died at the age of 45. The first half
Spicy T AKA Mr. Tea
I'm writing a paper for the New York State Sociological Association and am going to use Mills as one piece of my theoretical foundation. His book is a pretty interesting look at sociology that matters and tries to make change as well as the interplay that happens between the individual (biographical) and the societal (historical) when making change. It also has some interesting parallels with journalism that I want to explore further.

For instance, Mills talks about sociologists who have become
Simon Bailey
Sep 19, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: academic
This book is known as a classic of any sociological canon. It is best read, I think, as a polemic. When i read the opening chapters on grand theory and abstracted empiricism, I was thinking it a 'theoretical' and 'methodological' exercise in critique - and considered as such it is a bit limited; hardly breaking sweat for Mills to take apart the grand theory of Parsons or the abstracted empiricism of behaviourism. But read instead as a critique of politics, ethics and craft, it is much more power ...more
Aug 20, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  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
Aug 15, 2012 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. ...more
Nov 26, 2020 rated it really liked it
Okay so I don't really know how to rate this book or what to say about it. First of all, it took me such a long time to get through it because at times it was really "boring" and "academic", and it was something that I was reading on the side for literally a year.

However, objectively, it is a really fantastic piece of work. Mills basically describes what the social sciences are and how students should go about studying them. He also describes of course what the sociological imagination is and h
Jan 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Compulsory reading for my summer university paper but a genuinely great book. Nothing groundbreaking (for me) but definitely reinforces that I’m looking at the world through the right lens.
Hassan G
Dec 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Review coming up
Shallowreader VaVeros
Every time I come to a writing standstill, I revisit C Wright Mills, especially his essay "On intellectual craftsmanship" and it always manages to recharge my research. ...more
Frances Mican
Mar 18, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Aug 20, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science-business
This is more of a call-to-arms for sociologists than a theory on any specific society. Mills discusses/critiques the current landscape in approaches or "schools of thought" in sociology (as of 1959) and gives his thoughts on what those approaches should look like, what they should hope to accomplish, and what the role of a sociologist should be. I never took a sociology class, but once you learn the jargon, this is not too hard to get through, though still required me to read carefully/slowly. I ...more
'Izzat Radzi
Brilliant in a way that you can read this book for:

(i) critiques in the sociological tradition, of those of the classics school vs the grand theorist/abstracted empiricism;

(ii) a guidance for better theses project/writing as in appendix (On Intellectual Craftsmanship);

(iii) elucidation of the prioritisation of social structure in the study of society (compared to ibn khaldun muqaddimah);

(iv) study of history, following the demand of comparative and historical approach;

(v) just for intellectual e
Jonas Carlsson
Jul 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
The Sociological Imagination is a very inspiring read for all sociologists or social scientists to be. Mills makes some great arguments on what social scientists' real purpose and responsibility should be - focusing on the relationship between the individual and social structures when defining research problems, comparing structures to the societies and historical eras they exist in, and taking on a political role by informing the public of serious societal issues. Eventhough the book is very cl ...more
Jul 15, 2018 rated it it was ok
A pretty outdated, but decent explanation of what sociology is, how an ideal sociologist ought to go about research and the ideals they should hold.
Whilst this book's general thesis is fantastic, the examples are largely outdated, the book is pretty dry and the book offers very little to somebody who has already studied sociology.
Whilst the book itself is about 2 stars, the appendix is 5. The appendix 'On Intellectual Craftsmanship' is a fantastic outline of how a sociologist or student of any
Jun 20, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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. ...more
Sep 26, 2007 rated it really liked it
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.
Dec 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: university-reads
Read in part for CRM3301 (Contemporary critical theories in criminology) and other sociology classes. Any one who fancies themselves a social scientist should read this book. Mills provides the basis for any good social research.
Wossen Agnew
Oct 07, 2016 rated it it was amazing
A must read for sociology student.
Derrick Newby
Excellent book for anyone interested in the study of society.
Carol Keefer
Aug 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book describes Man's myopic vision in his daily grind of job, family, and neighborhood. Don't burst his bubble with the social change on the horizon about to turn the tide of social history. ...more
Sinan Öner
American Sociolog C. Wright Mills' very important book "The Sociological Imagination" was published in 2000 again. C. Wright Mills wrote his books mostly after 2. World War when the new sociological observations, thoughts and knowledge changed by 2. World War. C. Wright Mills thought to use the 19. Century's social scientific works in the 20. Century social sciences. C. Wright Mills' Marxism studying related with his methodological principles which use 19. Century's social scientific works. C. W ...more
This book came recommended to me by a much-loved professor from undergrad, and I finally got around to reading it.

Published in 1959, this book seeks to call sociologists to action. While his contemporaries mired themselves in grand theory or abstracted empirical study, Mills argues for a sociology that takes its political job seriously. Rather than submitting to the will of the powerful, Mills argues that sociologists have a duty to inspire their students to think more critically and to really t
Jack Weatherbe
Feb 16, 2020 rated it did not like it
Repetitive and filled with jargon. The idea, of "the sociological imagination" is important, but simple. You can tell C. Mills really wanted to milk this idea for all he could, so he writes everything cryptically and forces you to beat yourself over the head with his material throughout the entire book. His entire book could have been an academic article, but he wants you to know how many big words he can use. I found his writing style to be trite and annoying, and by using the "sociological ima ...more
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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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“Let every man be his own methodologist, let every man be his own theorist” 37 likes
“Neither the life of an individual nor the history of a society can be understood without understanding both.” 21 likes
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