Sociological Imagination

Sociological imagination is defined as “the ability to link distal relations of power to our immediate life situations” (Naiman, 2004, p. 22). Sociological imagination accounts for the relationship between social structures (i.e.: the family, the education system and the economy) and their effects on individuals.

In order to develop sociological imagination, social actors need to ask several interrelated questions. These questions can also help and assist social actors in better becoming engaged with sociology, not simply as a “science”, but as a tool to better understand themselves in the context of historical and political changes/events, and to become cognizant of their power and agency to change the world.

The following questions allow social actors to situate themselves in the context of the wider societal events from a historical perspective in order to examine the extent to which changes in the past “dictate” how they construct their identities and how you view other people within Canada and across the world (Mills, 1959, p. 6-7):

  • What is the structure of my society like?
  • What are its main components?
  • How are these essential parts related to one another?
  • How does the structure of my society differ from other varieties of social order in other parts of the world?
  • “What is the meaning of any particular feature [of my society] for its continuance and for its change”? For example, what are the aims of the education system, and how does the education system satisfies the economic needs of my society? How are changes in the economic system reflected in changes in the education system?
  • “Where does [my] society stand in human history”?
  • What are the basic ways and characteristics in which my society is changing? In what ways?
  • “What is [my society’s] place within and its meaning for the development of humanity as a whole?”
  • How is my society affected by the historical events and period in which it exists; and how does it affect the features of the historical period and events?
  • How does the current period differ from previous periods? For example, what are the differences and similarities between traditional, modern, and post-modern epochs?
  • What are the characteristics of the various groups of men and women that make up my society?
  • How are individuals in my society repressed? How are they oppressed? How are they liberated?
  • How are humans exploited? How do they fight and resist exploitation?

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