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Critical Analysis of the Essence and Applicability of Sociological Imagination

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Introduction to Sociology

Norms can be simply defined as behaviours, thoughts or values that most people share within the same society. They are unwritten rules or standards that provide us with an expected idea on how people should and should not behave in various social situations (Shah, n.d). Typical social norms in society consist of, saying hello or shaking someone’s hand when greeting or meeting someone for the first time. Saying ‘bless you’ when somebody sneezes.

Social order refers to the way in which a society is organized along with certain rules and standards that are set forth in order to maintain that organization. Examples of social order are norms, values, marriage, family, customs, awards and cooperation. Social order is present when individuals agree to a shared social contract that states, certain rules and laws must be abided and certain standards, values, and norms maintained. Without social order chaos would arise (Funkhouser, 2012).

Social Control teaches us how to think and act in accepted ways that are common to our family, peer groups and general people around us. In doing so, this effectively controls the way we behave in society. There are two main types of social control; formal and informal. Formal social control’s primary goal is to ensure deviance is not permitted using sanctions and punishments. Informal social control is to ensure that people conform to society’s rules and regulations (Crossman, 2019). An example of social control in today’s day and age would be the government, by using the law, court, prison they exercise order within our society.

Values are basic and essential beliefs that guide and encourage our attitudes and actions. They assist us in deciding what is important for us and describe the personal qualities we choose to direct our actions. For example, the kind of person we wish to be; thoughtful, selfish caring. The manner we tend to treat ourselves and others around us and most importantly who we choose to spend our time with. This is normally based on others sharing the same values and beliefs as us (Mintz, 2018).

Roles are sets of rights duties and expectations. It is the part people play as members of a social group. With each social role people are required to adapt, their behaviour to fit the expectations both society and they have of that role. For example, in order to fulfil a boss’s role, the norms would be for them to make sure the establishment is working fine, everyone is doing their job correctly and make the best financial decisions (Wright, 2007).

Gender is the socially shaped categories of masculinity and femininity. Referring to the social, cultural and psychological characteristics related with men or women in particular cultures and societies. Gender is normally seen biologically categorising people with penises, male and people with vaginas, female. Within Gender roles an expectation or norm is that a gentleman will defend and prioritize the safety of woman and children (Zevallos, n.d.).

Culture is vital for shaping social relationships. It governs how we make sense of the world and our place in it. Influencing our everyday actions and experiences in society, culture consists of each non-material and material things. Non-material aspects of culture are the values and beliefs, language, communication, and practices that are shared by a group of individuals. Culture is formed from our data, logic, assumptions, and expectations (Cole, 2018).

Sub-culture is a different group within a broader culture which has its own group within a greater culture that has its own unique characteristics; These differ from those of the broader culture. These beliefs and values are usually shown in forms of behaviour that set the subculture apart from mainstream society, for example Goths, goths behave differently from other members of society. They prefer to dress in dark colours and follow dark music like ‘goth rock’ (Thompson, 2016).

Status implies the position or the rank one holds and their place and duties, within a social group. Generally, status is based on the desires we have of somebody holding a specific status. Two different types of statuses are known as achieved and ascribed. Ascribed statuses are those given to us at birth, being a child, a sibling they are status titles given to us. Achieved statuses are ones we choose on our own, becoming a husband or buying a property. This gives us the title of a homeowner (Medley-Rath, 2015).

Class is known as the basic type of social stratification. In sociological theorizing, classes have been defined in economic terms, such as one’s occupation or income. Class is used to refer to divisions in society, for instance, lower class; suffer from unemployment, lack of education and homelessness. Working-class; skilled underpaid workers with basic education and just enough income to survive. Middle-class; well-educated, with good jobs. Upper class; wealthy socialites with enough money enjoy life’s luxuries and top education (, n.d).

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In 1959 C. Wright Mills, created the concept and published a book on the sociological imagination. Mills believed the sociological imagination is the practice of being able to detach ourselves and our thoughts and the familiar routines of our daily lives. This is, in order to look at our views from an alternative point of view, the ability to see things socially, how they are associated and impact each other. Social imagination is all about determining the relationship between ordinary lives of people and the wider social aspect. As quoted by Mills himself, ‘Neither the life of an individual nor the history of a society can be understood without understanding both.’ (Crossman, 2019).

Mills’ book inspires individuals to change the lenses they’re using to view their life from a different perspective. He encouraged individuals to stop focusing on themselves alone and to observe the wider view of society. By doing this, you may begin to see and agree that with each problem you face it is also being faced by several others in society and they too are going through the same struggles as you. An example of the sociological imagination would be a girl wanting to become more attractive and skinnier. She will try changing her diet, taking tablets that help with losing weight, she will become so obsessed with calorie counting and watching what she consumes that she may even end up with anorexia or undergoing plastic surgery to help change the way she looks but most importantly the way she feels about herself. This may seem like the girl’s problem (a self-problem) but, she is looking to change herself based on what society considers attractive. This makes it a problem of society as a whole; many women suffer the same problems on a day to day basis. Beating themselves up because they don’t quite meet the cut for what society believes to be beautiful instead of seeing themselves and others in all shapes and sizes as beautiful (Dhavale, 2018).

In society today, it is very easy to blame and be hard on ourselves, as Mills has proven in the above. As a young girl I grew up around the 1990’s Walt Disney movies. Take movies like Cinderella or sleeping beauty for example. Both movies show young girls living in situations where they were unhappy in life or cursed with life’s challenges. Both movies show men coming into the girl’s life and saving them from their ‘miseries’. This gives young girls growing up and myself the idea that they need a man to save them from their problems. As I have grown older, I have taken a step back from what movies perceive life to be and have taken things for what they really are. In order to redeem yourself from the life you live you do not need a man to pick you up and change your life. You need self-assurance and self-encouragement. You need to love yourself for everything that you are. We all have the power within ourselves to change our lives for the better and to live the life of our dreams. it is always nice for someone come along and change your life for you, but it is only when we do these things for ourselves that we really experience personal growth. Step out of the fantasy world and let go of social expectations and really think about reality, your own reality and what makes ourselves happy and feel whole. The real power of the sociological imagination is found in how we learn to differentiate the personal and social levels in our own lives. Once we do, we can make personal choices that serve us best, given the larger social aspects that we face.

Sociologists study all things human, from the interactions between two people to the complex relationships between different nations and societies. Sociology’s subject matter is diverse, ranging from crime, religion, the family to the state, from the divisions of race and social class to the shared beliefs of a common culture, and from social stability to radical change in whole societies (Sternheimer, 2011).

Sociologist’s purpose is understanding how human action and consciousness both shape and are shaped by surrounding cultural and social structures. Sociology is an exciting field of study that analyses and explains important matters in our personal lives, our communities, and the world. Sociology examines the social causes and consequences of; romantic love, racial and gender identity, family conflict, deviant behaviour, aging, and religious faith. At the level of society, sociology investigates and explains matters like crime and law, poverty and wealth, prejudice, discrimination and schools and education, business firms and social movements. At the global level, sociology studies such phenomena as population growth, migration, war, peace, and economic development (Crossman, 2018).

Common sense is based on experiences we learn through imitation of symbols and languages which we perceive and interpret from different things and people in different ways. Common sense is based on personal knowledge or experience and is only common to those to whom it is common. Everybody uses their common sense differently as we all hold different knowledge and information (Punch et al., 2013).

Many people often mistakenly believe that sociology is the study and application of common sense. The difference of the two is that common sense is a collective body of observed knowledge based on personal experiences, but sociological thinking is not. Common sense is not always common, or sensible. Statements like ‘Clothes make the man’ and ‘You cannot judge a book by its cover’. While supposedly based on common knowledge they contradict each other. Because common sense does not always accurately predict reality, people need something else. Not every sociological finding is ground-breaking, many findings do appear consistent with common sense. By thoroughly testing common sense beliefs against facts, sociologists can sort out which popular beliefs hold true and which do not (, n.d.).

Emile Durkheim created the social fact theory to describe how values, culture, and norms control the actions and beliefs of individuals and society. Social facts are the reason why people within a society seem to do the same things, for example, how they spend their time, what they decide to eat, and how they interact. Continuing social facts, society has a big impact and will shape individual to do the things they do. An example of this is religion. Different areas have different religious strongholds, with faith being a regular part of life, and other religions are considered foreign and strange. Social facts are what makes individuals react strongly to people who deviate from social attitudes. For example, people in other countries who have no established home, and instead wander from place to place and take odd jobs. Western societies will tend to view these people as odd and strange based on our social facts, when in their culture, what they’re doing is completely normal. What is a social fact in one culture can be abhorrently strange in another (Crossman, 2018).

Science is the study of the nature and behaviour of natural things and the knowledge we obtain about them.

In the academic world, sociology is considered one of the social sciences. Sociology is a science because it relies on the scientific method to understand human interactions. Many sociological studies make observations, develop explanatory hypotheses, set up experiments or studies to test those hypotheses and then analyse the data to support or disprove the idea. On the other hand, interpretivists would contradict that view and say that sociology is not a science. This is because they argue that society is a socially created set of meanings shared by a social group. They believe people give meaning to a situation before responding to it therefore in order to understand society it is necessary to discover and interpret the meanings given to situations. through qualitative methods such as unstructured interviews, participant observations, these feelings and thoughts can be gathered. This supports the idea that sociology differs from that of the natural sciences. People cannot be studied using controlled observation so therefore sociology is not considered to be a science (Thompson, 2017).


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Critical Analysis of the Essence and Applicability of Sociological Imagination. (2022, August 12). Edubirdie. Retrieved September 30, 2023, from
“Critical Analysis of the Essence and Applicability of Sociological Imagination.” Edubirdie, 12 Aug. 2022,
Critical Analysis of the Essence and Applicability of Sociological Imagination. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 30 Sept. 2023].
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