Sociology the Sociological Imagination Refers to the Essay

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The sociological imagination refers to the ability to see the world as a sociologist would: that is, by viewing individuals and relationships in terms of social structures, institutions, values, and norms. Usually, the sociological imagination addresses squarely the concepts of race, class, gender, and social power. One of the premier American philosophers of the early twentieth century, W.E.B. DuBois had an active sociological imagination. DeBois recognized the relationship between race and social status; between race and socio-economic class; and also between gender and social power. As a co-founder of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), W.E.B. DuBois foresaw the means by which African-Americans could recognize institutional racism and overcome it. Moreover, DuBois understood the importance of personal and collective identity, especially as identity relates to race, class, gender, and social status. In his premier sociological treatise, The Souls of Black Folk, W.E.B. DuBois works with a sociological imagination and inspires his readers also to view the relationships between race, class, gender, and social power.

The Sociological Imagination

C. Wright Mills can be considered the pre-eminent sociologist because of his conceptualization of the sociological imagination. Encompassing the entire discipline of sociology and articulating its core paradigm, the sociological imagination means envisioning all aspects of the human experience in terms of structures, institutions, values, customs, and norms. The sociological imagination means analyzing the structures and processes of society in order to apply that understanding to individual psychology, behavior, and collective life. For example, when confronted with the reality of criminal behavior, the person with a sociological imagination inquires about issues such as class conflict or anomie. Class conflict implies that the gap between rich and poor may be a powerful motivating factor for some types of anti-social behavior. Anomie refers to the apathy that can arise in societies with loose or broken-down social systems. A sociological imagination would also permit greater awareness and understanding of history, culture, and psychology. The sociological imagination explains why some societies are religious and others are not; or why some behaviors are deemed deviant and others normative.

Connection Between DuBois and the Sociological Imagination

In The Souls of Black Folk, W.E.B. DuBois begins with a chapter entitled "Of Our Spiritual Strivings." Opening with a few lines of poetry, W.E.B. DuBois invites his reader to use a sociological imagination when discussing the issue of race. To be a non-white; to be black in particular, is to be a "problem" in America (DuBois). "How does it feel to be a problem?" is a question requiring the application of the sociological imagination (DuBois).

Given DuBois writes in the first person singular perspective, the author uses the sociological imagination to show how personal experience and identity are directly related to social structures, institutions, and norms related to race. DuBois uses the term "double consciousness" to refer to the peculiar experience of constructing a personal identity based on what others say, think, or do. The sociological imagination allows the non-white minority to understand that identity has been constructed in opposition to the dominant culture. " It is a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness, this sense of always looking at one's self through the eyes of others, of measuring one's soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity," (DuBois). A black man does…

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