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Sociology

18 September 2012

The Promise by C. Wright Mills

It goes without saying that inevitably life of every individual is closely connected with

processes which occur to society in which he or she lives. This is why quite often personal

troubles result not necessarily from personal behavior, character or skills, but also from social,

historical, economic and political factors. Unfortunately, a lot of people does not understand the

fact that their life is hard not because of the lack of education or experience, but because of

social and economic reality of this country. In the article “The Promise” C. Wright Mills

investigates interrelation between individual life and society through giving certain examples

that happen to an individual caused by society.

According to C. Wright Mills, events that occur in individual’s life is closely interrelated

with society. Here the author pays much attention to the notion of the sociological imagination.

Sociological imagination is defined as a personal quality that helps an individual understand the

larger historical scene and its meaning for personal life and career of an individual. In other

words, sociological imagination is conscious realization of processes which are going on in

society. It also helps people understand connection between personal biography and history,

social and economic impact and finally influence of society on an individual.

Though the impact of society on individual is greater than the influence of the individual

on the society, C. Wright Mills mentions, however, that an individual who lives and from one

generation to the next one, he or she contributes to the formation of the society.

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Returning to the notion of sociological imagination, C. Wright Mills explains that

possessing it a man consciously view himself as an outsider or a stranger. This happens due to

realization of his or her own place in social relativity.

Finally C. Wright Mills differentiates personal troubles and social issues by the scale. For

example, unemployment may be a personal trouble when one cannot find a job because of the

lack of education, skills and experience. However, unemployment may be a social or structural

issue when 40% of working population in a certain country is jobless. Unfortunately, very often

when suchlike issues occur, and individual is in a deadlock and feels absolutely powerless.

Thus, C. Wright Mills gives us ideas to think of, however, his position is not quite clear.

On one hand he claims that the impact of an individual on a society is weaker than vice versa. On

the other hand, he is sure that an individual’s life contributes to the very society. However,

personally I believe that certain individuals can start wars or revolutions, can initiate great

processes that influence then the whole society. From my opinion, it is not right to undervalue

capabilities of an individual.

Secondly, I am not sure that individuals cannot realize that the reason for their troubles is

outer factors such as economic situation, political stability, international relations, etc. On the

contrary, it often happens when an individual finds too many outer factors of his failure, without

noticing his own drawbacks, lack of skills or experience.

Finally, the article by C. Wright Mills sometimes contains ominous ideas based on

doubtful arguments: “Humanity itself now lies before us, the super-nation at either pole

concentrating its most co-ordinated and massive efforts upon the preparation of World War

Three”. (Mills, 3).

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Nevertheless, the author has a point at differentiating personal troubles from social issues,

importance of sociological imagination and explaining interdependence of an individual and

society.

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Works Cited

Alarcon, R. The Return of C. Wright Mills at the Dawn of a New Era. Critical Inquiry.

34(2), 376-384. 2008.

Burawoy, M. Open Letter to C. Wright Mills. Antipode. 40 (3), 365-375. 2008. Print.

Mills, C.W. The Promise. The Social Imagination. Oxford University Press. 1959.

Wilkinson, I. With and Beyond Mills: Social Suffering and the Sociological Imagination.

Cultural Studies/ Critical Methodologies. 12(3), 182-191, 2012. Print.