2 Imagine where and when; Sociological imagination

2 Imagine where and when;  Sociological imagination
Written by admin

What if you were born in a different place or time? How would you be different? Choose a place or time and think about how you can make a difference.

Applying Sociology: The Sociological Imagination and Perversions

After considering how you might be different if you lived in a different time or place, read this excerpt from Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers. This passage is the introduction to the book. It’s about a small town in Pennsylvania and how the people of that town are affected by life there.

2. Describe life in Roseto, PA.

3. What did Dr. Wolff originally set out to study?

4. What did he discover/conclude at the end of his research?

5. Did the people of Rosetta, PA know they were affected as Dr. Wolf concluded? Explain.

In Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell writes about extreme success stories (aka Outliers). In the introduction (excerpt linked above), we learn that the people living in Rosetta at the time were affected by the social life going on there, even though they didn’t realize it. In other words, they were affected where and when they live. This is the task of sociology; understand how people are affected by where they live and where they live.

This understanding is what the important sociologist C. Wright Mills calls having a “sociological imagination.” Mills explains “sociological imagination” as seeing the connection between history and biography. That is, who we are (our biography) determines where and when we live (our history). As an example of this idea, the people of Rosetta were influenced by where and when they lived. Because they were living in Rosettown at the time, they were living in ways that affected them (without even knowing it), so they had a much lower chance of heart disease and lived longer than the rest of the country. This idea may seem simple, but C. Wright Mills, an important sociologist, in 1959 wrote that people often forget this both in everyday life and in research. Mills also adds using the sociological imagination can be seen private troubles as public problems. In other words, often a person’s struggle in everyday life is actually part of a larger structural problem that individuals cannot always see.

The rest of Gladwell’s book, Outliers use the sociological imagination to explain extreme success stories; for example, the enormous success and wealth of Bill Gates and Steve Jobs stemmed from where and when they lived:

Gladwell describes how being born in the mid-1950s was particularly surprising for those interested in computer programming (think Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, both born in 1955). It also helped to be geographically close to what were then called supercomputers, which were the giant forerunners of the thing you’re reading this post about. Back in the 1960s, when Gates and Jobs came of age, a supercomputer took up an entire room, and it wasn’t something most youngsters would have seen, let alone worked on. But because of their proximity to real computers, Gates and Jobs stood out against others their age and were able to spend hours (Gladwell estimates 10,000 of them) learning how to program.

For more information/examples of the sociological imagination, see this post from Everyday Sociology A site that explains how the sociological imagination can be used to analyze how individuals are affected when and where they live.

6. Do you have any questions about Mills’ sociological imagination? Can you explain that?

Imagine where…

John Felice Rome Center Campus

What if you applied to Loyola exactly as you entered the same year as you are now, but ONLY attended the John Felice Rome Center Campus? Imagine how you can be different, act differently, think differently just because you attended Loyola Rome for four years.

About the author


Leave a Comment