Sociological Imagination Essay

Exercise 1 The “Seven Up Series” is a series of documentary films about the lives of fourteen British children. The participants were chosen in an attempt to represent different social classes in Britain in the 1960`s, the children were asked to answer different questions about society, other children and their lives. In one of the episodes children talk about colored people. Almost all of them expressed their opinions about colored people intolerantly, which made me feel uncomfortable and confused, because such attitude to other races is absolutely unacceptable in our society.

However, this scene was chosen as an example for two main reasons: firstly, it causes dissonance of social values, and secondly, it is directly related to Mills` understanding of the intersection of individual biography and history. Assumedly many other students had the same sense of confusion due to discrepancy of opinions. Children`s intolerant attitude is contrary to what people think now, this is because society has changed significantly since 1960`s and, as a consequence, social values has shifted. But the question is why seven year old children have such attitude?

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And this is where the sociological imagination must be applied. The sociological imagination “enables us to grasp history and biography and the relations between the two within society” (Mills 1959, p. 37). The reason why children have such an intolerant attitude to colored people cannot be analyzed and understood only by looking from one perspective. To apply sociological imagination means to shift from one perspective to another, to analyze interconnectedness of the individual and society. The sociological imagination is also considered as the capacity to see things socially, how they interact, and influence each other.

The children`s attitude to colored people is the outcome of the interaction of different factors, such as social norms, motives and the social context in which they live (country, time period, people who surround them). For example, if we look back in 1964 it can be seen that British society had a “color problem” (Foot 1965, p. 9) which means racism and intolerant attitude to immigrants. This is one of the perspectives which explains children`s behavior. There is no doubt that children`s behavior is determined by history, and their choices structured by society. Mills` analysis is still relevant today.

Even thought society and values are changing constantly, sociological imagination is still to be a universal approach which can be used to understand contemporary society. By applying sociological imagination individual can become a more fully functioning and involved participant in society. Reference list Mills, C. W 1959, ‘The Promise’ in The Sociological Imagination, Penguin, New York, pp. 9-32. Paul, F 1965, Immigration and Race and British Politics, Penguin, New York, pp. 47-55. ‘Seven Up Series’ 1964, documentary film, Granada Television. Directed by Paul Almond.


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