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Published: Thursday 31st of October 2013
Studies in the field of sociology have this purpose of exploring how people behave and influence the society to which they belong. The main topics of such theories are social issues and the way people live. Two main levels are usually described when researchers deal with sociology. They are micro and macro levels of studies. At the first level, an object of exploration is a human being. At the second one, this is society people live in that appears to be the primary interest for sociologists. The essence of sociological imagination is in the intercourse of these two levels, the place of a human within society, and society itself. An individual operates inside the society, while the latter influences the course of an individual’s life. Studying and understanding of sociological imagination give one a chance to see the effect that society produces and to observe it from different angles. Mastering sociological imagination theories help us understand the integration of a person into a particular society.
All our actions have specific effects as well as causes. We should consider the cause which has led to this or that type of behavior to find out about its true nature. In many cases, the way a person behaves is a clear reflection of rules and laws prevailing in the society. Even the smallest details and parts of environment leave their traces and cannot be denied when it comes to sociological studies. In this light, sociological imagination has this aim of drawing our attention to the way an individual impacts a society as well as how a society impacts an individual. This is the main reason why studying sociological imagination is so important..
A long time ago in India, a woman who had lost her husband had to kill herself. The way such a suicide was committed was genuinely terrible. A widow was burned alive with the body of her husband. The reasons for this action cannot be narrowed down to the feeling of grief or inability to bear it. There was a whole range of processes in the society of that time that pushed women to death. (Tracing the reasons for one’s action with the help of social imagination.).
A Time to Kill by John Grisham touches upon these themes of revenge and injustice. A ten-year-old African American girl Tonya gets raped and murdered. Her father, Carl Lee Hailey kills two white men who have done it. The conflict gets revealed on the level of individuals and social groups present in the US. Racism and a firm belief that justice will never be served in this society are the forces that have led rapists and the father to their actions correspondingly. (A Time to Kill Essay.).
If a person is very attentive in the analysis of his or her life, there is no difficulty in understanding and explaining of almost every action and the reasons that have led to it. When one is capable of telling apart good from evil, there is a definite possibility of varying the way a person behaves and percepts the surrounding world. The main idea of a conflict theory presupposes a specific division within society. The members of society are usually divided into clusters that have a different level of power within it. This very moment, when people face the impacts of social life, social imagination reveals the causes and effects of such interactions.
Sociological imagination is a reflection of a person’s behavior within society and the impacts the society has on people. In this case, sociological imagination operates as a missing link between psychological and sociological studies. The theory of social contexts has all the power to analyze specific events and processes occurring in society as well as the power of prediction of how they may evolve. There are three essential aspects of this theory. The first is a behavior of a person or a group of people. The second one is a way society influences them. The third is time itself and the way it impacts other two aspects. In most cases, the social context theory deals with society and time. For example, social environment portrays certain conditions that influence the way people behave. The social process aims at explaining the people’s attitude to their deeds. Social behavior is a reflection of a reality that society has to face. Time gives the reasoning for this or that situation that is present in the society under consideration. There is no doubt that social imagination recognizes the ties between people and the conditions in which they have to live. Ultimately, these studies aim at providing a clear understanding of these processes and how they influence our world.
I used to live in the former Soviet Union. At some point, Soviet republics were not so united anymore. The discontent with new economic realia had started to grow in the mid-80s. As the next decade was closing in, it had achieved its boiling point. People had to find someone to blame. In the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic where I lived, there were people believing that other republics were not contributing to the joint budget. This was considered to be a betrayal. There were people in other republics who, in turn, were convinced that Russians only took from them and never gave anything back. Deteriorating economy as a social structure and conflicts between various ethnic groups as a pattern of individual interaction had led to the loss of mutual goals and visions.
When two nations are involved in a prolonged and mutually exhausting conflict, everyone is influenced by it. The same thing happened in Palestine where I grew up. Here, we are proud of our religion and viewpoints that help us survive in an everyday struggle with poverty and fighting for peace. The hardships and challenges that we have to face day by day have formed our social structure. Of course, every person precepts a problem differently, according to one’s experience. My way has been hard, as I know precisely what poverty and despair is. This has influenced my life position greatly. I started to analyze the roots of Israeli politics that concern my country, and it has become a social process that has led me to fundamental conclusions. I am convinced that it is time for our nations to achieve peace.
Let’s presume I am an African American person living in the US at the beginning of the 20th century. It is still so long even for a dim hope about getting some rights. Surviving in the social structure that does not include me as a member of society is hard and often humiliating. Now, imagine I am an African American person living in the White House a hundred years later. The social structure of the country has changed significantly, but it was a long way full of tragedy.
As we have mentioned above, the theory of social imagination presupposes existing two main aspects: a person or a class in the society, and social processes in that society, which we may refer as forces. Every person has a particular place in a society, and this place characterizes with a set of attributes. For example, it may be an African American, Protestant, female, heterosexual, middle-class, with a college degree, young adult in the US. All these attributes together determine this person’s social location. In many ways, there is an excellent chance that one’s life may be different in this or that social location. Thus, the defining factors are race, sex, religion, the level of income and education, age, health, etc. There are also attributes that are influenced by one’s social location. They are prejudices, values, and viewpoints. Social classes also get formed by one’s social location.
I was born and raised in India. The social location here predetermines a person’s belonging to a specific class and his or her future life more directly than in any other country where I have been. Thus, my experience is a rare exception. I am an adult from an urban area. I am male. I am literate and, moreover, educated. I consider myself middle-class earning quite enough, as compared to the majority of the population. These attributes stand for 59% (older than 20), 31% (living in urban areas), 52% (males), 74% (literate), and 18% (upper middle class and wealthy) in my country.
As a child, I belonged to a different social location. My parents could barely afford to buy all the toys I wanted, which has influenced my approach to spending money a lot..
Things were changing slowly, and it got a lot better when I was a teenager. We could pay all the bills and provide ourselves with everything we needed. However, my parent did not have enough money to pay for my studies, and I got to one of the schools for the economically disadvantaged population.
When I was at college, I found out about the conflict theory. It is closely connected to the social imagination and contributes a lot to the understanding how society works. At college, I learned about the reasons for prejudices about rich people and their attitude toward the poor.
I am from India. My religion is Hindu. I belong to a less wealthy class, and my religion helps me to face the harsh reality of everyday life. There are many people like me. Our social location has forced us to search for love, peace, and comfort in our religion. That is why it is so crucial for us. For the same reason, we feel it our duty to protect the values of Hindu. For example, we believe that cows are sacred, while Muslims living in India are used to killing these animals for ages. Thus, we strongly disapprove Muslims’ attitude to cows.
Here, in Palestine the majority of the population is Muslims. We understand that the conflict with Israel has a wide range of reasons. However, the difference in religious beliefs is a significant contributing factor. As a Palestinian, I often have a feeling that all my problems come from Israeli aggression. This is a common point of view influenced by our social location. A lot of my activities as a society member are based on this viewpoint.
My social location may be described as a wealthy middle-aged Arab male. I own a business which has 250 employees. The majority of them have families, of course, so I do everything I can to help them provide their families. During the crisis, some salaries have fallen by 20%, which has led to massive disappointment. My employees believe that I could keep their salaries at the same level by reducing my own expenses. The majority of my employees belongs to the poor class and, apparently, has nothing to do with economics or management. The differences in our social locations have led to significant conflict.
To conclude, there are definitely certain parallels between social imagination and the conflict theory developed Karl Marx. The essence of both is the statement that there is a clear division in our society in compliance with the political, social, and economic status of different groups. When one group feels under pressure by another, the conflict is inevitable. In this light, the theory of social imagination aims at tracking different behavioral patterns common to an individual, a group of individuals, and the society in general.