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Peter Levchuck

Introduction to Sociology
Professor Liz Mount

Reading response for The Sociological Imagination

1) Explain this quote: Neither the life of an individual nor the history of a
society can be understood without understanding both (13).

This quote means that we cannot fully understand the struggles and day-to-
day life of an individual person unless we take into consideration the world
in which they live in and the formation of the society in which they live. It
means that when analyzing a specific persons life, we have to look at the
area in which they live and the pre-existing conditions in order to fully
understand how that individual lived their life. However, this quote also
means that we cannot fully understand a society unless we look at the
individuals that helped make the society what it is today. Any society in the
world is formed and shaped by the individuals that make up the society, and
a society is defined by the actions of the people living within the society.

2) What is the sociological imagination?

Sociological imagination is an outlook on society that was defined by C. Right


Mills. Basically, it is the process of someone looking beyond him or her and
viewing their life beyond their day-to-day interactions, and viewing it as a
result of the history of the society in which they live. By doing this, Mills is
able to show that all things in society are a result of what we do as
individuals.

3) How can the sociological imagination help those who use it?

The sociological imagination can help those who use it understand the role
that they play in society, but also the role that society plays in their life. By its
definition, the sociological imagination is the process of someone looking
beyond him or herself and seeing that their life is a consequence of a societys
past actions, and those are a consequence of the past actions of other people.
By doing this, one is able to learn from the actions of a society that they live
in, and then make conscious decisions to help better themselves, as well as
the society in which they live.
4) Explain this quote: [By using the sociological imagination, people] whose
mentalities have swept only a series of limited orbits often come to feel as if
suddenly awakened in a house with which they had only supposed
themselves to be familiar (16).

This quote shows the power of the sociological imagination. By saying this,
Mills says that when people use the sociological imagination for the first
time, they come to the realization that their life has been influenced by more
factors than they thought did, as well as realizing that they have a much
larger impact on society and other people than they thought they did. This
quote shows the naivety of people when it comes to their social interactions,
as well as the significance of the role that people play in the world.

5) How can we distinguish between the personal troubles of milieu and the
public issues of social structure? (hint: you must discuss Mills definition of
troubles, his definition of issues and then explain how to know the difference
between the two).

We can distinguish between the personal troubles of milieu and the public
issues of social structure by looking at whom they affect. Mills definitions
for troubles and issues are helpful in determining which are which. He says
that troubles are personal and have to do with the individual person and
their immediate interactions with others. He then says that issues go beyond
the individual and deal with organizations and societies as a whole.

6) Give an original example (i.e. not in the article) of two personal troubles and
two public issues. Explain how you know they are personal troubles and
public issues.

One example of the difference between a personal trouble and a public issue
is debt. One person could be experiencing debt of their own with their own
credit cards or bank accounts. Meanwhile, their entire nation could be
experiencing debt, whether it be a collective group of people having credit
debt or the nation as a whole being in debt to another.

Another example would be eating disorders. On the one hand, it is a personal


trouble because it is something that an individual deals with on his or her
own, and is different from each person. However, people around the world
deal with similar eating disorders due to the same stimuli, being the societal
pressures set by the fashion industry and cultural trends.

7) Why does the High Country Crisis article suggest that Montanas suicide
rate is affected by social issues?
The High Country Crisis article suggests that social issues affect the suicide
rate in Montana because the state has one of the highest rates of suicide in
the nation, and many of the individuals who are successful in committing
suicide are among the same gender and age group. The article goes on to say
that the reason that these people are all suffering is because of the cowboy
mentality, in which people do not see mental health as an issue, and instead
of treating it, they decide to buck up because it is the manlier thing to do.
These ideals have been instilled into the Montana culture because of its
cowboy history, and people havent strayed away from it. Also, the article
links the issue of suicide in Montana to the percentage of people who own
guns in the state. By being exposed to guns, people are around the weapon
that they use to take their life more often than those who live in states with
low rates of gun ownership.

Reading response for What Makes Sociology Different?

1) Explain this quote: [Social facts] consist of manners of acting, thinking, and
feeling external to the individual, which are invested with a coercive power
by virtue of which they exercise control over [them] (20).

This quote gives the definition for what Durkheim defines as a social fact.
Durkheim says that ideas are social facts when they are based off of the
different ideas of individuals and accepted. However, the facts also have a
self-governing factor in which those who go against the fact have the
potential to be scrutinized by those who follow the fact.

2) What does the author mean when they characterize social facts as coercive?

The author means that the facts lend themselves to be authoritative, and
have the ability to deliver consequences if gone against. An example of a
social facts coerciveness is an oath. The oath is made up of the acts, thoughts,
and feelings of the individuals that believe in the oath. However, the oath is
held to a high standard to those who take it, and if someone is to go against
the oath, they open the doors to potential scrutiny and negative
consequences if broken.

3) How can we resist social facts? What are the consequences of resistance?

We can resist social facts by not following the thoughts and ideals established
by the majority of people in a society that have established the idea to be a
social fact. However, by doing so, consequences of resisting a social fact
include social exclusion, scrutiny, social backlash, and being exiled from that
society.

4) Write your reaction to this quote: because it is indisputable today that most
of our ideas and tendencies are not developed by ourselves, but come to us
from outside, they can only penetrate us by imposing themselves on us (16).

I found this quote to be shocking at first, but after thinking about it and
analyzing it, I found it to be true. At first I thought it to be strange that we do
not develop most of our ideas. I thought that because everyone is unique, that
our thought must as well be unique. However, after reading about Mills and
Durkheim and their ideas, it is true that we do not come up with our own
ideas, rather, that society gives us these ideas that we can act upon. By
accepting these ideas and imposing them into our lives, we then are able to
use the ideas in our own lives.

5) Explain what the author means by social currents. How do social currents
make us the victims of an illusion which leads us to believe we have
ourselves produced what has been imposed upon us externally (21)?

Durkheim says that social currents are different than social facts, in that they
are more based on spur-of-the-moment ideas and feelings, and have the
potential to go against pre-existing social facts. Social currents are based in
emotion and individual feelings, so they have the potential to make us believe
that we have produced them, when instead, they have been imposed on us by
the existing society. An example of this is the Arab Spring. Many individuals
felt very strongly against their social situation at the time, and felt the need to
go against the social facts to create a new culture. While they felt that they
were innovators, their ideas were given to them by their existing society, and
they just chose to internalize them and do something with them.

6) Give an example (either from your life or a story you heard from someone
else or media) of how social currents can affect peoples actions.

An example in which a social current became prevalent is the Black Lives


Matter movement. Following several cases of police brutality and the
wrongful killing of several African Americans, thousands of people around
the country went against the social fact of police officers having peoples best
interests at heart, and actively protested against them. The current spread
from the communities of those affected by the shooting to the entire United
States, and eventually the world. The movement was rooted in emotions and
continues to be a challenge to traditional society. As a result, there have been
countless amounts of riots and protests, both peaceful and violent, and has
become present in American politics.