sociological Imagination

Sociological Imagination

Sociological Imagination: Origin

C. Wright Mills coined the term sociological imagination to describe the ability to “think yourself away from the familiar routines of everyday life.”

I’m trivializing disciplines, but whereas psychology delves mostly into issues of the individual — how they develop and fit into society — sociology addresses wider issues involved with entire societies.

Auguste Comte, a founding father of the discipline, referred to sociology as the “Queen of the Sciences” because it embodies the basics of all the other social sciences. He hoped to design better societies based on science.

For the more philosophically minded readers, this may be interpreted as something similar to the anchoring of truth in a search for knowledge advocated by Aristotle and Plato over Sophist relativism and a denial of the need for community concerns by later Stoics.

Sociological Imagination: Peter Berger

The book that really turned me onto sociology was The Social Construction of Reality by Peter L. Berger and Thomas Luckmann. Their book on the sociology of knowledge discussed how knowledge is created and legitimated.

I was fascinated by the idea that much of what passes for knowledge is socially constructed. Sociologists could uncover poor foundations for what passes as knowledge (such as the concept of race) and could help in reconstructing a humane society environment and salubrious environment, borrowing somewhat from Comte’s vision of the discipline.

Many years later, I took a class from Berger and learned he was much more socially conservative than I was. We both ended up focusing substantial attention on the importance of mediating structures – family, schools, religious institutions, unions, etc. as laboratories for creating more participatory and fulfilling societies. However, Berger left out what I believe is one of our most dominant institutions, the corporation. (Reconstructing Social Reality)

Sociological Imagination: Applied to Corporate Governance

My life’s work, using my sociological imagination, has been focused on how the organization of work (corporate governance) can be structured to best mesh human aspiration with environmental and other constraints. The sociological imagination does not limit itself to the world as it exists but envisions a world that could be.

For example, if corporations externalize costs onto the environment and society through pollution and minimizing worker pay and benefits because they have a duty to shareholders to maximize profits (there is no such legal duty, despite what many think, except in rare cases, such as when a company is being sold), then the sociologist can use their imagination to look to other forms of work, such as more unionization, cooperatives, B corporations, widespread use of ESOPs to empower workers and co-determination.

Sociological Imagination: Related Posts

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