Sociological Foundation - Free Essay

Published: 2023-09-07
Sociological Foundation - Free Essay
Essay type:  Rhetorical analysis essays
Categories:  Personality Social psychology Human behavior Social change
Pages: 4
Wordcount: 1007 words
9 min read

For individuals to understand themselves and the rest of the world that they live in, they need to grasp and understand the idea of 'sociological imagination', the famous work of Wright Mills. Specifically, Mills addresses this idea in the form of 'private troubles' and 'public issues' and goes ahead to differentiate them adequately as a way of developing a sociological imagination. He explains that this is the way of seeing things socially and their interaction as well as their influence on each other. As such, to have a concrete sociological imagination, individuals should be able to detach from situations and instead think from other points of view. With the different views that Mills gives, this essay determines to explain his thinking of and the relationship of ‘private troubles’ and ‘public issues’, linking the same to an account of actual experiences.

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Mills’ Idea of the Social Imagination

Mill's idea and description of differences and connections between private troubles and public issues outline their effect on society. According to him, personal troubles tend to occur within an individual's character along with the range of his direct relations with other people within their surroundings. On the other hand, public issues are a result of problems with structure overall and not just an individual (Mills 2010, p. 6). In his sociological imagination idea, Mills differentiates private problems from public issues by explaining that since personal problems affect individuals' characters, they can be solved with the desire to change. However, public issues on the other end can be more challenging to solve, since they are usually caused by the society's structure, or the failure of the institutions within the society (Lowe 2018, p. 110). In general, Mill’s representation of sociological imagination provides that an issue is a public matter while trouble is a private matter.

Furthermore, Mills explains that an individual should understand their society’s history to develop a concrete understanding of the society and their life in it. According to him, by associating personal troubles and public issues a person would see that other individuals also share the same troubles (Selwyn 2017, p. 232). For instance, he suggests that the solution cannot be achieved by individual struggles, but rather through a combination of forces with individuals who share the same experiences (Mills 2010, p. 8). As such, with this aspect, people can, therefore, pursue the existing public issues in their specific society, determine their roles and in turn, work towards solving their life problems caused by society. It is therefore apparent that Mill's relationship of the private problems and public issues is an articulate way of describing the aspect of social imagination. This is because it enables people to recognize and understand larger societal forces, their interaction and their effect on people’s lives.

An Account of Personal Experience

Focusing on the theme of social class, I once had an encounter with a fellow student that had private trouble that relates to a broader public issue in Mill’s ideas. The student that was very interested in the psychology class suddenly stopped attending most of the sessions, and her performance decreased significantly. Considering her past progress, it was hard to imagine that she was not taking her studies seriously and therefore, found later that she had private trouble that involved a family matter, which distorted her concentration in studies. As I consulted her, I found out that she would be the first to graduate college in her family and therefore wanted to set a good standard as a role model to her siblings. Specifically, she had a personal problem of trying to raise her younger siblings on her own, having being raised in foster care and moved out due to aging out of the system. As such, with no support from parents or any older family members, she lacked both financial and moral support. Specifically, the student panicked since upon completing school, she would no longer live in the provided student housing and was, therefore, on the verge of becoming homeless. Also, her education was becoming overwhelming, which was her only hope in life. These were her private trouble as she felt embarrassed while trying to keep it private until she needed to sort help.

Accordingly, her private trouble also reflects serious public issues that relate to Mill's ideas. As a public issue, the student lived in an expensive area, where housing could be challenging to obtain. She would be required to work more than two jobs and accommodate at least two roommates to share the cost of the rent, a fact that would be not easy given that she had to live with her young siblings. As Mills outlines, a public issue can be had to solve since they are caused by society's structure (Mills 2010, p. 7). It would, therefore, require an understanding of public issues to solve the problem for the student.


As shown in the essay, Wright Mills described the relationship between 'personal troubles' and 'public issues' as an essential aspect of understanding sociological imagination. He argued that personal problems are troubles that individuals experience in their daily lives and has to do with character and areas of social life. At the same time, public issues are usually as a result of a societal construction or failure of the institutions in society. The essay has identified a private problem involving a student with fears about her after school life, mainly entailing housing. This relates to a public issue since expensiveness in housing is caused by societal factors as a social class.


Lowe, P., 2018. ‘I have Felt the Tears Welling Up’: Private Troubles and Public Discussions in the Sociological Classroom. In Teaching with Sociological Imagination in Higher and Further Education (pp. 109-121). Springer, Singapore.

Mills, W.C., 2010. Private Troubles, Public Issues. Sociology. Introductory Readings. Hg. v. Anthony; Sutton Giddens, Philip W, Cambridge: Polity, pp.5-8.

Selwyn, N., 2017. Education, technology and the sociological imagination–lessons to be learned from C. Wright Mills. Learning, Media and Technology, 42(2), pp.230-245.

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