《The Sociological Imagination》的笔记-第1页
- 页码：第1页 2011-03-25 16:49:33
Uncovering Underlying Structure of Sociological imaginationWANG Chengjun2011/3/23Laozi says one can know national affairs without going out, which implies a vague picture of understanding the outside world by reflecting personal and local information. C. W. Mills makes his book The Sociological Imagination outlive his life to remind our social scientists about the secret underlying this vague picture in terms of how to understand and get our sociological imagination. Mills outlines the promise of sociological imagination by discussing ordinary peoples’ puzzlement about understanding his/her own life and the vast change of society. In Chomsky’s words, the mass people are panic herds controlled by media not to stamp the interest of the power elites (use the word of Mills) and go forward in the direction of the interests of power elites. Mills is relatively optimistic in the aspect of thinking that outside world can be well known and understood by ordinary people through getting sociological imagination. “The sociological imagination enables us to grasp history and biography and the relations between the two within society.” By stressing on understanding the structure of society in the perspective of history, and the varieties of human, one can gain the “capacity to shift from one perspective to another.” Given the example of unemployment, war, marriage, and metropolis, Mills reminds us personal experiences root in structural change of society. We must look beyond them to gain insightful picture of the social reality. Our misery of vague uneasiness originates in lacking of formulating the problems of social science. Mills asserts that social science should avoid being “a set of bureaucratic techniques which inhibit social inquiry by ‘methodological’ pretensions, which congest such work by obscurantist conceptions, or which trivialize it by concern with minor problems unconnected with publicly relevant issues”, Which outlines the aspects Mills focus his critiques on: grand theory, abstracted empiricism, types of practicality, and the bureaucratic ethos. As a sociologist, Mills intend to establish an ideal sociology towards a theory of history, a systematic theory of the “the nature of man and society”, and empirical studies of contemporary social facts and problems, which constructs the content of chapter 7 to chapter 10 (Mills talks about human variety, use of history, reason and freedom, and politics). As we have mentioned before, he give his own practical experience of how to do research in the appendix part.Apparently, this is a grand building, to build which Mills has to argue with Parsons, Lazarsfeld who were actually in the mainstream of American sociology academic circles. As a young scholar, Mills succeeded in doing so. This is one of my questions. In terms of Thomas Kuhn’s scientific revolution, this is the rise of historical sociology over traditional sociology. However, this explanation seems to be too simple.Mills talks about many things quite interesting. In chapter 3, he discusses the problems of American public opinion study. In his opinion, scholars devoted to public opinion study limit themselves to historical and structural confinement selected for them. Instead, public opinion should be studied across different countries and long history. This attack seems reasonable, but it’s too ideal. Mills is very sensitive to the word “pubic” and “mass”, which can’t be easily measured because their rich historical meaning. It seems that few media scholars respond to this piece of critique. The causes of grand theory and abstracted empiricism can be understood in the metaphor of ladders of abstraction. Grand theory chooses to think on a general level that its practitioners can’t get down to observation. While abstracted empiricism stick to the other extremity, it copes with abstract concept using improper measures. Overcoming the threshold of practicality and bureaucratic ethos, Mills suggests us to include comparative and historical structure into our theoretical framework. Also we should have “a sense of real problems”, raise “carefully elaborated hypotheses”, “documented at key points by more detailed information”. Mills discussed the philosophies of science in chapter 6, and stresses on “keeping uppermost a full sense of the problem at hand”. Reflection of the research question is also a re-statement of our problems. A conception is an idea with empirical content. We should stand in the middle of the idea and the content to avoid dropping into the trap of grand theory and abstracted empiricism. The formulation of problems should include explicit attention to a range of public issues and of personal trouble. This is quite enlightening for me to evaluate my research questions.
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