Sociological Imagination


Outline the main characteristics of the ‘sociological imagination’ and discuss how sociologists might apply these to the study of everyday life.


The sociological imagination is “a kind of interpretive imagination which does not treat its subject matter like objects in the natural world. It is anthropological, historical and critical” (Holmes, Hughes, & Julian, 2003, pg. 7). These components make up the three sociological dimensions. The historical facet analyses the historical context of a subject matter to better understand the subject in the present. The purpose of history is not only “to study the past as an end in itself but as a way of reflecting on the present” (Holmes et al, 2003, pg. 10). Hence, the sociological imagination demands that it is not enough to examine the society merely in the present. The cultural aspect of the sociological imagination involves the “learned ideas, values, knowledge, rules and customs shared by members of a collectivity” (Holmes et al, 2003, pg 11). Culture in the sociological imagination allows the comprehension of why people hold certain ideas and values, and follows certain rules and customs. The critical aspect of the sociological imagination stipulates the initiative to analyze. Although it is, by human nature, to assume the meaning of actions carried out by people, C. Wright Mills claims that assumptions are not enough. Through assumptions, many things are taken for granted and the true meaning is not revealed. Therefore, reflection, observation and experience are the best ways to critically examine a subject matter. Having discussed the main characteristics of the sociological imagination, this essay will continue to discuss how sociologists, using the three sociological dimensions, might apply it to everyday social issues, namely racism in Australia and teenage drug use.


Since the first white settlement, Australian culture has always consisted of beliefs and attitudes about race. These racial attitudes and beliefs have significantly influenced the development of Australian society. Racism is deeply embedded in Australian culture and is immensely damaging to the society. (McConnochie, Hollinsworth, & Pettman, 1988) Racism is objectively defined as any practice of ethnic discrimination or segregation. The historical dimension of Australian racism dates back to the early white settlers, the British. Ignoring the fact that the land was inhabited, and without attempting to gain consent from its inhabitants, Captain James Cook, on arrival, declared the land of New South Wales to be the property of King George III. Thereafter, inhabitants of the land, the Aborigines, progressively experienced invasion by white settlers of majority of the land they once possessed. (Hollinsworth, 1998) Subsequently, by the 1920s Aborigines were seen as irrelevant by the majority of Australians. After which they experienced the implementation of the ‘White Australia Policy’. With this, the lives of most Aborigines were determined more by prejudices of white Australians rather than by law. In the long run, the indigenous people of Australia faced many inequalities. (Markus, 1994)


The cultural dimension exhibits the stereotype placed on these indigenous Australians. Whereby Aborigines were perceived as being smelly, dirty, lazy ‘dole-bludgers’. Such stereotype still exists until this day. The Australian society as a whole still, whether discretely or openly, discriminates against Aborigines. Aborigines face discrimination with regards to opportunities such as employment, and are forced to tolerate inadequacy of essential resources such as water. (Hollinsworth, 1998) The problem of discrimination lies in the arrogance and ignorance of the society at large to understand the Aboriginal culture.


In critically examining this racism in all its dimensions, it is unfair to discriminate against Aborigines regarding their personal well-being, lack of education, or their lifestyle. With reference to the historical context of this particular race, they are not to be held responsible for their inability to adapt to the demands of the Australian society today. They were victims of pure racism. Stripped of their land, their culture, as well as their dignity. And as a result, they are outcasts in a society of the land in which they have called home for thousands of years. They are smelly and dirty because of the lack of resources available to them and they are lazy ‘dole-bludgers’ because no one will employ them.


The use of drugs in our society has become a major issue of concern for many individuals and groups in the community.