- Oct 2022
In his essay ‘On Intellectual Craftsmanship’, appended to his The Sociological Imagination (1959), C. Wright Mills reassuringly remarks that ‘the way in which these categories change, some being dropped and others being added, is an index of your intellectual progress ... As you rearrange a filing system, you often find that you are, as it were, loosening your imagination.’
One's notes are an index of their intellectual progress. In sorting through and re-arranging them one "loosens their imagination".
here are several ways I havefound useful to invite the sociological imagination:
C. Wright Mills delineates a rough definition of "sociological imagination" which could be thought of as a framework within tools for thought: 1. Combinatorial creativity<br /> 2. Diffuse thinking, flâneur<br /> 3. Changing perspective (how would x see this?) Writing dialogues is a useful method to accomplish this. (He doesn't state it, but acting as a devil's advocate is a useful technique here as well.)<br /> 4. Collecting and lay out all the multiple viewpoints and arguments on a topic. (This might presume the method of devil's advocate I mentioned above 😀)<br /> 5. Play and exploration with words and terms<br /> 6. Watching levels of generality and breaking things down into smaller constituent parts or building blocks. (This also might benefit of abstracting ideas from one space to another.)<br /> 7. Categorization or casting ideas into types 8. Cross-tabulating and creation of charts, tables, and diagrams or other visualizations 9. Comparative cases and examples - finding examples of an idea in other contexts and time settings for comparison and contrast 10. Extreme types and opposites (or polar types) - coming up with the most extreme examples of comparative cases or opposites of one's idea. (cross reference: Compass Points https://hypothes.is/a/Di4hzvftEeyY9EOsxaOg7w and thinking routines). This includes creating dimensions of study on an object - what axes define it? What indices can one find data or statistics on? 11. Create historical depth - examples may be limited in number, so what might exist in the historical record to provide depth.
- On Intellectual Craftsmanship
- devil's advocate
- information visualization
- building blocks
- C. Wright Mills
- sociological imagination
- combinatorial creativity
- The Sociological Imagination
- compass points
- historical perspective
- diffuse thinking
- historical context
- thinking routines
- trend analysis
- Sep 2022
On Intellectual Craftsmanship
Appendix to The Sociological Imagination (1959, 2000).
A 1952 draft was published as a stand alone journal article in 1980. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/BF02700062
Mills, C. Wright. The Sociological Imagination. 40th anniversary edition. Oxford University Press, 2000.
Or, take the case of unemployment as described by sociologist C. WrightMills:When, in a city of 100,000, only one man is unemployed, that is his per-sonal trouble, and for its relief we properly look to the character of theman, his skills, and his immediate opportunities. But when in a nation of50 million employees, 15 million men are unemployed, that is an issue, and
we may not hope to find its solution within the range of opportunities open to any one individual. The very structure of opportunities has collapsed. Both the correct statement of the problem and the range of possible solutions require us to consider the economic and political institutions of the society, and not merely the personal situation and character of a scatter of individuals.16
- C. Wright Mills, The Sociological Imagination (New York: Oxford University Press, 1959), p. 9.
I love this quote and it's interesting food for thought.
Framing problems from the perspectives of a single individual versus a majority of people can be a powerful tool.
The idea of the "welfare queen" was possibly too powerful because it singled out an imaginary individual rather than focusing on millions of people with a variety of backgrounds and diversity. Compare this with the fundraisers for impoverished children in Sally Stuther's Christian Children's Fund (aka ChildFund) which, while they show thousands of people in trouble, quite often focus on one individual child. This helps to personalize the plea and the charity actually assigned each donor a particular child they were helping out.
How might this set up be used in reverse to change the perspective and opinions of those who think the "welfare queen" is a real thing instead of a problematic trope?