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Developing a Sociological Imagination – Sociology Essay

Developing a Sociological Imagination – Sociology Essay
Introduction -‘The sociological imagination’ is a term used by sociologist C. Wright Mills to identify the concern that sociology has with determining the connections between individual behaviour and the forces which have shaped it. (Van Krieken, Smith, Habibis, McDonald, Haralambos and Holborn, 2000: 5)

In an attempt to demonstrate the creative development of a sociological imagination, the Ibrahim Warde article ‘Work: the new cult?’ (2002:59): how individuals are effected by work, or more specifically, the current trends of work culture and the effects this has on individuals, will be explored by using the critical thought processes identified by Mills and by addressing the key questions suggested by Evan Willis (1995:16-22), being what is happening, why is it happening?, what are the consequences?, how do we know? and how could it be otherwise?


* What is happening?

Using United States workers as an example, Warde testifies that they ‘work harder than their counterparts anywhere in the industrial world’. In what appears to be a direct correlation, the US is experiencing ‘great prosperity and a substantial rise in productivity’. (2002:59) Perhaps in an attempt to re-create past securities and in response to levels of profitability and employee satisfaction, workplaces are striving to become lifestyle friendly by creating fun workplaces to fulfil physical, psychological and emotional needs of employees by creating workplaces that allow employees to continue working ever increasing hours. (Warde, 2002).


Reasons stated by Warde in his article for individuals working these increased hours are so they are able to afford things they feel they should have because wages are not keeping up with lifestyle wants and needs. Companies are looking for ways to boost employee morale in times of economic instability, to increase profits and improve productivity, to compensate for not increasing wages or benefits in the traditional way and are able to justify these reasons by creating an ethos of ‘building the future and changing the world’. (2002:59)

* What are the consequences?

What we are left with are hard working individuals that have no time for family or leisure- creating dysfunctional relationships and low morale and companies that encourage separation of their employees from the community (Warde, 2002) and who, in creating these ‘corporate campus’ societies, appear to then have the right to expect more from employees.

* How could it be otherwise?

What then, are ways as a society that we can improve this situation? What are the impacts of working long hours on families and relationships? For individuals, options might be job sharing or accepting that lifestyle choices are sometimes out of reach. In this vein, perhaps if there was a shift in consumer purchasing, then lifestyle ‘needs’ might be forced to become more affordable. Individuals placing more importance on relationships and family instead of work may also be an important step forward. Companies could look at relocating costs spent creating and maintaining corporate campus’ and put this back into wages and/or benefits or using rewards and recognition for the employees standard of work as opposed to the amount of time that they work. Companies may need to take the view that a way to boost morale and improve productivity may mean employing more people to spread the workload and not glorifying overwork so as to alleviate pressure on employees.

Where then does this leave the individual? In a society where job security is decreasing and being a part of a highly rated ‘fun’ workplace that meets all of a persons needs is seen as a privilege, has the creation of these workplaces alleviated pressure on the individual or created more? What are the consequences on family and society? Is it possible to live without high price consumer goods and the biggest house on the street? What are the future implications for a society that believes that three cars, a boat and a holiday house will make them happy – even if they never get to enjoy any of it because they’re in the office?

* Main points summarised very briefly
* The broader implications and significance of the topic, and
* brief comment on future possibilities/recommendations/strategies