Edited by John Scott and Ann Nilsen
Chapter 1: The Sociological Imagination, ‘On intellectual craftsmanship’ and Mills’s influence on research methods
This chapter is concerned with Mills’s thought on research methods and its influence. Although it is clear that Mills’s central interests were not in method as such, he had strong views on some methodological topics, most clearly and systematically expressed in The Sociological Imagination (SI), so this chapter focuses on that. As we all know, Mills was already famous – and in the eyes of some notorious – when in 1959 The Sociological Imagination reached publication, and some of its themes had already been introduced in earlier works. What was the audience that Mills targeted in this book? That does not seem altogether clear. His earlier books had aimed at a general audience wider than that of professional sociologists, and had sales which indicated his success in reaching their targets. But a book specifically about sociology, rather than the wider society, must surely be aimed mainly at fellow social scientists? He does not say so in his first chapter, but there and later he implicitly takes for granted the consider- able general background knowledge of current sociology that is needed to understand his references, as he develops a strong critique of key contemporary theoretical and methodological styles. In the appendix ‘On intellectual craftsmanship’ he made detailed suggestions on procedure in sociological work, particularly aimed at graduate students. However, the emphasis in the book on going beyond personal troubles is put as if this were a novel idea, while surely the emphasis on looking for larger causal structures was hardly original for a sociological audience.
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